By Carlos Correa

STOCKTON (CBS13) — In communities across the country, protests and rallies have become a regular fixture, but inside the crowd of matching shirts and signs are a growing number of young, fresh faces who are now getting more involved than ever before.

Community organizers as young as 14 years old are helping fight for the issues that are important to so many people.

Codi Haigney, 23, spends most of her day outdoors, canvassing the community and gathering input as part TOLA, which stands for The Organizing and Leadership Academy. It’s a program that teaches young people how to become community organizers.

“I think right now considering our political climate, it’s just like more important than ever to engage on a community level, and engage the people that you interact with daily and the people that you see walking down the streets,” she said.

The hands-on training is a mixture of classroom education and time working on real organizing projects with elected officials, community and business leaders. They develop the fundamental skills and discipline needed to become effective organizers.

“Stories are really important and a big part of community organizing and being able to provide that space for people to talk and tell their stories is something I’m really interested in,” she said.

Previous participants have worked on immigration, school funding and get out the vote rallies in other cities. The group in Stockton is focused on diabetes where 36 percent of young adults have already been diagnosed.

“I think it’s really important for young people to get involved because that is the only way we are going to make a difference,” said Aurora Castellanos, a trainer at The Organizing and Leadership Academy.

Leaders with the academy say community organizing is a way for young people to get involved and also empower them to make change when it sometimes feels impossible.

“This year, we had the most applicants for the program, and I think community organizing is something that is really seen as a way to solve the problems that we have on the ground,” she said.

The organizing and leadership academy is currently recruiting teens and young adults for internship programs in and around Stockton.


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