Volunteers ranging from college students to elders of the Rosedale community joined Rosedale Development Association (RDA) January 22 – 25, the week of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, for their annual Reading Inspirational Stories to Empower, or RISE, program.
For the seventh year, community volunteers visited over 50 Rosedale classrooms and read stories about civil rights and social justice. Through the program, volunteers engaged local children about our country’s struggle toward equality, one which still carries on today. This year’s books focused on child leaders of the Civil Rights Movement.
Ms. Dottie Griffin, a Rosedale elder who has participated in the program from its inception in 2013, paused mid-story while reading to a class, saying, “Now, if you see me put my hand on my chest or hear my voice get a little wavy, it’s because I was alive when this happened to Dr. King, and I still remember clearly what we went through back then.” She went on to explain why it was important today’s students understand what she and her peers endured, using her experiences to encourage youth to speak up when they see bad things happen in their school or community.
Being able to connect local elders with the youth of today is an integral part of the RISE program. “By connecting the Civil Rights Movement to our lives today, we hope to inspire Rosedale children to continue King’s legacy and show them that they, too, can help make their community a better place,” Erin Stryka, RDA Executive Director, said of the program.
This year, RDA tried something new during RISE by incorporating an optional advocacy activity; to ensure each youth understood their voice mattered, after each reading, volunteers invited scholars to write a postcard to an elected government official about a concern or a change they want to see in their community.
As a result, three elected officials responded to the students. Kansas Governor Kelly tweeted them with thanks. Representative Ruiz posed for a photo after an RDA Board member handed him students’ postcards. And Senator Pettey made students a video, encouraging them to continue their youthful advocacy work.
RDA is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to work with residents, businesses, and institutions to develop a thriving Rosedale community. RDA approaches programs and services from a whole-community perspective, seeing neighbors as experts on their assets as well as needs, making them the most effective change-agents in their community.
This year’s program was made possible in part through the support of partners like Rainbow Mennonite Church and the Kansas Volunteer Commission.
For more information about RISE or to get involved, contact RDA Program Director, Je T’aime Taylor at 913-677-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To the students in the Rosedale community, thank you for your lovely postcards. I am proud to represent such thoughtful, involved individuals. pic.twitter.com/ETxzom7NGo
— Laura Kelly (@LauraKellyKS) February 12, 2019
Click above to retweet Kansas Governor Kelly’s thank you note to Rosedale students.
Click video to see Kansas Senator Pat Pettey encourage Rosedale students to stay involved.