Beginning the week of July 20th through August 14th, black youth throughout the county can take part in an empowerment workshop put on by Chloe Gentile-Montgomery, a 2017 Santa Cruz High School graduate.  The program will give black youth the opportunity to learn about black history, building community, and meet other community members over Zoom for four weeks.  

Gentile-Montgomery was “really inspired by the current moment and constant Black Lives Matter protests.  We’ve been surrounded by cries to defund police.  I was trying to think of what we can fund instead and thought of black education programs and ethnic studies programs.”  While she’d love for the program to expand in later years, with opportunities for Latinx and Asian Studies, she chose a “black studies workshop because I’m black.”  Gentile-Montgomery explains her decision, “It’s not exclusionary, it’s just that these spaces haven’t been available before, so to create them and give these opportunities is pretty incredible.”

Her interest in ethnic studies grew greatly as a member of the Black Student Union (BSU) at Santa Cruz High. After graduating high school, Gentile-Montgomery went on to major in ethnic studies and environmental science at Santa Clara University.  She’ll graduate next year, but she’s already putting her education to good use.  Her ultimate goal is to “become a high school ethnic studies teacher in Santa Cruz,” and leading this workshop will give her a better idea of how to achieve that.

Throughout the workshop, her students will interact with texts covering a wide variety of topics, make art, and celebrate their empowerment.  Gentile-Montgomery is excited to teach about “civil rights movement leaders that kids don’t hear about in school, like the Black Panthers and SNCC.   We’re also going to talk about youth organizing, which has been done historically and is part of the foundation of ethnic studies.”  Alongside studying the book, When They Call You a Terrorist, the workshop will also be supplemented with guest speakers and panelists, from the NAACP, UCSC, Santa Clara University, and other student activists.

At the beginning of the workshop, each student will receive the aforementioned text, art supplies, and journals, to give them “different ways to express themselves while working with emotionally difficult material.”  At the end of the workshop, if possible, Gentile-Montgomery would love to “hangout and celebrate our accomplishments at an in person gathering at the Resource Center for Nonviolence.”

Gentile-Montgomery has a big vision for the workshop’s end results, “I want my students to know that they can empower each other.  A lot of times organizations set out to empower youth and leaves them with a feeling that they weren’t before.  My students will know that they are already inherently powerful and bring that back to their communities.  How we think about empowerment needs to shift.  Instead of thinking students are lacking, maybe it’s the schools or community instead.  We need to acknowledge that black education and spaces are needed.  Hopefully my students will start BSU’s at their high schools, since there aren’t enough in Santa Cruz.”

If you’re a black youth and would like to join Gentile-Montgomery’s month long vision, contact her at cgentilemontgomery@scu.edu

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