Monday, May 2, 2011

Senior Launches Career Fighting for Justice as a Community Organizer

Senior Launches Career Fighting for Justice as a Community Organizer

Aaron Washington, a graduating senior at Hampton University, will put his education into action this summer by launching a career in community organizing with the Direct Action and Research Training (DART) Center.

The DART Center is a national network of congregation-based community organizations working to promote justice and fairness. Washington is one of fifteen individuals selected from a pool of more than 850 applicants to have been accepted into the DART Organizers Institute, a field school designed to train a new generation of community organizers.

Washington will be graduating in May with a major in English and a minor in criminal justice. During his time at HU, he was involved with Golden Key International Honour Society, Alpha Pi Sigma Criminal Justice Honor Society, worked as a Youth Program Leader with Youth Family & Education Services and the Hampton Parks & Recreation Department, and completed an internship with the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office.

The Institute’s four-month curriculum, offered annually, begins with a week of intensive coursework at Xavier University on the fundamentals of organizing. Following the week long classroom training, participants are matched with a DART member organization, where they engage in fifteen weeks of field training and skill development. Organizer Trainees also help community members explore possible solutions and implement action plans. After completing the training, graduates are then placed onto permanent salaried staff with a community organization while receiving continuing education, training, and mentoring.

Ben MacConnell, DART’s Recruitment Director, summarizes the program and why Aaron was selected from so many applicants, “We scour the country for individuals with hard-to-find personality traits like passion for justice and a strong work ethic. And then we give them the skills and training to launch a career tackling serious issues as community organizers. Aaron stood out from hundreds of applicants because he has shown tireless commitment to the Hampton community and is aware of the systemic problems many vulnerable populations are facing now during this recession.”

Washington believes that working as a community organizer with DART will give him, “a way to positively express my frustration and hopefully become part of making changes that will benefit various communities.”

Washington first learned about the DART Center from an information session he attended at Hampton University this past February. Attendees of this session were asked the question, ‘What in the community makes you angry?’ Washington reflects, “This question sparked a nerve inside of me. I have seen schools without a gym. I have seen community centers close. I have seen the mistreatment of the homeless and the poor. I have seen people fall prey to the loan industries. I became inspired. I believe that I have found my calling as a community organizer.”

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