The Dolores Huerta Foundation (DHF) is partnering with the Oakland-based Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center (MLKJFC) to launch the Youth and Family Civic Engagement Initiative. Together, the DHF and MLKJFC will organize youth and families in Alameda, Contra Costa, Kern, and Fresno counties for the purpose of increasing civic participation to address academic and economic disparities in disenfranchised communities. The initiative increases understanding of government and civic institutions through evidence-based best practices to train youth and families in leadership roles by enhancing confidence in the effectiveness of our democracy.
With a fifteen and seventeen year history, respectively, the DHF and MLKJFC are going to merge their work to utilize civic engagement as a problem solving tool for our youth and family. The MLKJFC’s evidence-based methodology and curriculum in youth leadership and development is the right match to the DHF’s grassroots organizing housing model utilized to organize youth and families in the Central Valley. The MLKJFC offers year-round anchor youth programming, home visits, civic engagement activities, and cultural leadership exchanges to develop well-rounded young leaders motivated to uplift other youth and communities. A 15-year research study done on a similar model in the State of Washington has demonstrated positive results arising from civic engagement activities among students. Student participants from civic engagement programs from Miami, Florida, Oakland, and Washington State demonstrated rate of 97.6% increase in academic performance with 38% showing an increase in grades ranging from a 0.3 to 1.7 grade point average improvement. Additionally, the study showed that 96.3% enrolled into a community college or four-year university upon high school graduation. Students develop a strong set of values and relationships that enhances their social skills, career orientation, and family life.
The DHF and MLKJFC have strengthened their partnership over the last two years. In the summer of 2016, the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center brought a cohort of young Bay Area leaders to visit the community of Lamont, CA in South Kern, where the DHF has been organizing since 2013. MLKJFC youth’s summer visits with DHF are a continuation of the Freedom Summer legacy, a volunteer campaign in the 60s where individuals from the North traveled to the South to increase Black voter registration. MLKJFC youth have traveled for the past two years to the Central Valley in order to increase voter registration in South Kern.
THE DOLORES HUERTA FOUNDATION AND MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. FREEDOM CENTER IN FRONT OF THE GOVERNOR’S OFFICE WITH THEIR REASONS TO #GETCIVIC.
The Oakland Center organizes diverse young people for meaningful civic engagement in the East Bay. Each summer their program goes on the road, for eight weeks, traveling to tribal, urban and rural communities throughout the West Coast. In addition to spending time in the Central Valley, they
have participated in Tribal Journeys, a multi-tribe ten-day coastal nation gatherings of over 10,000 individuals who spend a week in a host tribe’s nation honoring coastal culture and traditions. They had carried out a Gratitude for Peace Summer as well as a summer dedicated to the Study on the Economics of Education.
These past two years, their summer travel has focused on Civic Engagement. The partnership with DHF is an important collaboration for the Freedom Center, as the study and practice of nonviolence and community organizing is core to the mission shared by both organizations. While in the Central Valley these past two summers, the Oakland young people, hosted by DHF, have participated in marches to stop the violence, met with local elected officials and community leaders, done radio interviews, and participated in youth exchanges. They have spent time at local festivals and gatherings doing voter registration, and going door-to-door registering people to vote. One summer alone, the team knocked on 7,000 doors in Arvin, Lamont, Bakersfield, Greenfield, Weedpatch and Parlier, and together with DHF, they registered over 1,000 voters.
Throughout their journeys the young people have interviewed hundreds of people asking the question “What can we do to get more people civically engaged?” Having collected the responses of everyone they had spoken to, they found the answers to be very diverse. Ranging from “do more volunteer work” to “go canvassing and get more people registered to vote,” there was an important message to be taken. Voting is a very significant right in our society. To claim that one’s vote does not matter is simply incorrect, and is a mentality that takes away from the strength of us as a people, and as local neighborhoods and communities.
Being civically engaged does not mean just voting. For youth, non-citizens, or others who cannot vote, seeking peaceful, nonviolent solutions to the difficult challenges we all face in our communities in itself is being civically engaged. Civic engagement can be changing something that directly affects your community, which, of course, matters!
This initiative comes at a time in our democracy when many disenfranchised and low-income communities lack confidence in our government and civic institutions; in turn, this leads to non-participation in the systems that are supposed to be utilized to uplift and assist our communities’ progress and wellness.
The young people of DHF and the MLKJFC challenge you to do at least one civically engaging activity this week. Whether it be volunteering at your local food bank, learning about your district’s representatives, or starting a petition to change something your city council is (or isn’t) doing. Register to vote if you aren’t already registered! Now more than ever, we need to take control of what we want our communities to look like. We cannot wait for others to create the changes we want to see in the world. Vote, and be civically engaged because to us, you matter!
DHF Requests Signatures for School and Communities First Initiative
The Dolores Huerta Foundation’s civic engagement team is currently collecting signatures for the Schools & Communities First initiative until Saturday, June 30, 2018. As an anchor organization with the statewide California Calls coalition, we submitted a ballot measure to make corporate landowners pay their fair share of commercial property taxes. Our aim is to collect 900,000 signatures! To learn more about how you can sign the petition, or about Schools & Communities First please contact Jess Contreras, Civic Engagement Coordinator at (661) 322-3033 extension 204 or at email@example.com.
DHF and YVOTE Partner to Register Youth to Vote!
The Dolores Huerta Foundation is partnered with CA Youth Vote as part of a non-partisan statewide initiative that informs 16-24 year old students about the impact of their vote.
Millennials are now the largest and most diverse generation in California. With 4 million potential young voters who will have a significant impact on the future of California and getting them registered to vote is the first step! The future of our state and our country depends on an active and informed citizenry that practices democracy year-round, not just during an election year.
Our program is dedicated to reaching out to schools and young people to encourage student-led, peer-to-peer outreach. Our program provides interactive workshop modules that give students an opportunity to piece together the history of voting rights, explore the multiple ways to create community change, and to develop community-organizing skills.
DHF happily welcomes partnerships with schools to build voter registration into the current school curriculum, or can work directly with youth for volunteer opportunities. Our volunteers and staff members are available to set up class or advisory visits to talk about the importance of voting, make sure students know their rights, and assist eligible students in filling out their registration forms. All registration forms are delivered to the County Registrar by the DHF Civic Engagement Team. If class visits are not possible, we are also open to scheduling a voter registration assembly, or visiting during lunch periods. Classroom visits are preferred due to being the most efficient and effective method to conduct voter registration for students.
For more information on partnering with DHF to increase voter registration among young people, please contact DHF’s Civic Engagement Coordinator, Eliana Honeycutt at firstname.lastname@example.org or (559) 579-2734.
About the Dolores Huerta Foundation:
The Dolores Huerta Foundation (DHF) is a 501 (c) 3 community benefit organization whose mission is to inspire and organize communities to build volunteer organizations empowered to pursue social justice. The DHF organizes at the grassroots level developing natural leaders by establishing Vecinos Unidos (“United Neighbors”) chapters in California’s Central Valley region including Arvin, Lamont, Weedpatch, Lindsay, Woodlake, Sanger, and Parlier. We create leadership opportunities for community organizing, leadership development, and civic engagement. DHF’s Vecinos Unidos chapters work on policy advocacy in health and environment as well as education and youth development. Learn more about the Dolores
Huerta Foundation at www.doloreshuerta.org, and if you’d like to join DHF’s social justice network, you can sign up at www.joindhf.org.