Building and Strengthening Neighborhoods and People

Organizing in Schools with Jimmy Stuart

Led by some of Baltimore’s best and brightest activists, artists, educators, and leaders, GHCC’s 5th Annual Neighborhood Institute: Love Where You Live is all about learning what you can do to build and strengthen vibrant urban neighborhoods.

For many Baltimore residents, learning to effectively advocate for the schools their children attend is integral to creating positive change. Organizer Jimmy Stuart, who will lead the workshop Transforming Schools, explains why.

Tell us about your background in school organizing.

I have been working with Child First as an Organizer in several city schools since August of 2011. The heart of my work is building strong core teams in those schools – identifying parents, teachers, and community members with an appetite for creating change in their schools and communities, and bringing them together to act on and win on the issues they care most about. Before joining Child First, in my time as a VISTA with GHCC, a large part of my work was with the Baltimore Education Coalition, where I first engaged with the principles of organizing that I now utilize in my current role with Child First.

As you know, GHCC’s Neighborhood Institute is about helping residents learn ways to build and strengthen their own neighborhoods. How does school organizing help them to accomplish that?

Plain and simple, school organizing is about building stronger schools, where all of a school’s stakeholders – parents and families, staff, administration, students, and community members – are working together to create real change for their kids and their community. And, as GHCC knows well, a strong neighborhood school is crucial to building and sustaining a strong neighborhood.

Why did you choose to participate as a workshop leader in this year’s Neighborhood Institute?

As an organizer with Child First, I have seen firsthand the kind of positive change an organized school can make happen for kids and communities. The Neighborhood Institute is an opportunity to share with more people how we make that change happen, and to thereby effect more schools and more kids.

What are you hoping that your workshop participants will take away with them?

This workshop is not a one-stop shop for how to create change in schools. That said, my goal is that participants walk away with an understanding of the basic building block of any effective school organizing – the individual meeting – and an interest in using that tool to build the quality of relationships in their school community that can bring about real change.