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NLA Alumni

Meet the Neighborhood Leadership Academy Alumni

 Alumni Spotlights

Erica Williams

Erica WilliamsBecoming a Versatile Leader: NLA Alum Erica Williams’ contributions to creating a wholesome and sustainable community is seen through her NLA project, the Healthy Community Market, and the creation of her nonprofit, A Red Circle, which focuses efforts in five key areas: employment, education, holistic living, policy, and arts. Post-NLA, Erica continues to work on both of these initiatives and holds a number of leadership positions in organizations focused on education, children, nutrition, health care, immediate relief, among others. Erica expressed that she learned various knowledge and skills from NLA, such as team building, coalition building, community engagement, conflict resolution, tenacity, and how to increase community voice.

Gretchen Luke

CampaignPic-1.jpgBig Positions, Big Impact: In 2017, Gretchen Luke started the Neighbor Helping Neighbor Community Coalition for her NLA project which serves to provide social services to help break the cycle of those living in a crisis. She is involved in a variety of volunteer efforts and clocks 200 hours in one month! Her impact will now reach even greater lengths as she continues working for the St. Louis County Extension Council in a new board chair position and in her newly elected seat on the Bridgeton City Council. She stated that NLA taught her how identify a community-based need and how to communicate with the community and she expects that sitting on the council will serve as a platform to meet more people and learn about their needs.

Carol McClain

Carol McClain HeadshotWhat Does Community Building Mean to You? NLA alum Carol McClain has been able to engage her passion for social issues through her work as an AmeriCorps Vista with Grace Hill Settlement House. Carol chose her work with a College Hill safety committee as her NLA project, and was successful in engaging neighbors and securing a donation of 8,000 fluorescent light bulbs that would increase safety in the neighborhood. “My Vista term is coming to an end soon, but I can honestly say I’ve been a part of something great,” she said. “The NLA changed my whole outlook on what community building and outreach really means.”

Jennifer Nefzger

Jennifer Nefzger HeadshotWhat Kind of Leader are You? NLA alum Jennifer Nefzger, operations coordinator with Mission: St. Louis, found that understanding her leadership styles and the styles of others is making a big difference in her work. “Learning my leadership style and strengths has really allowed me to become a stronger leader in my organization and community,” she says. “By gaining that understanding and learning how other people may lead, I have been able to work with individuals from our community as they grow into leadership positions. Seeing long-term community members adapting, growing and seeking to make change is exactly how the leadership skills I have developed can be used to effect change in the city.”

George Jones

George Jones HeadshotBuilding Your Neighborhood Networks: If you’ve worked on neighborhood projects in St. Louis, chances are that you’ve met NLA alum George Jones. George is a master at building relationships and learning from other neighborhoods with similar goals. The NLA provided George with an expanded network and new ideas that he could use in his own neighborhood. “I identified my strengths and weaknesses, which allowed me to facilitate a brand new neighborhood organization – “Friends of Clifton Park,” he says.

Shonette Morgan

Shonette Morgan HeadshotSometimes You Have to Try a New Approach: NLA Alum Shonette Morgan, of the Wabash Neighborhood Association in Ferguson, has learned that doing the same old thing doesn’t necessarily bring results – and sometimes you have to mix things up a little. “From NLA … I learned that strong neighborhoods are the result of good neighbor relations," Morgan says. “For my community, only having neighborhood meetings was not effective at growing and strengthening the neighborhood association and neighbor relations. So, for 2014, I changed my strategy. I am increasing the social events, decreasing the number of meetings, and we created a community garden. My vision is that this will create strong relationships amongst the neighbors.

Judy Ricks

Judy Ricks HeadshotBuilding the Confidence to Lead: The Neighborhood Leadership Academy provided NLA alum Judy Ricks, of the O’Fallon Community Organization, Inc., with the experience and the skills to get involved in issues that impact her community. “When I received the call to attend a community forum for the proposed bond issue for the City of St. Louis, I was there, contributed significant ideas for our break-out group discussion, and served as the facilitator of our group,” Hicks says. “Prior to the NLA, I would have participated along with everyone else in the group without really engaging others. I am thankful for the opportunity to serve as one of the voices from my community. I am confident, thanks to my training from the NLA, that I will make a difference.”

Liz Pund

Liz Pund HeadshotGetting Ready for the Next Step: NLA alum Liz Pund, Executive Director of the Skinker DeBaliviere Community Council, used the NLA experience to sharpen her skills and prepare for new leadership roles in her community. “NLA helped me become a more effective force for good in the community by strengthening my community organizing skills, helping me develop my leadership style, and connecting me with a network of people who are trying to make our region a better place,” she says. And did that skill-building pay off? “Shortly after graduating from NLA, I stepped up to become the executive director of a community-based nonprofit. In my new role I find myself using my NLA training on an almost daily basis - and I keep my NLA training binder close by for easy access!"


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