A Decade of Supporting Change Agents

As we approach the end of another year and the end of the decade, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on the work of the Community Learning Partnership (CLP).

Since its founding more than a decade ago, CLP has grown a network of 15 new college and community partnerships that bring together academic institutions and leaders from local low-income communities and communities of color. Working as genuine partners, they have collaborated in creating unique credentials in community organizing, development, and leadership. Close to 1,000 students have completed CLP credentials over the decade. As we enter 2020, the CLP Network includes 10 active programs at eight colleges in six states. Together, these programs offer five community change certificates, three community change degrees, and two community change minors. Each semester, over 300 students enroll in core CLP classes across the network, with about 100 completing CLP certificates, degrees, or minor programs each year. 

But these numbers don’t mean very much without a picture of the actual people they represent: individual students and alumni around the country doing critical work to transform their communities. This includes alumni like Angelica Esquivel who now coordinates De Anza College’s certificate in Leadership and Social Change (LSC) — the very program she herself completed — and who also serves on the CLP Board; and Lisa Owen, who applied her learning in the CLP-affiliated Community Development Program at Minneapolis College to cofound the only woman and minority-owned signage company in the state. 

This also includes current students like Dawn Wilson-Clark, who plans to use her training through the Community Leadership Program at Henry Ford College to improve education policy in her hometown of Detroit. And Nyeelah Rousseau, who is enrolled in the Youth Empowerment and Urban Studies (YES) program at West Chester University, and plans to pursue a career in community development after graduation. 

If there’s one thing we’ve learned since our founding, it’s this: our country needs people with not only the knowledge, skills, and experience to organize change, but also the deep cultural understanding of their community’s needs and aspirations to lead the vision for change. Angelica, Lisa, Dawn, and Nyeelah are just a few of the many faces of CLP students and alumni contributing to progressive social change.

Lastly, as the current decade drew to a close, CLP reflected on the strategies that will be needed to vastly scale up the work of our network. With the wide-spread gap in opportunities for CLP student to “earn while they learn,” we decided to take the lead nationally in advocating for large-scale government funding for internships that provide good pay, deep immersion in community work, and serious experiential education for college credit. We have already made significant progress — we succeeded in incorporating language into the Higher Education Act that would allocate more money for community-based internships by increasing funding for the Community Services set-aside of Federal Work Study. We are excited about the potential for policy change to leverage resources for CLP students and others like them, and look forward to sharing our progress in the next few years ahead.

While 2020 will be an important year we also know that the need for progressive community change leaders goes well beyond election cycles. The CLP Network will continue to support students like those featured in our newsletters in the months and years ahead, as we strive towards building a multi-ethnic, multi-racial, equitable and sustainable society where justice triumphs over exploitation. 

In solidarity,

Ken Rolling
Executive Director
The Community Learning Partnership