Becoming a Community Activist at Any Age
How to start your leadership journey in the classroom


One March afternoon, I received a call from LaVon Garcia of Elk Grove Farmers & Merchants Bank and long-time United Way supporter, asking if her son could speak to me about work with me to learn about how UW is making a difference in his community for a school project. Orlando, a 10-year-old student at the  California Montessori Project, Elk Grove Campus was tasked by his teacher to find and report on a project or program surrounding activism. When he went home and told his mom about the project, she thought of United Way since her organization has a rich giving history. (F&M Bank has given nearly $178,000 to local nonprofits since 1997 along with many community projects!) With a family history with supporting early grade reading, she thought he would really enjoy learning about our programs. Since I am her company’s contact and I have a strong belief in starting giving back early. Of course, I said yes!  

Orlando’s job was to find an activism project which involved speaking to a local organization or person, getting involved himself, and reporting on its impact. He took the time to do preliminary research with me by asking about our program. Not only did Orlando ask me intriguing questions about the Square One Project’s impact on the community through the Healthy Meals, Kindergarten to College, and Free Tax Prep programs, but this young activist even ventured out of the classroom to do more research. I wanted to show Orlando a part of our work that impacts his very own neighborhood so I brought him to an elementary school that was right around the corner that offered an AARP Experience Corps Program.

When we visited the school, the principal, Cheryl Sanchez shared with Orlando how this program drastically improves the kids’ reading and their futures.

The class welcomed Orlando warmly and he was able to meet with the school’s principal and participants. He thought that “it was super cool how ‘old’ people go in and help kids with reading.” He was excited to see how so many kids went from “dark red to bright green” (how he chose to represent his research in his presentation) – meaning a majority of students were improving to almost grade level or at grade level.

 Now weeks later, in May, this brave 10-year-old confidently walked to the front of the classroom with his classmates giving their full attention. He reported on the success statistics from the elementary program using pie charts and percentages. So in the classroom, Orlando took one more step into activism for his community.

It was so much fun to see how United Way California Capital Region brought together a local business, a student, and their community to spread awareness and make a difference. 

Orlando is a great reminder to us all that no matter your age, you can be an activist in your community!