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Capacity, Leadership & Empowerment

12.28.2017

In 2016, Greater Newark LISC (GNL) embarked on a pilot program to support leadership development and skill building among residents throughout the City of Newark. Known as the Newark Resident Leadership Academy (NRLA), the program rests on the belief that real change comes from the bottom up and neighborhood revitalization efforts demand resident voice in both the planning and implementation stages.

After a successful pilot year in 2016, this year GNL launched a second year of the NRLA engaging residents from four neighborhoods: Lower Broadway, Fairmount, Upper Clinton Hill, and Vailsburg. For one Saturday a month over a six-month period, residents participated in workshops oriented around leadership development, skill building and grassroots community-action. Specific topics included conflict resolution, project planning, communication & presentation skills, grant writing & fundraising, engaging your neighbors, and more. In addition, the teams were provided a community coach that worked with them between classes and helped them design a community improvement project to address a need in their neighborhood.

Furthermore, NRLA teams collaborated on one community-wide project to unify all four neighborhoods. All four neighborhood teams took part in GNL’s city-wide Greenest Neighborhood Block Contest. The purpose of the contest was three-fold: first, to beautify the neighborhoods with green elements, secondly to provide an opportunity for residents to practice engagement strategies learned from the NRLA training modules, and finally to unite all neighborhood teams under one common cause that affected all of Newark.

The Greenest Neighborhood Block Contest encouraged NRLA members to sign up neighbors to participate in a creative greening of each neighborhood.  Over twenty blocks throughout four neighborhoods participated in the competition. Each neighborhood was judged by the level of citizen participation, creativity of flora, cleanliness, and overall block aesthetics. The top block in each neighborhood received $300, second place blocks received $200, and the third-place blocks received $100. The winning blocks for each neighborhood included: Vailsburg neighborhood: Blocks – Smith Street (South Orange Avenue & Norwood Place); Longfellow Avenue (South Orange Avenue & Longfellow Avenue); and Valley Street (Sunset Avenue & Alexander Street).  Clinton Hill neighborhood: Blocks – Van Ness Place (Millington); Narin Place (Clinton Avenue & Millington); and Ingraham Place (Ingraham Place & Clinton Avenue)

At the end of the six-month training program, on June 28, 2017, GNL graduated thirty-five members of the second class of the NRLA. Following the graduation, the neighborhood teams were awarded $2,000 to implement the community improvement projects.