2023 AJLI Award for Public Policy and Advocacy
The Junior League of Columbus, OH
The Underground Railroad Learning Station opened in May 2002. This educational program that the Junior League of Columbus created, immerses guests in a “secret hiding place” located in the lower level of The Kelton House Museum and Garden, another JL Columbus project. This “secret hiding place” was a safe house on the Underground Railroad in which freedom seekers hid on their way North towards emancipation in Canada. The Learning Station now serves between 3,000 and 4,000 Columbus-area students annually, up to 180 per school day. Since the program’s inception, it has educated almost 100,000 students, teachers, and chaperones.
The JL of Columbus sought to extend the impact of this project into the public policy arena in October 2021. JL Columbus partnered with State Political Leaders to testify on behalf of House Bill 340. The law designates September as International Underground Railroad Month, and Ohio became the first state to codify this designation into law. As a result of JL Columbus’ hard work, the law was passed unanimously by both the Ohio House and Senate. The governor signed House Bill 340 into law on June 14, 2022. The law went into effect on September 13, 2022.