The Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center develops conduct and character changes through the pursuit of developing community leadership, as the most viable resource to solving serious problems facing our schools, neighborhoods, and communities. With a focus on serving youth, the Freedom Center cultivates leadership through community education campaigns, accessing lessons, values, and conducts associated with non-violent social change. We have found that this personal transformation through social participation approach to teaching and learning reaps long term, sustainable outcomes.
Staff at the Freedom Center provide classes in thirty middle and high schools of seven school districts of the Easy Bay, focusing on low-income, vulnerable youth. The classes are presented to over 2,000 youth per year. We then recruit from these classes for a youth leadership cohort of 60 ascending youth. The youth in this cohort receive on-going home visits; weekly Saturday leadership classes; and they participate in community projects, leadership exchanges, and public speaking events.
Many of the founders of our organization are in civic and elected leadership roles. Our young people know that these leaders are looking to them to lead others. They have seen the examples of other youth in the program. Freedom Center youth travel on official congressional delegations, speak in universities and community forums, travel to other cities, rural areas, and Native Nations, and participate in national and regional hearings, and press conferences.
This is the “rigor” that we have found to create the most sustained life changes for youth who know firsthand the conflicts and contradictions of poverty. These are young people who live with violence and turmoil on a daily basis. Many of those who have experienced the uplift of personal change have gone on to become some of our most effective facilitators and staff. Jabari LaChaux, our Administrative Associate, is an Oakland Military Institute graduate, our lead Student Service Coordinator, Stephanie Martinez, and our Communications Associate, Eric Fuller, are both Castlemont High School graduates. Others are in college and/or have gone on to meaningful careers.
As Freedom Center programs develop discipline and purpose through preparation for meaningful roles in school and community life, we have worked to track some of our outcomes. In a recent 15 year longitudinal study we have found that not only did all the youth in our two-year program graduate from high school, 94% enrolled in college with degree conferral rates at close to 90%. Student testimonies attribute the leadership program with profound life changes– self-confidence and esteem, meaning in life, purpose in career, public speaking skills, shifts in worldview, and development of strong social skills—“people skills”.