College of Constructive Hell-Raising Back for Class of ’22

Civil Rights legend Peter Johnson talking community organizing with this year’s class.


There might be no better symbol of Downwinders’ transformation from a local clean air group to Something More than our successful College of Constructive Hell-Raising.

After pausing in 2021, we’re preparing to begin a new and improved curriculum for the Class of ’22.  The application to apply is at the bottom of this description.

Unlike other seminars for political activists that examine electoral strategies or specific skills like public speaking or fundraising, the College encourages its participants to “think like an organizer.” Its sessions are a combination of the same principles taught to professional organizers at the nation’s oldest schools of community organizing and the local DFW history of effective social change as told by the people who made it.

Environmentalism is not its focus. Rather it’s a deep dive into the mechanics of how “Davids” beat “Goliaths.”

Guest lecturers include original Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) organizer Peter Johnson, who knew MLK Jr. on a first name basis, as well as other well-known local legends John Fullinwider, Changa Higgins, Mavis Belisle, Sister Patricia Ridgley, Kim Batchelor, and Luis Selpulveda.

As impressive as our speaker line-up is, it’s also the diversity of students who’ve fueled the success of the class – urban aggies, animal rights and police brutality activists, peace and immigration activists, LGBT, transit rights and anti-gentrification activists.

We’ve have over 50 graduates, many of whom occupy positions of responsibility in social change groups throughout DFW. We’re growing a network of relationships that transcend single-issue silos and  connect us to larger struggles through our philosophy of how things get done.

Interested? Another class begins January 2022 with enrollment beginning in October. You can put your name on a waiting list to get an early heads-up here, and follow the College on FaceBook here.


The Particulars

Class meets every other Tuesdays from January to May 7 – 9 pm.

The cost is $150. It includes two books, and lots of reading material. Some half and full scholarships are available.

EARLY REGISTRATION: Sign-up more than 90 day before class and and the cost is $90.


There are only 10 sessions. Absences are costly to you and your classmates. We understand our location makes it harder for those living and working outside metro Dallas to attend, but that’s why we start at 7 pm. Make sure you allow for DFW traffic in order to arrive on time. If you miss more than three classes, you’re welcome to keep attending classes but you will not graduate.


Class Schedule

Session One: “What is Constructive Hell-Raising?” 



Session Two: 

Organizing Lesson: “The Four Dirty Words of Organizing”

Guest Lecturer: Peter Johnson, The SCLC and the First Fair Park Fight


Session Three:

Organizing Lesson: “(Internal) Organizing”

Guest Lecturer: John Fullinwider, Community Organizing in Old East Dallas’ with the Bois D’arc Patriots


Session Four: 

Organizing Lesson: “Strategy vs. Tactics”

Guest Lecturers: Kim Batchelor, Mavis Belisle  and Patricia Ridgley, The Anti-Nuclear Movement in Texas


Session Five: 

Organizing Lesson:“(Self) Critical-Thinking”

Guest Lecturer: Luis Sepulveda, Getting the Lead out of West Dallas


Session Six:

Organizing Lesson: “Perception is Everything”

Guest Lecturers: TBA


Session Seven:

Organizing Lesson: “Ways of Seeing”

Guest Lecturer: TBA


Session Eight: 

Organizing Lesson: “Outreach”

Guest Lecturer: Marsha Jackson, Cleaning-up Shingle Mountain


Session Nine:

Organizing Lesson: “Means vs Ends”

Guest Lecturer: Changa Higgins, Creating the Dallas Police Community Police Oversight Board


Session Ten: 

Organizing Lesson:“The Qualities of a Good Organizer”



Guest Lecturers

Kim Batchelor 

Bois  D’arc Patriot, tenant’s rights and immigration organizer

Mavis Belisle

Veteran DFW peace and anti-nuclear organizer



John Fullinwider

Longtime community organizer and original Bois D’arc Patriot

Peter Johnson

Former MLK Jr associate, original Dallas SCLC organizer

Sister Patricia Ridley

Life-long social justice worker based in Dallas, with emphasis on Central American and immigration rights

Luis Sepulveda

West Dallas environmental justice organizer who won clean-up of lead smelter waste

Changa Higgins

Community Police Oversight Coalition



Jim Schermbeck, Dean of Instruction

Jim Schermbeck has been a professional community organizer in DFW since 1989 when he opened the Dallas office of the National Toxics Campaign. He’s currently Director of Downwinders at Risk.


Downwinders At Risk, Board of Trustees

Downwinders at Risk is perhaps the most successful grassroots environmental group in Texas history. It’s certainly one of the most persistent.

Founded in 1994 to stop the burning of hazardous waste in Midlothian cement plants, it broadened its mission in 2010 to include protection of DFW air quality when it won its original fight. In 2017 it turned its focus on Particulate Matter air pollution and environmental justice.

Since its founding, Downwinders has used basic community organizing strategy to win its victories. Now we share what we’ve learned with other North Texas activists who want to increase their understanding of community organizing techniques, as well as learn about DFW social justice history.

Alumni Include:

Rachel Albright, Tarrant Transit Alliance

Kim Aman, Program Director, Moss Haven Farms

Clarice Criss, National Democratic Party campaign consultant

Paul Dill, Dallas Peace and Justice Center

Kristian Hernadez, DSA North Texas Co-Chair

Susie Marshall, Executive Director, GROW North Texas

Evelyn Mayo, Chair, Downwinders at Risk

Michelle McAdam, Economic Empowerment Specialist, New Friends New Life

Misti O’Quinn, North Texas Organizer, Sierra Club Beyond Coal

Jennifer Rangel, Inclusive Communities Project

Cory Troiani, DFW Program Director, Texas Campaign for the Environment

Michelle Villarreal, Major Gift Officer, ACLU Dallas


Student Comments :

“It made me move away from thinking of myself as an activist – someone who subscribes to a particular set of beliefs or positions, but doesn’t necessarily push forward a policy or action. Now, I think of myself as someone who has the tools to translate opinions into action. Now, I’m concerned with being effective, not just being right.”


“The information and knowledge gained from the College is invaluable for anyone at any stage of outreach, political gaming, activism, or simply in business or life.”


“The College is the best way to learn about historic progressive battles in Dallas, connect with a diverse group of committed citizens, and learn how to be a pragmatic, effective organizer.”


“I didn’t anticipate how quickly I would become informed on the history of progressive politics in Dallas; I didn’t anticipate getting to meet so many incredible organizers in the city (both lecturers and students).”


The depth of the class, as well as the opportunities to actually discuss and learn from those “in the trenches” and behind the scenes of significant events of the past couple of decades. It was invaluable seeing the different strategies and techniques used to accomplish goals.


“…the camaraderie and connections with other local activists that, despite my extensive network, I had never met before, was immeasurably important to the work I’m currently doing and plan to do in the future.”


“The level of insight that Jim has from his years of organizing was invaluable and very well organized/structured. The resources, thoughts behind each class topic, and chance to both connect with fellow aspiring organizers and meet/network with veteran difference-makers more than met what I was hoping for this course.”


“I absolutely loved your class and feel like I still touch on so many aspects of the things we learned. Now that I work at the ACLU of Texas, I feel like your class was the most valuable training I received in prep for this work.  I’ll recommend your class  because I feel like your class offers such a diverse range of experiences, resources, and lessons. I also just found out that they did not know about Peter Johnson’s work and he alone is a reason to join your class.”





    Go ahead and submit this application now. No payment is due until you've been notified you've been accepted. Thanks for applying.

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