By Osita Iroegbu
RRHA Public Relations and Marketing Manager
Tischica Mabrey clutched tightly a certificate she had received just moments ago. Her three children watched as she stood in front of an audience of about 50 people and gave remarks about how much she’d grown.
She may have seemed a little nervous, but it was nowhere near how uncomfortable she would have been ten weeks ago. Then, Mabrey couldn’t muster up enough courage to begin her job hunting process, let alone speak in front of a packed audience.
“I just lacked confidence,” said Mabrey, who lives in Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s Mosby community. “I knew I needed to get the ball rolling with that, and other things, to help change my situation. I needed to do it for me, my kids and really for the community. But I wasn’t sure how. I was stuck.”
Just last week, Mabrey graduated from the Mosby Leadership Program, a partnership between RRHA , the VCU ASPiRE Program and the VCU Center on Health Disparities, with a certificate — and confidence — in tow.
“Looking back, I see that I really needed this,” said Mabrey, 33, as her children looked on. “I learned a lot about myself through this program, to be positive, to push forward and to not be afraid.”
Mabrey was one of ten Mosby community members who completed the ten-week Mosby Leadership Program. The Program was developed in collaboration with the Mosby Tenant Council to empower Mosby residents in areas of leadership-skill development, communication, computer literacy and civic engagement. The goal: to build active resident leaders who in turn engage, support and motivate their neighbors through community-based activities such as voter registration, volunteerism, and participation on the Mosby Tenant Council.
The Program has graduated two cohorts from Mosby, a public housing community located less than a mile from VCU’s medical campus. Virginia Commonwealth University students serve as volunteers and mentors in the program. The program provides an opportunity for VCU ASPiRE (Academic Scholars Program in Real Environments) students like Mark Hairston, a rising junior, to connect with neighbors they may not connect with otherwise.
“Some of the participants in the program had never used computers before, or weren’t using them to their advantage,” said Hairston, a biology major. “It was great to be able to assist them with things such as developing resumes and their overall computer skills. In turn, I was able to build relationships with good people that I probably would have never had the chance to had it not been for this program.”
Graduates from the first Mosby Leadership Program cohort now lead community efforts and have also found jobs working in community-related positions. Two recent graduates of the leadership program served as assistants in the second leadership class, supporting their fellow neighbors throughout the process. Other graduates volunteer in the community’s Resource Center, a health hub in the heart of the community that provides free-of-charge medical and health related services to residents. Some Leadership Program graduates are working to bring Zumba classes to the Mosby community to engage residents in fun, healthy living, while another is working to design a community garden in the Mosby community.
Nannette Bailey, Partnership Coordinator with VCU ASPiRE, said the program’s goal is to develop strong leadership. “It’s my belief that successful communities have strong leadership,” said Bailey. “One of the major goals of the Mosby Leadership Program is to support residents in gaining the skills needed to transition into leadership roles. I’ve already seen with the first leadership class a stronger commitment to taking on leadership roles to make Mosby better.”
Monae Gordon said she plans to do just that. Gordon, a 58-year-old grandmother of seven, has developed a new-found desire to ensure that children in her community are exposed to healthy ideas, places and opportunities. “Exposure to good, healthy activities, people and places will increase the overall happiness and future of our children,” said the recent leadership program graduate.
During the ceremony, Ralph Stuckey, of the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s Resident Services Department, told the graduates that the skills, resources and support system they acquired throughout the program are invaluable. He encouraged them to utilize the resources they’ve gained to build better lives for themselves, their families and their neighborhood. “This is a time to celebrate the great achievements you all have made,” he told the graduates. “You all are now equipped to make a positive impact in your community.”
Mabrey, whose lack of confidence before the program kept her from applying for jobs, said she was now prepared to make necessary moves in life. “I want my kids to see me as a positive role model, pushing forward with my goals,” she said. “I know that being a part of this program, sticking to it and completing it will motivate my kids to push forward in life too. And that makes me, my family and my community a success.”