FH's Neighborhood Leadership Workshop Series begins in January

FutureHeights is proud to launch the fifth round of its Neighborhood Leadership Workshop Series, a multidisciplinary leadership development program. Participants will develop leadership skills and gain knowledge and tools they can use to help make their Cleveland Heights neighborhood strong, safe and vibrant.

Since 2015, 47 Cleveland Heights residents have completed the workshops. Participants were interested in learning more about Cleveland Heights and meeting other civically minded people, and some had a community or neighborhood project in mind when they signed up. Many workshop series graduates have gone on to receive project funding through the FutureHeights Neighborhood Mini-Grant Program.

Trudy Andrzejewski, a resident who grew up in Cleveland Heights, took an interest in getting involved in the community when she returned after graduate school. With training in historic preservation, she and her partner, Conner Karakul, a landscape architect, channeled their shared passion for public spaces to make a positive impact. Under the group name CUE, the two are working to preserve and enhance a unique space at the southeast intersection of North Park Boulevard and Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights, just west of Lower Shaker Lake Park.

Like Andrzejewski, Karakul grew up in Cleveland Heights, and each has spent more than two decades enjoying the Shaker Lakes as an integral feature of their hometown.

“The site has a layered history, from a Shaker community sawmill, to a public garden beautified and maintained by neighboring women,” Andrzejewski said. “The site, however, is sunken below street-level and, as such, has become somewhat forgotten. We propose that neighbors reclaim the site once more with the goal of recreating a common space that honors and enhances its historical and ecological significance, while adding social and recreational functionality.” 

Andrzejewski completed the FutureHeights Neighborhood Leadership Workshop series in 2016, with this project in mind.

“Participating in the FutureHeights workshop series not only introduced me to means and methods for becoming a more engaged community member, but also inspired me to act. Now, as a mini-grant awardee, Conner and I are working with neighbors to improve a public space in our community. The grant has helped us get the project off the ground, engage additional residents, and leverage partnerships with the city and a local nonprofit for support. Work is just getting underway, but this positive community support—all made possible through FutureHeights—will enable us to take small steps that hopefully lead to more engagement and stewardship over time.”

The Neighborhood Leadership Workshop Series takes an asset-based community development approach, which means that it seeks to build upon neighborhood strengths.

“We have several principles that guide the program,” said Mark Chupp, an assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University’s Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences and former chair of the FutureHeights Civic Engagement Committee, which oversees the program. “We believe that institutions lead best by stepping back and supporting residents and voluntary groups, and that everyday people have the power to do extraordinary things right where they live.”

The workshops will take place once every two weeks, on Sunday afternoons, beginning Jan. 27. Sessions are held at the FutureHeights office, 2843 Washington Blvd. Topics include individual leadership, asset-based community development, project planning, local history, leveraging community resources and building community. Cleveland Heights residents are encouraged to apply. Child care will be provided. 

The program is partially funded by the city of Cleveland Heights with Community Development Block Grant dollars and by individual contributions.

The two-page application, due Jan. 4, can be found at www.futureheights.org/programs/community-building-programs/. For more information, call 216-320-1423 or email sbasu@futureheights.org.

Sruti Basu

Sruti Basu is the director of community-building programs at FutureHeights.

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Volume 11, Issue 12, Posted 2:09 PM, 11.29.2018