|After Seven Years, Colorado Center is a Model for Success|
Denver, CO—According to Egyptian mythology, the number seven is the symbol of perfection, effectiveness, and completeness. The staff of the Sister Mary Lucy Neighborhood Networks Center can wholeheartedly relate to this. In September 2009, which was the center’s seventh year of existence, the staff effectively completed the requirements for Model center classification, making the Sister Mary Lucy Neighborhood Networks Center the first Model center in Colorado.
For Center Director Laura Aranda, the rise to Model center classification has been a rewarding one, going from a struggling new center to one that has the full support of management, residents, and the community.
Taking a Team Approach to “Modelhood”
Sister Mary Lucy Neighborhood Networks Center opened its doors in February 2002 in the Cole neighborhood with a limited budget, limited support, and limited programs. The center’s main goals were straightforward: provide access to educational opportunities and no-cost courses to the community.
Today, the Sister Mary Lucy Neighborhood Networks Center offers a variety of programs designed to accomplish these goals, as well as promote and support resident self-sufficiency. To do this, the center relies on the generous support of a number of partners, as well as a contingent of volunteers who donate their time and talents to support center programs and assist center users. With this support, the center has been able to continually upgrade its computers and equipment.
“The services provided by our partners and the support of our volunteers are invaluable,” explained Aranda. “The enhanced computer equipment, including a recent acquisition of refurbished computers purchased in July of 2009, has resulted in higher quality computer services and increased attendance and participation in our center’s programs. These were all key in helping us meet the requirements for Model center classification.”
Serving as a Strong Community Resource
The Sister Mary Lucy Neighborhood Networks Center offers a variety of structured programs scheduled during specific times through the school year. These programs include:
- Self-defense for women.
- Babysitting training for youth.
- Healthcare workshops.
- Financial literacy.
- Parenting sessions.
- Summer camp.
- Arts and crafts.
- Citizenship classes.
In addition to its rotating curriculum, the center also offers three ongoing programs:
- Quarterly computer classes for all ages. During the last fiscal year, 72 adults and 22 seniors were introduced to basic computer skills. In addition, 297 users of various ages accessed the Internet through the center’s computer lab.
- An afterschool program that provides year-round homework assistance for K–12 students. A total of 105 youth participated in the afterschool program during the 2009 fiscal year.
- Kids Café. Through this program, the Sister Mary Lucy Neighborhood Networks Center helped to distribute a total of 2,486 snacks during the 2008-2009 school year.
Taking Advantage of Available Resources
The Sister Mary Lucy Neighborhood Networks Center has used the Strategic Tracking and Reporting Tool (START) to submit two three-year business plans for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) approval since 2002. These plans were periodically updated and followed by an assessment. START also allowed the center’s staff to track the progress of programs and services. This is critical because HUD requires that centers have updated business plans and assessments, as well as tracking and evaluation capabilities to advance along the path to higher center classification.
Aranda also credits the support she and her staff received from the Neighborhood Networks technical assistance staff for giving them the final push toward Model center classification. “We were so fortunate to receive technical assistance support in March 2009,” said Aranda. “For us, the outcomes were: a better organized center with an updated business plan; a one-stop-shop Web page; preparation of program development based on a resident needs assessment; formalized partnerships; implementation of tracking and evaluation tools; workforce development programming; and outreach and marketing strategies.”
Realizing that Model Classification was within Reach
As a result of the initial and follow-up onsite technical assistance, Aranda realized that Model center classification was within her reach. After reviewing the requirements, she applied for and the center received Model classification in September 2009, becoming only the 15th center in the nation and the first in Colorado to do so.
“The success of achieving Model center classification was received with enthusiasm and excitement,” said Aranda. “We are fortunate for having reached this measure of accomplishment, and I credit the combined efforts of center staff, management, partners, volunteers, clients, and the Neighborhood Networks technical assistance team for this success!”
For more information about Neighborhood Networks centers in Colorado, contact:
Faith A. Ballenger
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Helena Multifamily Program Center
7 West Sixth Avenue
Helena, MT 59601
For more information about Sister Mary Lucy Neighborhood Networks Center, contact:
3707A Humboldt Street
Denver, CO 80205
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Department of Housing and Urban
451 7th Street S.W.,
Washington, DC 20410
708-1112 TTY: (202)