By Nissi Guiao
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Ghandi
Changeist, a local movement comprised of incredible, young individuals based in downtown Stockton, truly embodies their name and rightly represents the famous quote above. As an integral part of the new growth and ever-increasing development downtown, Changeist exists to empower the younger generations to “be the change they want to see in their community.” Their vision and programs aren’t one-hit wonders. The work they do internally and externally causes real impact. Everything they stand for they represent well. And their actions speak even louder than their words. As they instill the importance of being the change instead of simply hoping for it to magically happen, they build positive belief systems that organically influence culture. Whether you’re local or not, Changeist is 100% the program to get behind.
We had the honor and privilege of interviewing Changeist’s very own Program Manager, Austin Steinhart, to catch a glimpse of the inspiring work they do as a whole.
How would you best describe Changeist and what’s the heartbeat of the organization?
“Our heartbeat is our young people. They guide every aspect of our work and show us that it is possible to live in a more just society.
At our core, Changeist is a community of young people that want to make Stockton a better place. We are a Little League for civic action, helping youth build change-making muscles from an early age. Changeist mobilizes youth, ages 11-26, from all different walks of life, places them on diverse teams and takes them through a 6-month civic action experience, exploring the issues they care most about. While cultivating curiosity, gratitude, teamwork, and adventure, we’re helping young people develop important change-making skills while allowing them to exercise their agency and ultimately change the world.”
What is Changeist’s goal?
“Changeist is building a community of diverse young people that utilize their personal agency to create a more just society. We want young people from across Stockton to come together to talk about the challenges our community faces, think about creative and innovative solutions to these programs, and then be the change they want to see in their community.”
Where is Changeist located and why?
“Our office space is at Huddle, a location that has been the starting point for so many amazing non-profits in Stockton, and aligns with our organization’s emphasis on collaboration. While our office is at Huddle, our program takes place at the Teen Impact Center. We were very intentional with hosting our program in Downtown Stockton. For young people in Stockton, Downtown is a place that you would only visit to go to the movies. However Downtown Stockton is a place with amazing history and significance. With the recent reinvestment in Downtown Stockton, we want the young people of our city to reclaim their downtown. At the Teen Impact Center, we are just blocks away from the Cesar Chavez Library, City Hall, MLK Plaza, the Civic Auditorium, Janet Leigh Plaza, and Weber Point, to name just a few landmarks. Downtown Stockton used to be an entertainment hotspot for the state and we want to play our part in putting young people at the center of reimagining what Downtown Stockton could look like and be.”
When did Changeist come to downtown?
“Changeist came to Stockton, specifically downtown Stockton, in the summer of 2019. In mid-August, we had 13 full-time AmeriCorps members join us for a year of service, alongside over 100 service fellows that will be serving in Stockton as part of the Stockton Service Corps.”
What would Changeist like the people of Stockton to know?
“Young people are not only the leaders of tomorrow but they are the leaders of today. Only by investing in them and truly listening to them will we be able to see the changes we want to happen in our community. We will either have to support the young people in our city or get out of their way!”
Can people in the community get involved?
“To stay up to date on events and happenings, people can follow us on Instagram @changeiststk or visit our website at Changeist.org. We are looking to fill the last few spots we have available in our 2020 cohort for 6th through 12th graders. To apply, visit bit.ly/applytochangeist. Apply TODAY as we will close our application once all openings have been filled!”
What is your role as Program Manager and what is your favorite thing about Changeist?
“As Program Manager, I’m helping to build relationships and establish the organization within my hometown, while also creating the Americorps Member experience and helping to ensure we build meaningful, inclusive, and youth-led opportunities for the young people of Stockton. Changiest allows me to give opportunities to the youth here that I could have never imagined growing up in Stockton.”
Changeist may be new, but its positive impact on both young people and the downtown community by no means has been light. Changeist strongly believes the younger generations are our future and they are impressively doing their part in teaching them well and letting them lead the way. And it’s groundbreaking, especially in our world today. Follow along on the journey of inspiring change through the youth of our city and/or get involved however you can, even if it’s simply spreading the word!