Sojourn to the Past Finalist for $25K Grant from State Farm

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the past has been named a finalist in the State Farm Neighborhood Assist grant program, putting it in the running for one of 40 $25,000 awards. 

The winning organizations will be determined by the number of votes cast. Voting opens at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday and runs through 11:59 p.m. Oct. 2. Each voter can cast up to 10 votes per day. 

Voting is available HERE. The winners will be announced Nov. 4.

If Sojourn to the Past wins a $25,000 prize, the funds will support the antiracism workshop created by students in the program. The free workshop teaches the history of American racism from 1619 – when the first enslaved people were sold in the land that would become the United States – to the present day. Available to businesses and organizations, the workshop calls on participants to reflect on how racism affects them and how they can enact changes of policies with racial biases.

“When the Sojourn scholars learned about the murder of George Floyd, they felt moved to do this workshop to educate people and move them to take action,” said director Penny Wells in a statement. “The Sojourn scholars worked all summer on the antiracism workshop, researching and writing just to make it happen.”

The program is backed by Justin Jennings, CEO of Youngstown City School District, who encouraged area residents to support the initiative and vote.

“I hope everyone in the community takes a few minutes to vote for Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past each day through the contest,” he said. “Sojourn’s antiracism workshop is something everyone should try to see. The scholars presented the workshop to members of the district administrative team a few weeks ago and we’re still talking about it and how informative and thought-provoking it is.”

Each year, Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past takes high school scholars on a 10-day journey to sites across the South that were crucial locations during the Civil Rights Movement. They meet civil rights leaders and learn the lessons of the movement including justice, nonviolence, civic responsibility, hope, compassion, tolerance and not being a silent witness. The goal is for scholars to incorporate these lessons into their daily lives and become leaders for social justice and nonviolence in their schools and community.

Sojourn scholars initiated Ohio Nonviolence Week, which runs Oct. 4 through Oct. 10 this year. In 2011, Youngstown City Council, the Youngstown City School Board of Education, Youngstown State University trustees and Mahoning County commissions all approved resolutions recognizing Nonviolence Week. It was later signed into Ohio law by then-Gov. John Kasich.

Pictured: Natalia McRae is with Sojourn director Penny Wells and LeKeila Houser.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.