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Buffalo State's 'Emerging Leaders Program' provides resources for community organizations

STAFF REPORTS

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A diverse group of leaders and staff members from assorted community agencies took part in the third annual West Side Promise Neighborhood’s Emerging Leaders Program in July.

Over an intensive two-week period, they learned the skills necessary to better serve their communities. The program put 21 participants through 46 hours of curriculum, including both classroom time and hands-on training in the community.

“The annual training, now in its third year, is an opportunity made possible by the West Promise Neighborhood Program, Buffalo State, and United Healthcare,” said Suzann Tighe, associate director of the West Side Promise Neighborhood, a consortium of community organizations and members collaborating to improve leadership capacity, community involvement with schools, and youth outcomes on the West Side of Buffalo.

The project is administered by Buffalo State’s Center for Excellence in Urban and Rural Education. Rich Products, which is headquartered on Niagara Street, is the project’s primary corporate supporter. The leadership training was funded by a donation from United Healthcare Community Plan.

The project is supervised by Holly Quicksey, director of the Educational Pipeline Initiatives at Buffalo State.

Some of the training the participants went through included core competencies for community leaders, asset mapping, organizing, coalition building, media and communications, navigating systems, grant writing, and housing law. The Buffalo Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation also participated in the program. Participants represented organizations such as the International Institute, Say Yes to Education, Evergreen Health, Every Person Influences Children (EPIC), and the United Somali Alliance of Buffalo.

The group was made up of individuals representing diverse ethnic backgrounds, reflecting the West Side community. Each participant was also linked with a mentor from the Buffalo business community. This mentoring opportunity enhances the West Side Promise Neighborhood's goal to further link residents, service organizations, and the business community to build a strong and vibrant West Side.

The goal of the promise program is to ensure that all children growing up in “Promise Neighborhoods” have access to good schooling, as well as strong community and family systems. The aim is to prepare students to successfully transition into college and a career.

“Our West Side Emerging Leaders Program is one example of this effort,” Tighe said.

Prennessia Lambert, who works for Say Yes to Education, said the training was “dynamic.”

“It provided us with the necessary resources to make an impact within our communities,” she said. “I think just the workshops in general, each one individually, presented a different way for us to understand what community is, and also helped us to understand a little bit more how we are, how we view culture, and how we view community. Learning all of that will help us to better serve the community.”

Lambert said the program was an opportunity to hone her skill set in the work that she’s currently doing in her community.

“It was also an opportunity to work along the West Side,” she said. “Most of my work has been done on the East Side of Buffalo. It gives me the opportunity to work with this population, as well.”

The program was “excellent,” said Lambert who encouraged others to participate. “I highly recommend it,” she said.

YahYa Adam participated in the program as an employee of Evergreen Health, as well as a member of the newly-formed United Somali Alliance of Buffalo.

“We learned about the rights that tenants have,” he said, noting that they also learned about the services other participants provide to the community. “It’s been very empowering and uplifting.”

Adam said he’s already started recommending the program to the other community workers and leaders he works with.

“I’m going to talk about the things that I’ve learned here, and share about the connections I’ve made here,” he said, adding that he now feels like he’s carrying much more knowledge into his work. “The problems in the community are very widespread, and there are many different problems that people are going through. This course more or less empowers you to be an advocate for people. It’s going to come in handy for my clients, too.”

Anyone interested in participating as a mentor or program participant can call (716) 878-3610 for information about next year’s program.