KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — On Monday, the Change Center celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day through a morning of skating.
For 4 years, the Change Center has hosted a safe space for families and young adults, where they can get job training or simply hang out for a while after school. Last year, they employed 30 young people. Many of those employees said it was their first job.
The center's core values are justice, diversity and equality. The Executive Director said those are the same things Dr. King fought for.
Through events like MLK Skate Day, the center gives kids a platform to be themselves. They aim to keep kids off the street by giving them job experience. Tiara Hill, a ninth-grader, works at the center and said this is her first job. She said the smiles and fun make it all worth it.
"The smiles, to see other people having fun and that you helped having fun," she said.
Her day-to-day consists of greeting visitors and helping the center operate to its best capacity. She has big dreams of being a biomedical engineer. She said the Change Center gives kids like her experience to grow.
"Seeing somebody intervene in the life of a sophomore or junior in high school, you're gonna see an immediate impact," said Matthew Best, the center's Executive Director.
Best said he aims to close the economic disparity found in communities across East Tennessee.
"Dr. King was all about justice," Best said, "Part of him talking about justice was dealing with issues around poverty and economic development and so we get a chance to tackle that head-on ... I think Dr. King would love the work that we do here."