Maybe someone used the last six months to fine-tune a much-needed program, like the block nurse project started a few years back on St. Paul’s East Side.
Or perhaps someone took advantage of one-on-one coaching to learn how to be more active in their community.
Or maybe somebody just needed the bit of inspiration that comes from meeting with other engaged and excited leaders-to-be.
The Neighborhood Leadership Program, sponsored by the Amherst Wilder Foundation in collaboration with the Minnesota Historical Society, graduates its latest cohort of about 30 participants Wednesday night in a ceremony at the James J. Hill House in St. Paul. While the results of their work will take many forms, past participants and program officials say that the confidence, connections and skills the graduates have gained will help them serve as community leaders for years to come.
“When I got involved in 2007, I didn’t know why they saw me as a leader,” said Victoria Campoverde, who coordinates the affiliated Latino Leadership Program and is a cultural liaison with the Anoka-Hennepin schools. “But I learned how to be a good leader, how to recognize my leadership style and others’ too.”
Simply put, said program coach Duchesne Drew, it “gives people a grasp of the community and where it’s going and a better grasp of who they are and what they are trying to accomplish.”
Started in 1995, the program seeks to develop and hone the skills of existing and emerging community leaders who want to build connections and make positive changes in their communities. About 600 people have participated overall. Drew, community network vice president for the Bush Foundation, has been involved in the program for three years. Much of the work is done by participants working together to share ideas and ways to affect change, he said.
“A lot of the work they do is self exploratory,” he said. “This deepens their commitment and their sense of purpose.”
Marika Pfefferkorn, in her first year as program facilitator, participated in 2004. While there are a lot of leadership programs out there, she said, not many work on what leadership looks like at the community level. People who have used it to develop their own leadership skills include a former community organizer who “had a hard time seeing himself as someone who could step out front and drive change,” she said. Some have learned how to work more collaboratively with others, or to navigate the organizations that could fund an idea.
Each participant was paired with a coach and the group met twice a month.
The Minnesota Historical Society has been a program partner since 2010, examining how local history shapes communities. This year’s group researched the history of various St. Paul neighborhoods and studied, through the story of the Rondo neighborhood, how policies can affect minority communities. More than half of this year’s participants are from minority groups, officials said.
Campoverde first became involved with the Latino Leadership Program. The next year, she participated in the full six-month cohort. She has helped with the program ever since.
“You see the need for partnership, even with people who are different from you,” she said. “And it helps people find their passion.”