This year, the sandy spring break beaches did not entice anti-death penalty activist Hooman Hedayati, a UT government junior, and for that he won Campus Progress' Student Issue Campaign of the Year.
Hedayati and other students held a seven-day alternative spring break with exonerated inmates and rallied in front of the Governor's Mansion to promote their campaign with his Texas Students Against the Death Penalty organization.
He was motivated to start the organization after hearing about the case of Ruben Cantu, whose 1993 execution has been revisited because of new evidence. The possibility of there being innocent inmates on death row prompted him to act.
"I started reading articles and books on the subject, and then my freshman year, I started the organization," Hedayati said.
About 50 students from UT and other universities attended, Hedayati said.
Over the past two years, Texas Students Against the Death Penalty has received $2,000 in grants, said Pedro de la Torre, an associate manager of organizing and outreach for Campus Progress and a UT alumnus. Since the organization is a member of Campus Progress, an agency that supports youth in activism and journalism, it receives many benefits. Training for students is available by request and includes a workshop to teach students about media relations.
Hedayati also showed a talent in media relations, de la Torre said. MTV and National Public Radio attended the spring break.
"I'm honored to be recognized, and I hope that by winning this award, we will be able to have a bigger program," Hedayati said.
Texas Moratorium Network (TMN) is a non-profit organization with the primary goal of mobilizing statewide support for a moratorium on executions in Texas. Significant death penalty reform in Texas, including a moratorium on executions, is a viable goal if the public is educated on the death penalty system and is encouraged to contact their elected representatives to urge passage of moratorium legislation.
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