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Lesniak Institute at Kean University Prepares Next Generation of Advocates

Former state Senator Raymond Lesniak will teach Kean students how to become effective advocates in their communities and within government in a new undergraduate course offered this Spring.

The history course, “Social Movements: History and the Call to Action,” will explore the topic of advocacy with guest speakers ranging from elected officials to consultants and reporters. As fieldwork, students will attend legislative sessions and committee meetings in Trenton.

“The focus of the class will be how to turn your passions into action,” Lesniak said. “Students will identify what cause they support. I will give them the direction necessary to have an impact on all levels of government to support their cause.”

Lesniak, who championed many causes related to human rights during his 40 years in the Legislature, is also serving as president of the Lesniak Institute for American Leadership at Kean.

The Institute focuses on seven core causes — addiction, animal welfare, community service, criminal and social justice, curbing gun violence, education and environmental protection — and offers forums, events, theater performances and other educational opportunities. Senior citizens, community members and others are invited to get involved as well.

Lesniak, an Elizabeth native, called the Institute “an extension of the work I did in the Legislature for over 40 years” and said Kean is the perfect place to house it.

Future plans for the Institute include an upcoming Clean Air Forum on November 14; a license plate design and essay competition on the topic, New Jersey — the Humane State; a forum on hunger and a theatrical performance on combating bigotry.

Lesniak said he is pleased with the Institute’s success so far. “It has generated interest and enthusiasm from students and political activists on gun safety, standing up against bigotry, environmental protection, criminal justice reform, animal welfare and the importance of being involved in the political process of America,” he said. “It has exceeded my expectations, which are always high.”