Originally Posted: April 6, 2018
Sophomore human rights major and track star, India Simmons is making a difference both locally and abroad!
For SMU track and field athlete India Simmons, a passion of hers was kindled early in life. Her grandmother, an avid reader, would often read books on human right’s topics such as the Holocaust. Naturally, those books found their way into Simmons’ hands.
From there, Simmons’ desire to work for others has only grown stronger.
“My grandmother loved to read. When I was in elementary school, (those books) were my first knowledge of human rights,” Simmons said. “When I got older, the experiences I had with race or gender made me mad. I always wanted to do something about it to make it feel right.”
However, just feeling a desire to help others isn’t always enough to effectively campaign for those in need of it. A big step for Simmons’ pursuit was her decision to come to SMU for college. Now a sophomore, Simmons’ credits what she’s learned on The Hilltop for giving her a much stronger foundation and empowering her to act.
“When I was in high school, I didn’t have the language, so to speak,” Simmons said. “Things would feel wrong to me, but I didn’t know how to word it or vocalize it. To come to SMU, I’ve gained the language and so much knowledge and skillsets. I’m able to communicate what I feel in a strong way. I feel I’m able to deliver the passion I feel on the inside to the outside world.”
At SMU, as part of the Embrey Human Rights’ Program, Simmons has had the opportunity to take part in educational trips to Poland, Germany, and Israel to further advance her knowledge and skillsets by seeing things first-hand.
The trip to Poland and Germany, taken in December over winter break, was especially relevant to Simmons as it was focused around meeting with Holocaust survivors and visiting concentration camps.
“It was a hard trip, physically and emotionally,” Simmons said. “(The survivors) were all elderly women. They were all so joyous. They were smiling the whole time. They were laughing. It was remarkable to see that perseverance despite what they went through.”
Simmons was also able to take part over spring break in a trip to Israel to learn more about the grass-roots activism going on in the area.
“Kids my age would come meet with us to talk about the work they’re doing,” Simmons said. “We focused mainly on Israeli-Palestinian relationships and the range of human rights abuses going on in the region. It was a good experience.”
Simmons was both an indoor and outdoor all-conference selection last year but is redshirting this season. The sophomore has received the full support of the coaching staff to pursue the international trips during the redshirt year.
“Having my coaches, they’ve been super supportive in all of this,” Simmons said. “They’ve been super encouraging of the organization and everything. Two weeks in Poland. One week in Israel. They were all for it.”
Building on those experiences in other places, Simmons is also very active back home at SMU. The sophomore is spearheading a student organization to support mental illness and advocate mental health while also giving students a place to discuss their experiences.
This summer, Simmons will be just as active. As part of an SMU research position, Simmons will be putting together oral histories of black alumni that went to SMU over the past 50 years. Following that, she makes another international trip to Jordan to work with refugees in the area.
“The biggest thing is I’m passionate about human rights work,” Simmons said. “I’m passionate about activism and social justice to bring equality and dignity to people.” READ MORE