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Robin Huebner Reports: Shanley High School student body to lead anti-abortion rally in Washington, D.C.

FARGO - For the first time, Shanley High School here is sending nearly its entire student body to an anti-abortion rally held each year in the nation's capital.

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Fargo Shanley senior Julia Johnson has been picked to speak at a rally that precedes the March for Life on Thursday, January 22, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Dave Wallis / The Forum
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FARGO – For the first time, Shanley High School here is sending nearly its entire student body to an anti-abortion rally held each year in the nation’s capital.

The group leaves Tuesday aboard eight coach buses to attend the March for Life on Jan. 22, the 42nd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion.  

In another first, Shanley was chosen to carry the lead banner for the march in Washington, D.C., which played a role in the school’s decision to send a large contingent.

“We thought that because this was such a great honor, we wanted to give each student the possibility to go,” said Shanley’s chaplain, the Rev. Charles LaCroix.

“We’re very honored to lead the march, and very honored to do so in the name of North Dakota,” LaCroix said.


The “pilgrimage,” as the school calls it, includes about 300 of the 330-member student body of ninth- through 12th-graders, 20 Shanley staff members and 55 parent chaperones.

“This is definitely historic,” said volunteer Jeanine Bitzan, who's organized many details of the trip.

Over the past six months or so, Shanley students and parents have raised about $130,000 to cover nearly the entire cost of the trip, she said.

Students have written letters to family members seeking donations, sold cupcakes and root beer floats, and taken shifts tidying up clothing displays at Scheels during the holiday shopping season.

For student efforts at the sporting goods store, Scheels donated $12,000 to the cost of the trip, LaCroix said.

But one Shanley parent whose daughter is not going on the trip said she doesn’t think it’s a good use of time, energy and money.

“It’s not a march that makes a difference, and it appears to be self-serving,” said Lavonne Horton, whose daughter transferred from Fargo South High School to Shanley last school year out of a desire to attend a smaller school.

Horton, who is not Catholic, said the event is not in line with her family values, and she believes having teenagers marching in Washington, D.C., is inappropriate.


She said teens aren’t mature enough to understand the complex situations that may lead someone to consider abortion.

A better move would be donating those funds to an organization that offers alternatives to abortion, like First Choice Clinic, “rather than taking a bunch of teenagers who are being told what to believe,” Horton said.

LaCroix responded by saying there is no “one way” to be pro-life.

“We’re respectful of other people’s strategies and techniques,” he said.

Shanley senior Julia Johnson acknowledged some classmates don’t share her beliefs, but she “keeps an attitude of love and tries not to judge.”

Johnson, age 18 and from Moorhead, is thrilled most of the Shanley student body is going.

“I think it’s incredible. It’s like a fairy tale,” she said.

Johnson considers it her role to educate others, and she will have a big chance to do that during a noon rally that precedes the march on Thursday.


Johnson will be among legislators, national pro-life leaders, religious leaders and physicians who will address the crowd, which could range from 400,000 to 600,000 people.

She said the March for Life committee asked her to speak about the values that Shanley brings to the march and what it means to be a young adult who is pro-life.

Johnson admitted she might be nervous speaking in front of such a large crowd, but added, “God would never put me in a situation I can’t handle.”

The Shanley group will be joined on the trip by about 50 Fargo public school students, and will meet up with groups from Bismarck, Dickinson and Minot, as well as several Shanley alumni.

LaCroix thinks the North Dakota contingent could total 800 or more.

Students will spend the day Friday attending a Students for Life of America National Conference and will tour monuments and memorials in the nation’s capital the following day before heading back to Fargo.


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New USDA regulations will see that vending machines 'slim up' as part of the "Smart Snacks in School" program which becomes effective Tuesday, July 1, 2014. Nick Wagner / The Forum

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