Neighborhood Leadership Development Program Seeks 2016 Applicants

Christen DuVernay, Collinwood Resident

Photo courtesy of Maria Kaiser

In 2006, the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation, along with former Cleveland Mayor Michael White, established a leadership training program for engaged neighborhood leaders.  The Neighborhood Leadership Development Program (NLDP) is a free, 15 session community engagement training program for residents of Cleveland, and its inner ring suburbs, who are working on projects within the City of Cleveland and who are determined to make a positive impact on their communities.

After the application process, 20 committed individuals are chosen for the program year.  NLDP participants and graduates have many interests and are working on a wide variety of issues to improve life in their communities.

Christen DuVernay and Marlene Gatewood-Allen are two such NLDP graduates.

Christen DuVernay has dedicated herself to social justice work since she was a teen working to garner community support for migrant workers and their families.  As a Collinwood resident, she educates and facilitates dialogue around race and class differences in their community.  She has worked with National Public Radio to create a conversation about food disparity, which featured Collinwood residents who discussed their access to food and Cleveland food deserts.  She also campaigned in Collinwood's "Ballot Box" project for a grant to give teens knowledge about engaging in activism through the use of social media and the arts. Christen has developed and delivered programs to U.S. and international audiences addressing diversity and inclusion. She worked tirelessly to gain publicity for Collinwood during the Gay Games for the neighborhood's commitment to LGBTQ diversity training.  

Christen says that NLDP “ helped her connect with other people around Cleveland and that it taught her ways to be more strategic in developing community initiatives and engagement.”  She is working on a project, now, to bring an intergenerational landscaping program to Collinwood.”

Marlene Gatewood-Allen, when asked what the NLDP experience meant for her, said that “NLDP is the opportunity of a lifetime if you want to really know who you are, what you can be capable of doing and what you need in order to be a leader in any capacity!  I will be forever grateful! “

Marlene is passionate about social and community engagement and how it can be used to build individual capacity and provide ways for residents to live life and not just exist.   Marlene is a volunteer planner for the Euclid Beach Blast, one of North Collinwood’s annual community festivals. She was elected to the Northeast Shores Development Corporation Board of Directors and utilizes the position as a vehicle to improve communication with all residents and connect them to available community opportunities.  She founded the East 169th Street Block Club and is actively involved in bringing neighbors together for street beautification projects and activities and events to increase participation, awareness and interest in their community.    

Together, Christen and Marlene hold a “Happy Hour, Collinwood Style” the last Friday of each month. It is an opportunity for neighbors to network and engage with one another while patronizing local businesses.   The gatherings are rotated at 3 different locations:  Callaloo Café, Blue Breeze Sports Bar & Grill and Grovewood Lounge & Grill.  If you are interested in attending these Happy Hours, you can find the information on the “One Collinwood” Facebook page.

For those interested in the NLDP program, the 15 sessions take place on Saturdays at Trinity Commons at 2230 Euclid Avenue beginning August 27.  For more information and an application, visit or call 216-776-6172.  The deadline for applications is August 1.

Sandra Kluk

Program Administrator for The Neighborhood Leadership Development Program

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Volume 8, Issue 6, Posted 10:37 AM, 06.11.2016