Community Organizers Seek To Train New Neighborhood Leaders In Hartford
HART's Neighborhood Builders Academy Begins March 16
By VANESSA DE LA TORRE
March 08, 2013
HARTFORD — — The Hartford Areas Rally Together advocacy group is looking to bolster its ranks of neighborhood volunteers with a new academy that will teach residents the basics of community organizing.
The purpose is to develop a "pipeline" of leaders who could become the next wave of community organizers in Hartford, said Mayra Esquilin, HART's executive director.
After the training, which begins next Saturday, members of the new Neighborhood Builders Network might get started with a street cleanup or voter registration drive on their block, Esquilin said Friday.
For more than three decades, HART has helped residents demand action on issues ranging from school safety to public housing. But Esquilin said she has noticed a pattern while attending neighborhood revitalization meetings.
"I'm seeing the same people," Esquilin said. "Our goal is to go into the neighborhoods and find residents, engage them, support them. I think everyone in the community has the desire to contribute ... but don't know where to start. Our job is to develop those skill sets."
The academy has a 12-hour curriculum with topics such as learning how to approach residents and using data to advance a cause. Workshops will be held on four Saturdays at HART's Washington Street offices, beginning March 16.
Participants must agree to spend at least four hours a month attending community meetings. HART's hope is that Hartford neighborhoods — Frog Hollow, Barry Square and Behind the Rocks, for example — will each have 10 to 15 new volunteers that will work with HART on outreach.
Community organizer Damaris Bolorin, one of the HART employees that will be training residents, said she was a single mother in the city's South End when she first began volunteering with the group in the late 1980s.
"It really changed my life," Bolorin said. "They'll also be able to gain the skills of being a role model — not only in their community, but in their personal lives and with their children."
David Morin, president of the Parkville Revitalization Association, said the academy is needed: What will happen when the same few neighborhood leaders — the ones who regularly speak up at city meetings — are no longer around?
"We need younger, next-generation people to step up," Morin said Friday.
The academy's registration form is available on HART's website, http://www.hartofhartford.org. Organizers said several people have expressed interest and they hope more residents will sign up by Monday.
Another series of training workshops might be held in late spring or summer, Esquilin said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at