University YMCA
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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Student Leadership Development

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ACT LAB (Activist Laboratory) was a pilot program held in the spring semester of 2011 that introduced emerging student leaders to methodologies and traditions of activism. ACT LAB workshops emphasized interactivity rather than lecturing, and engaged students in a wide range of social justice and environmental issues. Between 10 and 25 students participated in each of the 5 workshops held throughout the semester.

Spring 2011 Description

ACT LAB is a 6-workshop training series for emerging student activists hosted by the University Y. The series welcomes individuals with a background in activism who are desiring of a more formalized training, and who want to be exposed to a wide rage of issues and methods beyond their own backgrounds. ACT LAB workshops will emphasize interactivity rather than lecturing, requiring each participant to be fully engaged in each session. Participants are expected to go through the whole series, and will receive a University Y ACT LAB certificate at the end, which will help student leaders pursue a career in activism.

In collaboration with the YMCA's ACT LAB (Activist Laboratory) program, elizaBeth Simpson of the Creative Intervention Agency is offering open, drop-in workshops incorporating Theatre of the Oppressed, Playback Theatre, and other techniques. Expect to enjoy a unique way to learn about yourself and the social world! All are welcome to participate in these sessions- no theater experience is necessary. We will use prompted, improvisational movement and sound to explore weekly themes related to the experience and interest of the participants.

While the workshops are free, space is limited.
Contact or 217-487-1041 for more information or to reserve your place.

March 11, 25, April 1, 8, 29 5-7pm
Free ($5-10 donation welcome but not required)
University YMCA Rm. K-1

For more information, email

AL1 - Community and Activism
Friday, February 4, 2011, 5PM-7PM
Through hands-on exercises, participants will challenge themselves with questions like: What is your leadership style (your strengths and challenges)? When working with others, what do you bring to the table, and how do you improve group dynamics? How do you envision the world you want to live in? How do you see your role in bringing that world into being?

AL2 - Solidarity and Mediation
Friday, February 18, 2011, 5PM-7PM
This session will focus on coalition-building and solidarity between different groups. The first half of the workshop will be an Interfaith Dialogue training, which promotes finding common ground between faith groups. The second half is called Solidarity Organizing, which will help participants think critically about their role as activists, and especially their relative positions of privilege when working with oppressed communities in terms of race, gender, sexuality, and/or class.

AL3 - Another Planet is Possible
Friday, March 4, 2011, 5PM-7PM
We will visit to the 5th and Hill site, and talk with local residents and organizers associated with Champaign County Health Care Consumers (CCHCC). 5th and Hill is a toxic site in the African-American community in North Champaign, and residents and activists will share their stories and then talk about intersecting issues (What do the toxic remains of a local coal processing plant say about fossil fuel consumption and sustainability globally? What does the environmental damage say about race relations and economic inequality locally, nationally and internationally?).

AL4 - Theater of the Oppressed
Friday, April 1, 2011, 5PM-7PM
This session will focus on interactive and performative art forms as activism. Participants are expected to utilize their full selves and bodies in the session. "Theater of the Oppressed" is a theatrical form developed by the Brazilian director Augusto Boal that utilizes role playing and actor-audience interaction to aid in community dialogue and conflict mediation.

AL5 - Media and Mobilization
Saturday, April 9, 2011, 3PM-5PM
(Held at the Independent Media Center) The session will include a tour of the Independent Media Center, and several of its working groups, and will include a radio training at W-RFU (Radio Free Urbana).

AL6 - Education as Activism, Activism as Education
April 22, 2011, 5PM-8PM
This session will take a look at inequality and social justice organizing in education. Their will be a dialogue on racial, political, and economic inequality in K-12 education, followed by a workshop on collective bargaining and union organizing in a university context. At the end, we will have time for reflections and dialogue about the series.

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