Fitchburg leaders attend the NeighborWorks America Community Leadership Institute

FITCHBURG — A group of people connected to the city recently attended the NeighborWorks America Community Leadership Institute conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, which focused on moving forward after the pandemic and helping those who are struggling urgently need.

The theme of the event was “Make Your Mark: No Limits,” which the organization said provided the backdrop for a gathering of community leaders from across the nation to inspire, heal, connect and celebrate all that has happened since the COVID-19 19 was overcome. 19 pandemic hit. Leaders from Charlotte and across the country shared how they have worked creatively in their own communities to continue to drive change despite and because of the restrictions imposed by the pandemic.

Six people with ties to Fitchburg recently attended the NeighborWorks America Community Leadership Institute conference in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Left to right) Marites MacLean, Luisa Fernandez, Monique Reverie, Francisco Ramos, Rebecca Wright and Shara Osgood.  (COURTESY OF LUISA FERNANDEZ)
Six people with ties to Fitchburg recently attended the NeighborWorks America Community Leadership Institute conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Left to right) Marites MacLean, Luisa Fernandez, Monique Reverie, Francisco Ramos, Rebecca Wright and Shara Osgood. (COURTESY OF LUISA FERNANDEZ)

“It was a very powerful experience,” said Luisa Fernandez, Fitchburg Public Schools family and community engagement coordinator. “I’ve had the beautiful experience of learning about what other communities are doing in terms of housing, education, food insecurity, arts and culture, and diversity and inclusion. It was also nice to see how some of the participants were empowered despite their vulnerabilities and language limitations and how many young people participated.”

NeighborWorks America’s core mission is to create opportunities for people to improve their lives and strengthen their communities.

A congressional-chartered and funded, nonpartisan nonprofit organization with network organizations in every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, it supports organizations that provide communities with affordable housing, financial advice and coaching, resident training and engagement, and collaboration in the areas of health , employment and education.

In fiscal 2021, $101.2 million in grants were distributed from the annual baseline, and in the same year, NeighborWorks network members reported more than $16.8 billion in investments in their communities.

Fernandez was joined by five others for the national conference: NewVue Communities, Inc. Director of Community Organizing Francisco Ramos, Empower Children for Success, Inc. President and CEO Marites MacLean, Local artist Shara Osgood, who was the lead muralist for several cities Projects, InTown Fitchburg Downtown Community Coordinator Monique Reverie and Rebecca Wright, Assistant Director of Promotion and Administration of the Fitchburg Art Museum.

“We play different roles in the local community,” Fernandez said. “We’re all volunteers on different projects and causes, but something that really binds us together is a love for Fitchburg and a vision to make our city a better place for individuals and families to raise, work and have families.” to play.”

From left to right: Artist Shara Osgood, who has served as lead muralist on several Fitchburg projects, Luisa Fernandez, Fitchburg Public Schools Family and Community Engagement Coordinator, Monique Reverie, Monique Reverie, InTown Fitchburg Downtown Community Coordinator, and President by Empower Children for Success, Inc CEO Marites MacLean was delighted to attend the NeighborWorks America Community Leadership Institute conference in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (COURTESY OF LUISA FERNANDEZ)
From left to right: Artist Shara Osgood, who has served as lead muralist on several Fitchburg projects, Luisa Fernandez, Fitchburg Public Schools Family and Community Engagement Coordinator, Monique Reverie, Monique Reverie, InTown Fitchburg Downtown Community Coordinator, and President by Empower Children for Success, Inc CEO Marites MacLean was delighted to attend the NeighborWorks America Community Leadership Institute conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. (COURTESY OF LUISA FERNANDEZ)

MacLean said her experience with NeighborWorks online training inspired her to attend the conference because she knew she would “be able to develop new skills to make a difference in the lives of the population that we see in Fitchburg.” serve to improve”.

“We found that we needed to speak for ourselves and tell our own stories,” she said. “We have to find a way to get people in our community to come out and tell their own stories. Nobody else can tell our stories for us. I have learned that hunger is an important issue in our community and that programs addressing this issue take a band-aid approach. The problem is always there and we have to get to the root of it.”

Osgood said the entire conference experience was “so inspiring” for her.

“I’ve met so many community leaders from across the country and gained some incredible tools and ideas to move our own city forward,” she said. “I look forward to bringing these skills to bear to engage and mobilize our community. We can amplify our voices and create a stronger community.”

Reverie echoed her sentiments, saying, “It’s been an amazing experience to take part in … and learn how to better myself and strengthen my community.”

“It has been a great pleasure to meet people who are making a positive impact throughout the county,” she said. “The struggles and injustices we all face are similar, so learning from my peers is important to me. It was a great experience, I learned a lot and feel inspired to bring home something that will help make a difference in my community.”

Ramos said he feels that the city and region is “a bit isolated from the leadership development efforts that are happening elsewhere, and that’s why it’s important to go to other cities and to have other experiences and other efforts.” to learn”.

“We have returned very inspired to implement what we have learned and we look forward to continuing to learn and develop in the future,” he said.

The NeighborWorks America Community Leadership Institute conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, brought together leaders from across the nation, including Fitchburg, to inspire, heal, connect and celebrate all that has been overcome since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic became.  (COURTESY OF LUISA FERNANDEZ)
The NeighborWorks America Community Leadership Institute conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, brought together leaders from across the nation, including Fitchburg, to inspire, heal, connect and celebrate all that has been overcome since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic became. (COURTESY OF LUISA FERNANDEZ)

Wright said they all “returned with a lot of energy and enthusiasm to bring about positive change in Fitchburg and North Central Mass” and that the conference was “a very powerful experience to learn from and share ideas with grassroots communities from around the world.” exchange land.”

The group, which dubbed themselves “Charlotte 6,” received $4,000 in NeighborWorks grants.

“We are very excited to bring home money for a community project that we are already planning together,” Fernandez shared, adding that the group will meet this week to decide where the funds will be allocated. “We know it will be a program that directly affects minorities and the most vulnerable people in our city.”

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