How far would you go to become better equipped to be a leader in your community? Ohio activist Sheila Cochran drove an hour or more each way every week to become a certified grassroots leader with Grassroots Leadership Academy.
Cochran was already passionate about freedom when she learned about a Grassroots Activist Certification training coming to a town about an hour away in 2016.
“I decided I would like to become better at fighting bad policies like Obamacare, so I decided to sign up,” she said.
It didn’t take long for her to get hooked. “I realized the quality of training we were getting,” Cochran said. “I have a master’s in social work, and I feel like I gained more from my GLA training than from my actual training.”
Cochran enjoyed her training so much she jumped at the chance to take GLA’s Community Mobilizer Certification training, even though it meant a three-hour round trip.
“I was hungry for [the Community Mobilizer training] and I knew the caliber of the training they were offering,” she said. “I knew I was going to have to make a sacrifice to be able to do that.”
For six weeks, Cochran made the long journey to and from the GLA training so she could complete the secondary training. The next year, she graduated from the GLA’s highest program, Grassroots Leader Certification.
That’s when the local field director asked her if she would help put together a one-night Insight to Action program in her area. Cochran, who is heavily involved in her local community, immediately began reaching out.
“I got to work calling people I knew from various parts of my life, and we pulled it off,” she said.
Thanks to Cochran’s work, more than 20 people showed up to the Insight to Action. Soon, GLA was hosting Grassroots Activist and Community Mobilizer Certification trainings with the activists she organized. Today, the group regularly gathers to fight for freedom on the local, state and federal levels.
Applying Her Skills
Cochran wasn’t content with just getting trained—she was ready to make a difference in her state. Together with other activists, she began supporting a bill in the legislature that would return education control to local communities, using the skills she learned at GLA.
“We decided to change how we talked about the issue,” Cochran said. “Instead of talking about being against something, we wanted to be for something. And what we are for is local control of education.”
Cochran and other supporters of the bill worked to reshape the debate. “We wanted to keep choices closest to the district so parents can hold officials accountable,” she said. “Our key message was ‘If you like your Common Core, you can keep your Common Core.’”
Cochran said changing the language her side used was helpful for two reasons.
“Being for something rather than being against something is so much more attractive to people,” she said. “Also, how can you really argue with having the right to control what goes on in your local school district?”
Thanks to their work, allies in the movement have also adjusted how they talk about the issue. Support for local control of education is growing in the legislature, as well, because of the new messaging Cochran and others used.
Not Just an Education
Cochran continues to be a passionate advocate for Grassroots Leadership Academy. Last summer, she helped organize a two-day legislative training program for activists who want to become experts in influencing their elected officials.
“What I love about GLA is that it’s not just education—it’s stellar education—but that there’s an opportunity to use it,” she said.
“This is not only the education, but the opportunity to get out there and the encouragement to get out there and look at different issues that are going on throughout the state and do something.”
Cochran said anyone interested in GLA should give it a shot. “If you’re not satisfied with the way things are being done locally or statewide or even federal, then this is your opportunity to be able to become part of a group that can make a difference,” she said.
You may not have to drive three hours like Sheila to attend a Grassroots Leadership Academy training. Find out what programs are coming to a city near you here. For grassroots tips and more stories of people making an impact for freedom, sign up for our email list today!