From Mississippi to Montana, Teen Volunteers Delve into Social Justice Issues
Many teachers are weaving social justice education into the curriculum, and VISIONS Service Adventures offers summer programs that can be a great complement to these important classroom lessons. VISIONS programs are rooted in service work and cultural immersion, and some of the communities we work with are struggling with very real humanitarian issues. By being brought into the fold of these communities, we are able to learn more about the complex justice issues they face every day.
Although all VISIONS programs include community building skills with the goal of developing well-rounded, global minded citizens, the following have a social justice element that can be a great fit for those students who would like to further their involvement in this area.
We have worked with our partners in the vibrant coastal community of Turkey Creek since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005, and we are one of the few volunteer groups still returning year after year. Turkey Creek was one of the first communities built by emancipated slaves, and, the history runs deep. Threats from large-scale development, among other issues, have made it an important place for both environmental and social justice movements.
Before Katrina, Turkey Creek was the site of numerous historic homes and minority-run businesses, and residents had been working hard to obtain historic preservation status and build affordable housing. Now, our teens work towards environmental and community regeneration through focused service projects, and the work is in equal measure with cultural immersion and meaningful relationships. We have the opportunity to work closely with Rose Johnson, a fearless local social justice advocate whose ancestors are among Turkey Creek’s first residents, along with other community leaders.
Indian tribes have the highest percentage of Americans living below poverty, and most reservations, like these two in Montana, lack adequate housing and social resources. We have worked with the Blackfeet and Northern Cheyenne people for 25 years. Fulfillment from working on ambitious construction projects is equally matched by the the gratitude participants feel for being brought into these unique cultures. We are invited to activities that few non-tribal members partake in, and we work with and learn from community members who are passionate about social justice on the reservations.