Where They Teach Students How to Revitalize Their Local Communities

March 16, 2017

New college programs offer fledgling community organizers “a sense of optimism about how they can effect change in their own backyard.”

When Mia Hernandez signed up for classes to earn a Leadership and Social Change (LSC) certificate at California’s De Anza College, she thought she would be attending a series of lectures. Instead she found a unique combination of classroom interaction among students and professors, along with hands-on experience as a change agent in her community. Over the course of the program, Hernandez has participated in local projects that involved migrant children and families, political lobbying, a role in student government, and organizing around equity issues.

As Hernandez worked two jobs on and off campus as a full-time student, “the LSC program kept me grounded between all the demands on my time,” she recalls. “And it gave me the building blocks for the career skills I’m developing now as a transfer student in community studies at UC Santa Cruz.”

Hernandez’s experience has special relevance today as the nation weathers a deep political divide. Now more than ever, progressives are looking to their own communities to create and grow solutions. Searching for ways to reconnect and renew, a non-profit organization called the Community Learning Partnership is providing students, instructors, and community groups a model for preparing the next generation of local leaders and activists.