Allison Luthe ’97 knew from the start of her college career that she wanted to have an impact on her community. As an English major with a Gender Studies minor, Luthe first came to Butler University hoping to pursue a profession in the legal field. “At first, I really was just passing through Butler to get to law school,” Luthe says.
But a sophomore-year internship experience changed Luthe’s career trajectory. As an intern with the nonprofit Child Advocates, she began learning about social work and the child welfare system in Indianapolis. This sparked an interest that would lead to a career of supporting the city’s underserved communities.
After graduating, Luthe joined Americorps and began working with children across the nation. She primarily assisted children who had experienced abuse, helping them access the resources they needed to flourish.
This experience helped Luthe realize she wanted to be on the forefront of lasting change. “I didn’t want to just put a Band-Aid on things,” she says. “I knew I wanted to get to the root cause of inequalities and injustice.”
While completing her master’s degree in Social Work at Indiana University, Luthe learned more about how she might accomplish that goal. “I took a course called ‘Organizing for Social Change,’ and that’s where the light bulb went off,” she remembers. “It made me realize I really do care about social justice—not just in the legal aspect, but also in a systemic way.”
Luthe carried this passion to an advocacy role with Central Indiana Jobs With Justice, where she saw firsthand how economic and racial injustices affect certain Indiana communities. Then, as she sought to advance her career and her passion through leadership, Luthe soon discovered an open role with the Martin Luther King Community Center (MLK Center).
The MLK Center is an Indianapolis-based organization that works to educate communities on the teachings and philosophies of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The Center aims to help Indianapolis residents peacefully confront injustices, while also leading them to find success and stability in their everyday lives. This mission resonated with Luthe, and she joined the team as Executive Director in June 2015.
Since joining the MLK Center, Luthe has helped the organization grow strategically and further develop its programs and mission. She has led the creation of necessary resources for local families, including the formation of a full after-school enrichment program. Some of her favorite work, however, has been with the organization’s Tarkington Teen Work Crew. This is a summer employment program that aims to empower local teens, and it also helps to demonstrate the positive impact that strong community relations can provide.
Going forward, Luthe hopes her work with the MLK Center can help create an environment that welcomes the diverse perspectives and ideas that individuals bring to the Indianapolis community. She also hopes these programs will help empower local families while creating dialogue around the systemic injustices that some Indianapolis communities face.
“We want to normalize these hard conversations,” she says. “In fact, we want people to seek them out. We hope to teach people to manage conflict, and to accept that tension is an okay thing. Using MLK’s principles every single day with our peers and in our community is ideal to help people be the best versions of themselves.”
To support this mission, the MLK Center has partnered with Butler through the creation of nonviolence training workshops that are available to all students. This program teaches students about how to have difficult conversations while also putting into practice the nonviolence principles established by Martin Luther King Jr.
“We want to help empower others to transform their communities into a place where everyone is welcome,” Luthe says. “Our goal with this program is to encourage conversations confronting injustices while making sure this can be accomplished safely and productively.”
For students interested in going a step further to address social injustices, Luthe points to Butler’s Hub for Black Affairs and Community Engagement, which is under the leadership of Dr. Terri Jett. “It’s the perfect example of Butler putting words into action,” she says. Similar to the MLK Center, the Hub for Black Affairs and Community Engagement aims to elevate Black voices within Butler’s community while dismantling systemic racism and building a more inclusive campus environment.