Working with Your Community: Successes & Set Backs

My name is Kaleigh and I have been a Leader Youth in the Young Justice Advocates movement for two years. Young Justice Advocates (YJA) is a justice and advocacy-based grassroots movement for youth, by youth. We learn how to become community organizers and seek concrete changes in our neighborhoods. I was asked to share with you the process of working in and with your community- both the successes and the setbacks. I pray you are encouraged by my story.

YJA has given me the tools to notice more injustices in my community. One of those is financial disparity and therefore limited access to healthy foods in a typically wealthy community. In my school district, we have a free and reduced lunch program during the week and we have a “share-a-backpack” program so that families might have meals on the weekends. According to the Ohio Department of Education, my school district’s number of students on free and reduced lunches increased from 9.7% in 2001-2002 to 31.0% in 2011-2012. Many of my fellow students are those on free and reduced lunches and sometimes lunch is the only meal they get during the day.

Last winter I wondered, what do students on free and reduced lunches do on snow days? I researched and found that there is no provision of food for them in our area. I decided that wasn’t acceptable and that it was worth my time to vision with the community for more food security. Once we had this vision, it was time to recruit the help of my church and the community, starting with my high school.

In the spring of 2016, I had my vision planned out, and I approached my school principal with the idea. He was on board but wanted to save it for the following school year since it was almost summer break. I had prepared and was excited to start the process of sharing this vision with my school and the community; however, my principal resigned that summer and I was back at square one. I was disappointed, but I knew the vision that children and teens would have increased food security needed to stay strong. I had been pushed a couple steps back but I knew what I needed to do to keep this vision alive.

It is now the fall and school has started. I will be meeting with our new principal to again present the vision of food security. This process has filled me with excitement and disappointment. It has been tough, but I know I need to keep strong to keep the vision alive. What injustice do you see in your community and what will you do to create concrete changes? You’re not alone in seeking justice. Keep strong and continue to vision for God’s preferred future!