The class members also presented their plans for a joint community festival to take place next fall.
Newly elected Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory used the occasion to stress the importance of collaboration among communities that share similar goals and challenges despite sharp cultural differences.
“Leadership is so important and people have the opportunity to go to leadership academies all the time, but this is the first that focuses on consensus-building, on a common goal between us,” Mallory said. “What’s going on here is you’re all coming together in a partnership based on those issues that are common to all of you.”
The leadership academy is a grassroots leadership development program that brings together community leaders from the city of Norwood and the Evanston neighborhood of Cincinnati, which both border the Xavier campus, and Xavier. Spearheaded by the Community Building Collaborative @Xavier, the ENX Leadership Academy hosted 22 members from the three communities in eight Monday-night sessions that presented them with tools to move their communities forward economically, socially and physically.
The program is ground-breaking in that it brings together two culturally divergent communities – Norwood, a mostly white working-class city that lost a key economic base when General Motors closed its plant years ago, and Evanston, a mostly black neighborhood with a rich stock of single family homes and elderly residents. Both communities border Xavier and are affected by the University through traffic patterns, resident students in rental housing and businesses patronized by students and staff.
The inaugural class presented its group project–a proposal for a festival to celebrate and promote the diversity of the three communities. The festival is to take place next fall at the corner of Montgomery and Dana avenues where the old BASF plant once operated but that is now an empty field that Xavier plans to develop. The festival also will help to raise money for community efforts and showcase the talent, businesses and organizations from the three communities. Several members of the class have agreed to help plan the festival.
Norwood Mayor Tom Williams congratulated the graduates, saying he’s looking forward to the future results of their relationship. “When you put together two communities and a university and a corporation, you can only win. You can’t lose.”
The leadership academy is sponsored financially by PNC Bank, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Xavier.
Byron White, director of the collaborative, said the academy is more about teaching leadership collaboration than it is about teaching leadership, because most members of the class are already leaders in their fields.
“This class illustrates the power that comes from working across collective boundaries,” White said.
The collaborative has begun recruitment for a second leadership class that should start in March, White said.