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Seattle Freedom School Helps Youth Set Their Own Course

Dustin Washington teaching at Freedom School 2010
Dustin Washington teaching at Freedom School 2010 Photo: Tiffany Sims / AFSC

All young people have the inherent capacity to change the course of their own lives—and even the world. AFSC helps them discover and act on that potential.

One method is the Freedom School based in Seattle. Each year, the Freedom School mentors 300 young people, ages 15 to 21, as they learn about social justice, the history of activism, and explore civic engagement. Students examine questions such as: Why are people poor? How does oppression work? How can we organize for nonviolent change? Students discover how institutions such as schools, prisons, and the neighborhoods where they live affect their lives. One inevitable lesson is that racial inequalities still exist in the United States, and that they can and should do something to address them. 

One of the participants in 2010 said, “Freedom School…has been scary, uncomfortable, enraging, amazing. Through that discomfort I have learned so much about myself. My eyes are now open to the racism present around me. I am hungry to learn more about the many different experiences in my city and in the world… I want to expand my horizons.” 

In its first decade, the Freedom School has cultivated over 1,000 youth leaders, 85% of whom are youth of color; 75% are low income. Today the program is facilitated almost entirely by former Freedom School participants, proof of the value those alumni place on the experience. Plans for expansion include monthly trainings in King County Juvenile Detention, and the replication of Freedom School at additional sites in Washington State.

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