Posted on August 22, 2018
Every few weeks, the Weissberg Foundation features a story from one of our Reframing <Washington> Empowerment Fund grantee partners to shine a light on their critical work. Learn more about these powerful organizations by visiting their websites.
Many Languages One Voice (MLOV) organizes DC’s immigrant youth and adults to fight for systemic changes that can positively impact their lives, particularly in the areas of education, labor and language access. Through a unique approach to leadership development, MLOV seeks to build the power of DC’s immigrant communities to live with dignity, respect and justice by building a space of power and resilience.
MLOV’s Summer Institute for Student Organizers (SISO) is a six-week leadership training with the intention of bringing political education with hands-on training for English Language Learner (ELL) immigrant youth in the District. This summer, 25 youth joined us from various countries including El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, México, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Haiti.
SISO brings together local organizers, educators, storytellers, media artists, and most importantly immigrant student organizers. The student organizers play an essential role as experts on analyzing issues faced by ELL youth in the DC Public Schools. SISO is the only initiative in DC which is outstanding to a future generation of ELL immigrant leaders who not only critically analyze but also act on issues of importance to their communities. By participating in SISO, youth can identify the foundational causes of education imbalance faced by ELL youth, research and analyze the potential target “audiences” to whom the ELL youth can share their stories and solutions, and learn how to use direct action organizing and media engagement to further the Youth Advocacy Team (Y.A.T.) campaign. Y.A.T. is a youth-led decision-making group that organizes for better education for English Language Learners. They create their own solutions by participatory action research.
The first week of SISO focused on the “story of self,” which enabled the youth to learn about one another and explore their identity through storytelling and icebreakers. SISO youth also developed their own definition and practice of a safe space, which was then implemented throughout the rest of the institute. To end week one, SISO youth took a trip to Mt. Pleasant to get to know the history and meet the business owners.
The second week was dedicated to learning about the “-isms”. SISO youth learned that different people have different privileges and power, and sometimes they take advantage of such privilege to discriminate against groups of people. To wrap up the second week, the youth gave presentations about six specific “-isms” that affected them: racism, heterosexism, ableism, ageism, sexism, and classism.
The third and fourth weeks solely focused on youth organizing. Participants learned about the power they hold, and how to cultivate it in their communities. During these two weeks, SISO collaborated with Zero Hour, which centers the voices of diverse youth in the conversation around climate and environmental justice, and participated in a march to demand a cleaner future.
The fifth week focused on campaign development. Through story sharing, the youth were able to identify three things that they will push for this 2018-19 school year: improved school counselors, expanding the ELL program, and healthier school lunches.
The last week of SISO was focused on closing and evaluating the program. It is clear from the evaluations that this year’s SISO participants are innovative, creative, and eager to continue building their skills in communications, observation, self-awareness and values, managing conflict, work-based relationships, problem solving, and team building.
Click here to watch a video created by one of the SISO participants.
Miguel Castro Luna joined Many Languages One Voice (MLOV) through Students Multiethnic Action Research Team (S.M.A.R.T.) an entity under MLOV, where he learned his rights as a student and as an immigrant. His experience and knowledge enabled him to provide input on the Language Access Act Amendment of 2015, a bill that S.M.A.R.T., MLOV, and the DC Access Language Coalition worked to pass to support language justice in DC. Miguel has played multiple roles at MOLV including organizing trainings, volunteering during events, and co-facilitating youth meetings; he’s even served on the board of directors. Miguel believes his current position as Communications Coordinator will play a key role to the development of him one day becoming an educator.