College of Constructive Hell-Raising


What It Is 

The College for Constructive Hell-Raising is a semester-long, citizen-friendly seminar class to help DFW activists of all kinds think more like organizers.

We present basic community organizing principles in engaging ways, just like the schools that professional community organizers attend. But we also have veterans of local social justice campaigns from the last 50 years come and talk about what they learned fighting the good fights right here in DFW.

Whether you’re trying to win a stoplight at an intersection, overcome discriminatory policies, or shut down a toxic polluter, the same principles of community organizing apply. Become a savvier Citizen of The Republic, and a better advocate for your cause. Learn how to raise more Constructive Hell.


The Particulars

Class meets every other Tuesdays from January 14th to May 19th, 7 – 9 pm, at the Meadows Conference Center, 2900 Live Oak in East Dallas

You’re encouraged but not required to attend informal follow-up discussions with guest lecturers at the Bryan Street Tavern after class adjourns.


The cost is $150. It includes a book, and lots of reading material. Some scholarships are available.

EARLY REGISTRATION: Sign-up by November 4th and and the cost is $90.


ATTENDANCE POLICY                                                                                                                                                                                                                   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 for 2020

January 14th:“What is Constructive Hell-Raising?” 



January 28th: “The Four Dirty Words of Organizing”

Guest Lecturer: Peter Johnson  

The First Fair Park Fight


February 11th: “(Internal) Organizing”

Guest Lecturer:

John Fullinwider 

East Dallas’ Bois D’arc Patriots


February 25th: “Strategy vs. Tactics”

Guest Lecturers:

Kim Batchelor, Mavis Belisle  and

Patricia Ridgley

The Anti-Nuclear Movement in Texas


March 10th: “(Self) Critical-Thinking”

Guest Lecturer:

Luis Sepulveda

Getting the Lead out of West Dallas


March 24th: “Perception is Everything”

Guest Lecturers: Patti Fink and Don Maison

The Roots of Modern LGBT Organizing in Dallas


April 7th: “Real World Civics”

Guest Lecturer:

Deborah Carpenter, Dallas Plan Commissioner


April 21st: “Outreach”

Guest Lecturers:

Colette McCadden and Meagan Greene      

Closing the Exide Lead Smelter in Frisco


May 5th: “Means vs Ends”

Guest Lecturer: Changa Higgins

Creating the Dallas Police Community Police Oversight Board


May 19th:  “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


Patti Fink

Veteran LGBT  organizer

John Fullinwider

Longtime community organizer and original Bois D’arc Patriot


Meagan Greene

Frisco Unleaded Co-founder


Peter Johnson

Former MLK Jr associate, original Dallas SCLC organizer


Don Maison

Veteran LGBT rights attorney


Collete McCadden

Frisco Unleaded Co-founder


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.

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:

Kim Aman, Program Director, Moss Haven Farms

Clarice Criss, National Campaign Manager, Steyer for President

Kristian Hernadez, DSA North Texas Co Chair

Susie Marshall, Executive Director, GROW North Texas

Evelyn Mayo, Community Outreach & Educator/NWT Legal Aid

Michelle McAdam, Economic Empowerment Specialist, New Friends New Life

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

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.”


College Application

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