|First of ‘New and Improved’ 2009 Regional Technical Assistance Workshops (RTAWs) Delivers a Powerful Combination of Proven, New, and Interactive Learning Opportunities|
Dallas, TX—Neighborhood Networks center staff, property owners and managers, volunteers, residents, and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) staff from across the country convened in Dallas, Texas, April 29–May 1 for the first of two 2009 Neighborhood Networks Regional Technical Assistance Workshops (RTAWs). The three-day professional development event held at the Fairmont Hotel allowed participants to choose from 20 educational sessions to create a customized learning curriculum that met their specific needs.
In 2009, the Neighborhood Networks RTAWs were enhanced to keep pace with today’s technology-driven world and stakeholder needs. The ‘new and improved’ RTAWs deliver more peer-to-peer networking opportunities, including the popular Neighborhood Networks Discussion Groups and the recently launched Mentor Center Program. In addition, there were 14 never-before-offered sessions, such as how to start a financial literacy program; teach more effectively; negotiate for results; secure funding in tough economic times; assess the changing job market to identify growing employment sectors; promote center programs via a podcast, and launch a cyber fundraising campaign. These enhancements complement core RTAW sessions, such as partnership development, volunteer recruitment, and program planning, which are consistently requested by participants. Sessions include hands-on learning activities and provide take-home resources. In addition, staff members from Neighborhood Networks centers have been invited to co-present many sessions to allow participants to see how other centers are innovatively meeting the needs of residents.
“We know that the information and skills required to operate a successful Neighborhood Networks center are constantly changing,” said Neighborhood Networks Director Delores A. Pruden. “Our goal is to not only keep up with, but ahead of, stakeholders’ changing needs. We do this by first conducting focus groups with various stakeholders and HUD staff members to obtain their input. Next, we speak with subject-matter experts and conduct our own analyses. We then use all this information to design sessions that not only meet the needs identified by center staff and stakeholders, but are timely and relevant for today’s changing world.”
Challenging Attendees to Achieve More
The Dallas RTAW began with the presentation of the colors by the Woodrow Wilson High School Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Color Guard, and the singing of the national anthem by University of North Texas graduate student Laura Warriner. This was followed by Pruden’s opening remarks, as well as welcoming remarks by Michael Backman, HUD’s Fort Worth Multifamily Hub director.
Michael Backman, HUD's Fort Worth Multifamily Hub director, welcomed participants to the Dallas RTAW.
During his remarks, Backman shared a personal story that highlighted how technology directly impacted his academic and professional success and emphasized the vital role technology plays in today’s world. To help fulfill the Neighborhood Networks mission, Backman announced that the Fort Worth Hub has set a goal to open 20 new Neighborhood Networks centers in 2009. He then encouraged participants to take advantage of the resources offered at the RTAW, and challenged them to use these resources to achieve even greater results.
After opening and welcoming remarks, participants broke out into their assigned Neighborhood Networks Discussion Groups. These groups provide a forum for participants to share ideas, offer advice, strategize challenges together, and expand their professional network.
Prior to attending a series of concurrent sessions that were scheduled for the afternoon, participants learned how they could maximize some of the latest technology during a general session titled, “Technology Trends: A Look at the Future.” For the session, presenters from New York City-based nonprofit Global Kids discussed how centers can use digital media to engage youth in a positive and meaningful way. The presentation explained how centers can use online games as tools for learning; virtual worlds as spaces for empowering youth; social media, such as YouTube, as tools that enable youth to be smart creators and consumers; and social networks, such as Facebook, as supportive communities.
“We are constantly discouraging our young center users from going to MySpace and YouTube,” said Sonya Manners, executive director of the Certified Dartmouth Square Neighborhood Networks Center in Inkster, Michigan. “After listening to this session, I realized that instead of not allowing youth to access these sites, we might want to consider creating programs that use these sites to engage youth.”
The first day of the Dallas RTAW concluded with a networking reception that allowed participants to mix and mingle with their colleagues, and recognized the achievements of some individuals and centers. During the reception, Pruden presented plaques to those centers that achieved advanced Center Classification. These included:
- Bayview Computer Learning Center, San Francisco, California
- Bryant Manor Computer Learning Center, Seattle, Washington
- Casa de Manana Learning Center, Corpus Christi, Texas
- Clyde Fincher Community Learning Center, Harlingen, Texas
- Eloise Callaway Community Learning Center, New Braunfels, Texas
- Harrison Manor Apartments Neighborhood Networks Center, Harlingen, Texas
- High Pointe I and II Neighborhood Networks Centers, Rochester, Minnesota
- Metro Kids Konnection at Cleveland Arms Apartments, Jacksonville, Florida
- North Hills Manor Neighborhood Networks Center, Meridian, Mississippi
- Pathway to the Future Learning Center Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana
- Samuel Place Community Learning Center, Corpus Christi, Texas
- V.E. Washington Neighborhood Networks Center, Lake Charles, Louisiana
- Vista Verde Community Learning Center, San Antonio, Texas
Neighborhood Networks Director Delores Pruden (left) and Fort Worth Multifamily Hub Director Michael Backman (right) presented a Model center plaque to Lee Harrison, center director of the Bayview Computer Learning Center in San Francisco, California.
Pruden also recognized the commitment to Neighborhood Networks made by Backman and others, including: Vernon Butler, former HUD Neighborhood Networks coordinator; Jeanne King, program advisor and HUD Neighborhood Networks coordinator; Monica Quiroz, management agent, Casa Neighborhood Networks Center; Rosemary Hayes, board president, Casa Neighborhood Networks Center; Susan Edwards, center director, Smith-Keys Computer Learning Center; Miles Graham, president, Neighborhood Networks National Consortium, Inc. (NNNC); and Thaddeus Miles, past president, NNNC.
A Learning Lunch
Like Wednesday, Thursday was a mix of learning sessions and networking opportunities. One of the highlights of the day was a general session luncheon. During the session, participants had the opportunity to lunch and learn with Laurie Bouillion Larrea, president of Workforce Solutions of Greater Dallas and the Dallas Workforce Development Board, and Wes Jurey, president and chief executive officer of the Arlington (Texas) Chamber of Commerce. Both speakers shared strategies for collaborating with their local workforce development boards and Chambers of Commerce, and encouraged participants to reach out and form a partnership with these entities, emphasizing the fact that these organizations need Neighborhood Networks centers as much as centers need the resources and opportunities offered by these organizations.
Taking Learning on the Road
The Dallas RTAW concluded on Friday, May 1, with a site visit to the Lago De Plata Learning Center in Corsicana, Texas. During the site visit, participants learned how the center fills a vital need in the community by providing educational and healthcare resources for residents. Terry Chapman of the Skyline Property Management Company described the center’s partnerships with community organizations, such as Navarro College, and how these partnerships enable the center to offer much-needed programs and services, including English as a Second Language (ESL) courses, General Educational Development (GED) preparation courses, literacy classes, and health programs.
The Dallas RTAW concluded with a site visit to the Lago De Plata Learning Center. During the visit, Neighborhood Networks Director Delores Pruden (front left) presented Center Director B.T. Armstrong (back left), Property Manager Terry Chapman (center), and Assistant Property Manager Betty Tinnon (far right) with a plaque acknowledging the center's achievement of Certified Classification.
According to Laura Aranda, director of the Sister Mary Lucy Neighborhood Network Center in Denver, Colorado, and presenter at the Dallas RTAW, “The Dallas workshop presented a wide exhibition of valuable resources for Neighborhood Networks centers. It was a great opportunity for me to network and exchange ideas and resources with Neighborhood Networks colleagues. I am looking forward to implementing the strategies I learned at the RTAW and taking my center to the next level.”
Second 2009 RTAW Scheduled for July
On July 15–17, HUD will host the second 2009 Neighborhood Networks RTAW at the Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. For more information or to register, visit the Neighborhood Networks Web site. Individuals who are unable to attend the RTAWs may access and download speaker presentations and handouts from the Neighborhood Networks Web site.
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