NLA Alumni Newsletter – Fall 2014

Creating Livable Communities

NLA Alumni Spotlight: Liz Pund, NLA 2013

Liz Pund is an excellent example of a Neighborhood Leadership Academy (NLA) alum putting the skills and concepts she learned in NLA into practice! From community organizing for health care reform in St. Louis to online community management in Argentina, her background before attending NLA shows a passion for leading and working with communities.

As a student in NLA’s Class of 2013, Liz was working as a community engagement specialist with the Skinker DeBaliviere Community Council. She coordinated neighborhood outreach and volunteer management, organized the block meeting program and planned events. After her time in NLA, she was promoted to executive director of the Skinker Debaliviere Community Council. 

Each year, the NLA class watches Holding Ground: The Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, as part of the retreat during the second session. Liz cites the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative story as a major inspiration for her work with communities, encouraging her to look for the strengths and potential a neighborhood has to offer. 

Liz’s NLA community project researched different methods to engage volunteers. Her vision was to create a volunteer management system that would track the interests and skills of individuals, looking for patterns and then strategies for engaging these residents. With a stored recording of this information, Liz hopes to more effectively connect residents to areas that they can be especially helpful and find interesting.

Liz has several bits of advice to offer to NLA students and alumni: Get to know your classmates, use the program instructors and the university as resources, and keep your Neighborhood Leadership Academy binder handy!

Exciting News From NLA!

The Neighborhood Leadership Academy is excited and proud to announce two changes this year! NLA is now a part of Creating Whole Communities, UMSL’s new community-building initiative, which formed in 2014 and brings together the University of Missouri–St. Louis, University of Missouri Extension, and the St. Louis region’s neighborhoods. For more information, visit the CWC website by clicking here.

Additionally, we honored Kay Gasen’s 28 years of service to the University of Missouri in August. The Neighborhood Leadership Academy has especially benefited from Kay’s work. She cofounded the NLA in 2002 and has served as an instructor over the last 12 years.

As we say thank you and goodbye to Kay, the NLA welcomes Kristen Wagner as our new facilitator, joining Kara Lubischer, the director of the Academy. Kristen, seen here recording "Group Agreements" from the first NLA 2014 session, is an assistant professor at the UMSL’s School of Social Work. 

Did You Know? Take a Look!

We have two exciting resources that could be helpful to NLA alumni and others interested in community building.

  1. Local Government Briefings: East-West Gateway Council of Governments publishes a weekly e-newsletter that will keep you up-to-date on recent research trends and upcoming events related to community development. The newsletter also includes grant information, news updates and other relevant topics. To view past editions of the Briefings or to subscribe for free, click here.

  2. SLACO or St. Louis Association of Community Organizations serves as a coalition for neighborhood associations across the St. Louis metro area. These organizations together provide resources and policy change at the local and state level that affect all St. Louis neighborhoods. To learn more about SLACO, click here.


Coming soon, a new community organizing and resource tool that is sure to create excitement among neighborhood leaders: GoodMap! 

After struggling with the time-consuming process of finding quality resources and referrals for clients, Paul Sorenson, MSW, responded with GoodMap in 2012. Outdated resource lists and inaccessible directories made small needs a tiring task for families and case managers alike. Paul, from Grace Hill Settlement House, recruited Matt Menietti from SixThirty, and Liz Pund from the Skinker DeBaliviere Community Council (Class of 2013), to answer this extensive need. After deliberation, they designed GoodMap.

Together, Paul Sorenson, Matt Menietti and Liz Pund have been working diligently to get GoodMap up and running as soon as possible. Currently in beta testing, the website will allow users to find appropriate programs and services within their communities and track resources that the user has found most helpful. The final step for the project includes securing funding and hiring staff to keep the database current and thorough. 

For more information and to get early access, visit the GoodMap website by clicking here.

NLA’s Community Building Principles: Top 5 Takeaways

NLA focuses on 10 “Community Building Principles” as a big-picture guide for neighborhood leaders. Each principle explains how leaders can be more effective in fostering strengths and areas of growth with a community. You can read the Community Building Principles here.

The NLA class of 2014 was delighted to have the insight of Kay Gasen at our second session and learned her “Five Big Ideas” based on the Principles.

  1. Local Conditions: Neighborhood leaders must focus on people’s areas of interest and energy. The goals and resources of the residents and neighborhood come first, not those of the individual or organization stepping in. 
  2. Comprehensive: There are no single issues. As a community leader, one must see more than one area of change at a time. Every community and its individuals are part of a system; the entire system will change and grow as each of its parts adjusts.
  3. Relationships: Community and social events are not fluff! Such events are necessary for community members to unite and move forward as a whole. Investing in relationship building is key to long-term success in community building.
  4. Collaboration: Build capacity within your own group in order to partner with other organizations of all sizes. This will be much more effective than trying to go-it-alone!
  5. Sustainability: Being a leader can be exhausting work and you need the support of others. As you work on your project, find others with fresh energy and ideas that could possibly take on a leadership role down the road. With others ready to take the baton, the organization will continue to make progress toward its goals.

Students discuss their leadership styles and compare strengths and growth areas at the first session of the 2014 NLA class. 

NLA Alumni News

  • Jane Reise, Class of 2008: “Citizens for the Advancement of Normandy (C.A.N.) has partnered with the City of Normandy for three years to sponsor the Normandy Jazz Fest at the Wayside Community Garden each fall. The garden has become a Community Resource Garden for Gateway Greening that supports community, school and youth gardens in the north city and county area. As one of the largest gardens in the metro area we provide space for about 40 families to grow their own healthy chemical-free food and we donate over 1,000 pounds of vegetables to two food pantries during the growing season. We have established an ever enlarging prairie garden on three acres and are proud of our sustainable land management practices. Thanks to the lessons learned by three of our members who are also NLA grads, we have many community partners who support our efforts in Normandy.”

  • Rebecca Gorley, Class of 2011: Rebecca is the organizer on Medicaid Expansion with Metropolitan Congregations United, a coordinator for the Early Voting ballot initiative with MCU, and the field director on Jill Schupp’s State Senate campaign in West County.

  • Roy Wheelock,
    NLA Class of 2012: Roy has been working at the community level as a street musician in the Shaw neighborhood. Check out the picture of the street party he played for in September!

  • Carole Anne von Eschen, Class of 2012: 
    Carole Anne is currently the president of the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood Association and recently held a neighborhood block party. Over 20 residents from the 4400 block of Arco had a chance to visit, share garden treats and welcome new residents.

  • Michael Powers, Class of 2012: 
    Michael, who serves as legislative director for the Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed, recently worked alongside former NLA classmate and alum Carole Anne on the Plant4Peace Project on Gibson Avenue in Forest Park Southeast.

  • Jennifer Nefzger, Class of 2013: 
    “A few months ago I moved into the role of operations manager at Mission: St. Louis. Revive Thrift Shop has been growing at a rate we never expected. This year Mission: St. Louis will hold its Affordable Christmas program at Revive Thrift Shop. The program strives to empower parents to provide Christmas for their children at an affordable price. By hosting it at Revive Thrift Shop, we will be able to provide a more dignifying and empowering event than ever before.”