Truth School Students Learn Campaigning Skills

One of the popular themes of Truth School classes is running for public office.  This September, sixteen Truth School students learned the Nuts and Bolts of Campaigning from two of our expert trainers with decades of combined experience: Clare Higgins, former city councilor and mayor of Northampton and the current executive director of Community Action, and Elizabeth Silver, chair of the
Northampton Democratic City Committee
and a seasoned local coordinator for local, state, and national campaigns.

The trainers covered a lot of ground in the three-hour class, including personal considerations to keep in mind, budget information, messaging and media. After the class, many participants noted their appreciation for the concrete information, as well as the trainers’ candor. Citing the practicality of the information provided, one student noted, “It was not driven by idealism.”

This fact-based and skills-focused approach is a key component of the Truth School’s methodology. Preparing social change leaders to win movement struggles requires the sharing of information and development of hands-on skills. Many thanks to the day’s trainers, Clare Higgins and Elizabeth Silver, for their past and present service and continued leadership!

For those interested in running for office, the following upcoming classes may be of interest:

Teens Testify for Renewable Energy

by Lilly Lombard, Truth School Advisory Board member and Project Administrator

Three teens trained through the Truth School in climate change lobbying traveled to the Massachusetts State House September 19 to testify in favor of An Act Transitioning Massachusetts to 100 Percent Renewable Energy and two other bills that would strengthen the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standards.

After having an office visit with their state representative, Peter Kocot, the teens delivered powerful oral testimonies to the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy (TUE) in a hearing room packed with hundreds of concerned citizens. The bills must be first favorably read by the TUE before moving to the House and Senate floors for a vote.

Forming a youth panel, each teen told a personal story of the impact climate change has had on their lives and outlook.

Truth School teens formed a youth panel to testify at the State House - photo shows three teens at a table with lawmakers in front of them and adult audience members packing the room

15-year-old Max Shannon of Amherst explained, “The air quality in the Pioneer Valley has a grade of ‘F.’ And, as you may know, formation of ozone—the main ingredient of smog—is heat-dependent. Now, I’m a homeschooler, Max Shannon, flanked by Aislyn Jewett and Madeleine Lombard, speaking while seated at a table in front of lawmakersso I don’t know much or care much about grades… b​ut I care about this grade! Two of my sisters suffer from severe asthma. As temperatures rise, what air quality worse than ‘F’ can they look forward to? What is more fundamental than air?”​

​Aislyn Jewett, a sophomore at Northampton High School, described how upsetting it was for her to watch footage of the thousands of animals that drowned in the recent hurricanes, Harvey and Irma.​

“​One particularly striking image showed a small dog chained to a post in the middle of a rushing mass of floodwater, stranded and abandoned and facing imminent death,” said Aislyn. “It brought tears to my eyes to envision what she must have felt in that moment.”​

“So​ when people argue that the costs are too great to push renewable energy standards in this legislative session, do they consider all the costs?” Aislyn asked. “Do they consider the costs of waiting while global warming intensifies? Do they consider the costs that will be imposed on my generation? On innocent animals? O​n low-income communities who will suffer much more greatly from extreme weather, food shortages, housing destruction, and poor health?”

Madeleine Lombard testifies, seated at a table beside Max Shannon and Aislyn Jewett, facing lawmakers and surrounded by adult audience members16-year-old Madeleine Lombard, a self-professed “plant nerd,” challenged the committee, “I plan on dedicating my professional life to harnessing plants to help solve climate change. You can dedicate your careers to harnessing politics to help solve climate change!​ Model courage and focus and persistence to young people!”​

All three ended their testimonies with this plea: “​Do everything in your power to pass strong climate legislation this session!”​
Teens Max Shannon, Madeleine Lombard and Aisling Jewett jump in the air outside the Massachusetts State House after delivering their testimony in favor of renewable energy

Training of Trainers for New and Experienced Teachers [Photos]

The Truth School held its Training of Trainers for the fall session on September 5 and September 7. New and returning trainers joined our founder and director, Rev. Dr. Andrea Ayvazian, for these important workshops that ensure all Truth School trainers know everything they need to know about the school, their roles, and creating the dynamic and engaging classrooms our students are seeking.

Training of Trainers - September 5, 2017 Training of Trainers - September 5, 2017 Training of Trainers - September 5, 2017
Training of Trainers - September 5, 2017 Training of Trainers - September 5, 2017
Training of Trainers - September 5, 2017

Hip Hop Duo Rebel Diaz Leads Powerful Workshop in Holyoke

by Yamila Irizarry-Gerould, Truth School Advisory Board member

A few dozen people gathered the morning of Saturday, September 9, at the Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke to hear from two brothers about the power of hip hop to affect social change. The brothers are RodStarz and G1, aka Rebel Diaz, and they were accompanied by the third member of their Hip Hop group, DJ Illanoiz.

Rebel Diaz woke residents of the Pioneer Valley up with awesome energy and a wealth of knowledge about the history and necessity of not only Hip Hop in social movements, but art as a whole. The Rosenberg Fund for Children, as a kind sponsor of the event, introduced the dynamic duo, who launched right into Hip Hop’s story. They covered everything from DJ Kool Herc, to the contributions of New York City’s immigrants to the sound and look of Hip Hop, to the segregation and gentrification of the city’s boroughs. They also told their own tale of defining and sharing public space in the South Bronx with the creation of the Rebel Diaz Arts Collective, from which they and their fellow artists and mentees were forcibly evicted by the NYPD in 2013.

With more than 40 enthusiastic participants, the class was the largest the Truth School has offered to date. The session wrapped up with questions from the audience and a general sense of hope and excitement.

Win a copy of Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum’s new book!

Truth School students: We have a new contest! Enter to win a copy of Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum’s new book, the 20th anniversary edition of “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race!”

How to enter:
(1) Take a selfie of yourself with the trainer in any Truth School class you attend.
(2) Post the selfie on Instagram or Facebook.
(3) Tag us with @truthschoolma or #truthschool.
(4) Include the name of the class in the caption/post.

Multiple posts from different classes will be counted separately; multiple posts from the same class will only count once.

The winner will be chosen by drawing on October 18. The book will be signed for the winner at our event, A Conversation with Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, at 7 p.m. that evening.

(If you are unable to make it to the event with Dr. Tatum, the book will be delivered to you.)

Course proposals for January-March 2018 are now due!

If you’re interested in teaching for the Truth School, we want to hear from you! In order to submit a class for our January-March 2018 term, course proposals must be submitted using our online form by October 15, 2017.

Why teach for the Truth School?

  • You share our commitment to empowering people to make meaningful change in these dire times.
  • You have expertise in your subject area and are passionate about sharing your knowledge.
  • You enjoy teaching and know how to teach interactively.
  • Your course idea can be directly tied to movement-building.
  • You are available to teach a class of 1.5-3 hours in any of our Pioneer Valley locations (Greenfield, Northampton, Easthampton, Holyoke, and Springfield) during the January-March term.
  • You are willing to supplement our promotion of your class with your own outreach to your network of friends and supporters.

To learn more and submit a proposal, go to

Deadline for course proposals for January-March 2018: October 15, 2017.
All submissions must be online.

Any submissions received after October 15 will be considered for future sessions. No proposals will be accepted by email, phone message, or on paper.

Upcoming Event: A Conversation with Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum

The Sojourner Truth School for Social Change Leadership and Broadside Bookshop invite you to a very special event:

A Conversation with Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum

Author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race, 20th Anniversary Edition

Wednesday, October 18, 2017—7:00 p.m. 

Edwards Church

297 Main Street, Northampton, MA

[Add to my calendar]

Special guest: Amandla Chorus

Book signing following the program.

Wheelchair Accessible ~ Refreshments ~ All Welcome!

[Download the event flyer as a PDF.]

Susan Pynchon: Why I Volunteer for the Truth School!

Volunteer Susan Pynchon recently shared with us her reasons for giving her time and talents to the Truth School. 

I read in the Gazette about a new school launching in the Valley, a school to develop social change leaders and build our movement for change. Like many others, I had been searching for a way to join forces, align in spirit and action, and galvanize post-election. Could this new school help me get started?


The concept was simple: classes for free, taught by local experts—elected officials, college professors, long-time area activists. The classes offered were varied and intriguing—helping teens find their voice on climate change, tips on movement organizing, how to write a good letter to the editor. Sessions on learning protest songs, and on nonviolent direct action skills. Even a workshop on staying hopeful in hard times!


I enrolled in several classes that day and then put my name in to volunteer. I wanted to help make this school a success—because now is an important time to be a thoughtful and active citizen and some of us need a hand getting started.

Thanks, Susan, for volunteering and for sharing your story with us!

Truth School on Occupy the Airwaves Radio Show

On July 9, Truth School Steering Committee member Clare Hammonds and Director of Communications Tynan Power joined Occupy the Airwaves hosts Paki Wieland, Bob Gardner, Oonagh Doherty, and Kathy Daly at the Valley Free Radio studio. We discussed the School’s origins and aims, efforts to diversify our teaching team and what’s next for the School. A recording of the show is available on


Climate XChange Article Features Testimony from Our Students

The testimony of students from our June 2 class, “Climate Lobby Training for Teens,” continues to draw the spotlight! Climate XChange has published an article about the climate pricing  hearing that was held before the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy (TUE) on June 20, 2017. The article, which was distributed to every state legislator, opens with a quote from 14-year-old Aislyn Jewett.

[Read the full article.]

Inspired by our students? The websites for Climate XChange and the Campaign for a Clean Energy Future include information on how to get involved.

Related post: Truth School Teens Testify at Massachusetts State House