Rams for Life

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Before the morning bell at Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax, some 20 students gathered in a Spanish classroom May 10.

They watched as a screen flashed facts and pictures of embryos set to high energy music. When the lights went up, three club members each took a trimester of pregnancy and tackled the technical terms and biological milestones, explaining the start of life to their adolescent peers.

It's just the first year of Rams for Life (a ram is the mascot of Robinson), and leaders Anthony Jones and Andrew Caraballo want to make sure the group knows how to advocate effectively for the pro-life cause. "The motto of our club has been PIE: protect, inspire, educate," said Caraballo, a sophomore.

Jones and Caraballo first became friends through the young men's group Catholic Life Community (CLC) at their parish, St. Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax. The church inspired them to turn their pro-life beliefs into action.

"St. Mary's invited local pro-life leaders to talk about pro-life activism at the church," said Caraballo. "Anthony and I both went, and after the presentation we decided we needed to make a club at Robinson. This was the way we could help make the community better and help with a pro-life culture."

On the first day of school, they walked into the front office to fill out paperwork, but it was months before the club was officially recognized. Still, the student body was interested. "In less than two weeks we had 103 signatures, and we needed 25," said Caraballo.

"It was really inspirational for both of us," said Jones, a junior. "It proved Robinson had so many people willing to talk about it from both sides of the issue."

According to the club's mentor, Students for Life of America Regional Coordination Michele Hendrickson, they are one of two pro-life groups at a public high school in the Arlington Diocese.

Since their formation, the group has held a silent day of solidarity for the unborn and toured the local Nova Pregnancy Help Center. In February, they held a school diaper drive that netted 335 diapers and wipes.

They've prayed outside the Falls Church Healthcare Center abortion clinic with pro-life groups from Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax, Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Dumfries and Bishop O'Connell High School in Arlington. They received training from their Students for Life mentor about how to embrace the controversy the group might create.

"I think it's been a lot of people's experience that (talking about abortion) turns into a yelling fest or insults," said Jones. "I think it very important to turn that stigma on its head and talk about abortion in a calm, respectful and loving manner, so that both sides have better perspective on the issue. It allows people to better make the decision on what they believe," he said.

"It's been surprising to me how many people think of the pro-life movement as misogyny and oppression," said Caraballo. In talking to his peers, Caraballo has been able to witness what the pro-life movement actually is and subtly change people's perceptions of the unborn. "They're not instantly pro-life, but I like being able to see a change in how they're talking about the issue at the end of the conversation, because they're starting to get it," he said.

Throughout the year, the St. Mary community has been a steady supporter of the students, said Jones. "Our pastor, Father (James S.) Barkett, always asks how it's going," said Jones. "All the other parishioners come up to me, saying, 'Heard about the work at Robinson. Keep up the good work.' Having that support of the people I trust and see on a weekly basis inspires me to push forward," he said.

At the end of the meeting that morning, Jones passed around a replica of a 10-week-old fetus. "Oh my gosh," said one girl, marveling at the tiny plastic baby. She passed it to the boy next to her. "That's a human, dude," he said.

Di Mauro can be reached at zdimauro@catholicherald.com or on Twitter @zoeydimauro.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016