February 22, 2016

As part of its commitment to help stabilize and revitalize the communities it serves, CHP hosted five residents from The Summit Apartments in Hopewell, Virginia at NeighborWorks America’s October 2015 Community Leadership Institute (CLI) in Louisville, Ky.

The CLI, a three-day, invitation-only training event held once a year, aims to strengthen the voices and skills of community, resident, and volunteer leaders. It helps foster the sharing of best practices and solutions to challenges in low- and moderate-income communities. Participants from around the country attend in small teams from communities served by NeighborWorks Network organizations such as The Summit Apartments, an affordable housing complex owned and managed by CHP.

CHP’s resident services staff understands that leadership development among residents at the organization’s rental communities encourages healthy growth by providing people the ability to analyze their own strengths and weaknesses; to set personal and vocational goals; and to gain the self-esteem, confidence, motivation, and abilities to carry out those goals. This learning includes the ability to establish support networks to fully participate in community life and affect positive social change. Positive leadership development also provides individuals with the ability to guide or direct others on a course of action, influence the opinions and behaviors of others, and serve as a role models.

With the benefits of leadership development in mind, CHP Resident Services Manager Tiffany Little and Resident Services Coordinator Stacie Desper escorted two teenagers, their mothers, and a senior resident at the fall conference. The residents were selected by Desper based on their participation in resident services programs and demonstrated leadership skills.

Fifteen-year-old Hakeeym Taylor and 16-year-old Tiara Taylor (no relation) came to Desper’s attention earlier in the summer when they served as camp counselors in the newly-formed Summer Youth Program at The Summit. Desper also considered the duo strong candidates for the conference because of community service work they performed in greater Hopewell. 

Hakeeym was initially apprehensive about attending the CLI. “About three days before the trip, I felt doubtful that I would be intelligent enough to comprehend as well as the others.  I was prepared for failure. But one of my instructors introduced me to the idea of creating a way to bring the community together.  Together, we practiced creating plans to change society for the better.”

Describing her experience in Louisville, Hakeeym’s mother Sheikia Taylor said, “It was great! All of my classes were very informative.  The instructors were engaging and I learned a lot about leadership.  I learned that I am capable of being a leader.”

Aleta Taylor, mother of Tiara, indicated that she would like to use her newly gained leadership knowledge to one day, “build a program in the city for the children to have some type of recreational activity. I would also like to have a prosperous and successful business that puts money back into the economy of Hopewell.”

Desper also invited 60-year-old Valerie McDougal, a 27-year resident of the Summit, to take part in the CLI because she has, “years of experience with community organizing, including the successful creation and maintenance of community programs at The Summit (formerly Langston Park Apartments).” One example of McDougal’s many accomplishments was the establishment of the first Housing Authority Softball League in Hopewell. “Valerie has also proven active in her community through her volunteer work with The Summit’s Summer Youth Program and her consistent participation as a Resident Involvement Committee Member,” added Desper.

The Summit contingency was able to take a variety of courses that covered such topics as creating inter-generational partnerships to build stronger communities, the fundamentals of community organizing, and young people as leaders of community change.

Funding for the residents’ conference fees was part of a $250,000 “Stable Communities Catalytic Grant” that CHP received from NeighborWorks America to serve the Hopewell community. Through the grant, CHP aims to combine housing preservation with comprehensive education and programming that will impact not only CHP’s rental communities in Hopewell, but also the larger Hopewell community.

To help accomplish this goal, CHP hired a program coordinator who has used a city-wide approach to establishing relationships with service providers, community stakeholders, and activists. To date, funding has been used for the development of a variety of services and programs for the residents at The Summit Apartments including a collaborative mural project, an afterschool youth program and a teen involvement committee, a tenant council, and financial capability programming for adults. CHP has also performed a community needs assessment and worked to identify additional community partners.