How do you create an experience by and for middle and high school youth that truly honors the spirit of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? This year our staff invited young people to come to the LCEC on MLK Day to explore issues important to them and connect what they care about with the achievements of civil rights activists in the 1960s.

The day started with an episode of the Cartoon Network series The Boondocks exploring what might happen if Martin Luther King Jr. magically woke up today. After lunch they tackled a scavenger hunt introducing the Neighborhood Organizing Institute’s Steps of Organizing. The game was designed to leave students more aware of the power of their voice and how to organize themselves to fight the injustices in their lives.

Want to raise your voice? Here’s a the model in a nutshell.

Step 1: Build Your Base. You’ll need the support of others to find a solution to your problem.

Step 2: Research the Topic. Learn more about the problem and work to understand all sides of the issue.

Step 3: Outline Your Demand. Answer the question, “What changes do we want to see happen, and why?”

Step 4: Build Power. Students were randomly assigned ‘influencers’ like Wisconsin Schools Superintendent Tony Evers or sports superstar Lebron James to spread awareness of the injustice they’d chosen. In the real world, you build power by connecting with ‘influencers’ around you.

Step 5: Pick Your Strategy. Decide what platform you’ll use to launch your campaign.

Step 6: Implement Your Strategy. On MLK Day, participating youth shared their plan of action to move forward against the new No Phones In School rule. They also looked at other issues they see today (like gender inequality and migrant workers’ rights) and how they might make change. One student said she could “set a good example by not treating people differently and standing up against stereotypes.”