The Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center recently held a community book reading at Cesar Chavez Community School in Woodland as part of its 40-city civic engagement tour. The book reading was led by 30 young leaders from the Oakland-based nonprofit.
During the event – which was held on July 22 – the young leaders read excerpts from the book “From a kitchen in the house of the world”. The book began as a project done during last year’s shelter-in-place. The young people participated in a recipe exchange and prepared a traditional dish from another student’s culture.
Reading the book is just one stop on the Freedom Center’s “To Us, You Matter” civic engagement tour, where young leaders spend the summer engaging with communities and developing their leadership skills in more than 40 communities and in three states. This year marks the first time the nonprofit has included Yolo County among its select stops.
Throughout the tour, the youth delegation meets with local elected officials and community leaders. In Yolo County, the group met with Jesse Salinas, County Assessor/Clerk-Recorder/Elections Official, and Garth Lewis, County Superintendent. The young leaders also met with Congressman Ro Khanna, State Assemblyman Alex Lee and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.
The delegation is currently in the fourth week of its planned six-week tour. After leaving Yolo County, the delegation will travel to Sacramento, then north to Kent and Tacoma, Washington.
Finn Manohchonpoo, a high school student from Washington State and one of the youth leaders who spoke at the book reading, said, “A lot of young people will say their voice doesn’t matter. and we are actively trying to challenge that.” She adds that young leaders are trying to create networks of connectivity around civic engagement.
Dr. Roy Wilson, director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center, says the center’s goal is for students to change the world one step at a time, starting with their own community. Wilson said, “Our first goal is for students to go back to their schools and become leaders and go home and make their parents proud.”
Wilson shared that the nonprofit is looking to expand its youth programs to ten additional counties. He added that Yolo County is one of the counties being considered for expansion of the program. The Freedom Center is currently in discussions with the Yolo County Office of Education.
In 2017, the Yolo County Office of Education, along with other partners, launched the Yolo County Youth Civic Initiative to improve civic education in Yolo County. In 2020, the initiative received a grant from the James B. McClatchy Foundation to expand its work.
For more information about the Yolo County Office of Education, visit www.ycoe.org. For more information about the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center, visit mlkfreedomcenter.org.