|From Opening Ceremony to Closing Site Visit, Philadelphia Regional Technical Assistance Workshop (RTAW) Showcases Importance of Initiative|
Philadelphia, PA—On July 15–17, more than 250 property owners and managers, residents, center staff, HUD staff, volunteers, and partners from around the country convened at the historic Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia to participate in the second 2009 Neighborhood Networks Regional Technical Assistance Workshop (RTAW). The three-day professional development event enabled stakeholders to hone their management skills, remain current on technological advances, and learn new techniques for helping residents of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-insured and -assisted housing communities achieve greater self-sufficiency. Like the Dallas RTAW in April 2009, the Philadelphia RTAW was preceded by a two-day grantwriting session.
Setting the Tone
The Philadelphia RTAW began with the presentation of colors by the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove Color Guard and the singing of the National Anthem by Eleanor Boyer, center director of the Chester Apartments Neighborhood Networks Center. Next, HUD Deputy Assistant Secretary for Multifamily Housing Programs Carol Galante, and Philadelphia HUD Deputy Regional Director Brenda Laroche, joined Neighborhood Networks Initiative Director Delores Pruden in welcoming participants. During her address, Galante emphasized the importance of Neighborhood Networks and how the Initiative supports President Obama’s technology agenda. She also encouraged participants to continue their efforts and remain enthusiastic about this life-changing Initiative.
Deborah McColloch, Director of the Philadelphia Office of Housing and Community Development, and Program Specialist Cyril Dadd from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration also addressed participants during the opening ceremony. Dadd made a special presentation to participants to share information about the availability of $4 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act loans and grants to help bring broadband service to unserved and underserved communities across America. Dadd also provided information on how Neighborhood Networks centers can apply for the funds that will help them continue to deliver technology to America’s communities.
Let the Learning Begin
After the opening session, participants could choose from a variety of concurrent sessions to attend. Offering 20 general and concurrent sessions–14 of which had never been offered at an RTAW–the Philadelphia RTAW enabled participants to create a customized learning curriculum designed to meet their specific needs. New session topics, such as how to start a financial literacy program, negotiate for results, secure funding in tough economic times, host a podcast, and launch a cyber fundraising campaign, complemented core RTAW sessions, such as partnership development, volunteer recruitment, and program planning. Many sessions were co-presented by staff from Neighborhood Networks centers and included hands-on learning activities and take-home resources.
In addition to traditional classroom sessions, the workshop included plenty of peer-to-peer networking opportunities. Among these were the popular Neighborhood Networks Discussion Groups that split participants into five groups that met daily during the RTAW to talk about ideas for taking Neighborhood Networks centers and the entire Initiative to the “next level.” Participants could also enroll in the recently launched Mentor Center Program, which pairs staff from centers that have advanced in the Neighborhood Networks Center Classification System with staff who strive to achieve a higher classification. Mentors and mentees had the opportunity to meet during the RTAW to discuss challenges and how to overcome them.
“This was the best RTAW I have been to…so far,” said Pamela Wildfong, HUD Neighborhood Networks Coordinator in Michigan. “The topics were so relevant given the current economy and the issues being faced by center staff. Also, the speakers were right on point and truly ‘got’ what Neighborhood Networks is all about. Because of that, you did feel as though every presentation was customized for you.”
The first day of the Philadelphia RTAW concluded with a networking reception. During the reception, Pruden presented special recognition awards to individuals for their outstanding accomplishments and contributions in promoting self-sufficiency and delivering computer access to residents. Plaques were also presented to centers that achieved advanced center classification. The following centers and individuals were recognized:
Model Center Classification
- Arbor Park Village Learning Center, Cleveland, Ohio
- Bryant Manor Computer Learning Center, Seattle, Washington
- Dartmouth Square Apartments Neighborhood Networks Center, Inkster, Michigan
- Montgomery Townhouses Neighborhood Networks Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Certified Center Classification
- Antonian Towers Computer Center, Easton, Pennsylvania
- Atlantis Community Center, Virginia Beach, Virginia
- Barlinvis Apartments Neighborhood Networks Center, Atlantic City, New Jersey
- Bethany Villa Apartments Neighborhood Networks Center, Troy, Michigan
- Center Post Neighborhood Networks Computer Training Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Filipino Plaza Neighborhood Networks Center, Stockton, California
- Haverstock Family Resource Center and Community Technology Center, Houston, Texas
- Hearthstone Neighborhood Networks Center, Anaconda, Montana
- Herrington Villages Computer Center, Elizabeth City, North Carolina
- Holy Family Computer Center, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
- Jane Addams Hull House/LeClaire Neighborhood Networks Center, Chicago, Illinois
- JeffCAP Community Center/Delgado Community College Microsoft Computer Lab, Gretna, Louisiana
- Mallard Run Apartments Neighborhood Networks Center, Camp Hill, Pennsylvania
- Queen of Angels Computer Center, Reading, Pennsylvania
- Queen of Peace Computer Center, Pottsville, Pennsylvania
- Rudolphy/Mercy Douglass Home for the Blind Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Sacred Heart Village Neighborhood Networks Center, Wilmington, Delaware
- Simpson Fletcher Conestoga House Computer Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Strawberry Patch Apartments Neighborhood Networks Training Center, Whitehall, Pennsylvania
- Terry Apartments Neighborhood Networks Center, Wilmington, Delaware
- University Square Neighborhood Networks Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- West Poplar Apartments Neighborhood Networks Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Zephyr Apartments Neighborhood Networks Center, Whitehall, Pennsylvania
Designated Center Classification
- Bethlehem Townhouses Neighborhood Networks Center, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
- Rolling Hills Apartments Computer Learning Center, Pottstown, Pennsylvania
Special Recognition Awards
- Pat Baldt, regional vice president, Westgate Management Company and Kathy Palmer, center director, Village of Searights Neighborhood Networks Center, Uniontown, Pennsylvania
- Olivette Beacon, director of social services, Interstate Realty Management Company, Montgomery Townhouses Neighborhood Networks Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Gloria Finney, director of the Center Post Neighborhood Networks Computer Training Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Sharlotte Giberson, social services coordinator, Shirley Futch Plaza Neighborhood Networks Center, East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania
- Tyler Jackson, former center director, Yvette W. Scales Learning Center at Settegast Heights Village, Houston, Texas
- Michael J. Levitt, founder, Interstate Realty Management Company, Marlton, New Jersey
- Barbara Moore, director, Second East Hills Community Services Network Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Shannon Nappi, property manager, Newberry Estates Neighborhood Networks Center, Williamsport, Pennsylvania
- Lori Papp, property manager, Rolling Hills Apartments Computer Learning Center, Pottstown, Pennsylvania
- Shari Sabath, director of social services, Kenyon Hodges Computer Learning Center, Trenton, New Jersey
- Patricia Savage, program director and online services coordinator, Mac Management, Albuquerque, New Mexico
- Virginia Shamlian, director of social services of the Lifelong Learning Center at Brookside Terrace, Newton, New Jersey
The Momentum Continues
The second day of the RTAW began with an inspiring presentation by Jacqui Bethea, a former resident and frequent visitor of the Wister Townhouses Neighborhood Networks Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, whose remarks earned her a standing ovation from participants. During her presentation, Bethea demonstrated the positive impact Neighborhood Networks centers have on residents and described how the Wister Townhouses Neighborhood Networks Center changed her life.
“Know that what you do,” Bethea told participants, “is an investment. You are investing in someone’s life. When I first visited the Wister Townhouses Neighborhood Networks Center, I was filled with apprehension, but the compassion and patience that was given to me showed me that, ‘Yes, I can!’ I cannot even tell you where I would be today it if was not for Neighborhood Networks—probably sitting on the couch waiting for the mailman.”
Later on Thursday, participants also had the opportunity to lunch and learn with Wes Jurey, president and chief executive officer of the Arlington, Texas Chamber of Commerce, and Ernest Jones, president of the Philadelphia Workforce Development Corporation. While Jurey shared strategies for collaborating with the local Chamber of Commerce, and encouraged participants to reach out and form a partnership with these entities, Jones highlighted the various resources available at the local workforce development board.
On Friday, participants took to the stage to present the ideas they generated during the Neighborhood Networks Discussion Groups. Using a variety of methods, including video clips, skits, and thoughtful remarks, participants offered humorous portrayals and heartfelt “pearls of wisdom” to share their lessons learned and inspire each other to continue to achieve results.
“The networking component of the RTAW is just phenomenal,” stated Makini Magee, director of the Bryant Manor Computer Learning Center in Seattle, Washington, which received its Model center classification plaque at the RTAW. “The RTAW is a great opportunity to reconnect with your peers and exchange ideas. In the Discussion Groups, we encourage each other and talk about what we hope to achieve by the next time we come together. The encouragement I receive is amazing, and we achieve success together. The RTAWs are important for me. We are all so busy all year. The RTAWs are a chance for us to exhale and receive the support of our peers. Every day, we touch lives. It is nice when we can touch each others’ lives and return home motivated and energized.”
A Trip to Mars and a Model Center
The Philadelphia RTAW concluded with a site visit to the nearby, newly dubbed Model center, Montgomery Townhouses Neighborhood Networks Center. Interstate Realty Management Vice President for Social Services Olivette Beaton and Senior Neighborhood Networks Computer Facilitator Annie Foster welcomed the visitors and provided an overview of the center and its programs. As a result of the center’s partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) Imagine Mars Program, the center was transformed into a Mars community by the center staff and young residents. Site visit attendees learned how the center partnered with NASA, and heard presentations from youth participants who explained how they created their Mars community.
Materials Available Online
The resources and materials shared at the 2009 RTAWs are available online at the Neighborhood Networks Web site.
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