Leadership program aims to help neighborhood take ownership

SPARTANBURG, SC (FOX Carolina) – A historically African-American community, the people in the Highland Neighborhood in Spartanburg are tight-knit.

“There’s a loyalty to this community that’s unseen in any other neighborhood I’ve ever known. Once you come through Highland, you’re going to always come back,” said Highland Community Engagement Coordinator Wilma Moore.

Moore and Highland Neighborhood Association President Leroy Jeter have made a lot of memories in the neighborhood over the years.

“I think I moved into the Highland community in 1950,” said Jeter.

However, times have been tough since the 1960s and 70s.

“Urban Renewal,” Jeter adds. “It started going down at that point.”

Now decades later, the two are hopeful change is coming.

“Individuals who live in Highland, who work there, who play there, will have an opportunity to explore more deeply the data that continues to be perpetual and that holds communities back,” said The Robert Hett Chapman III Center for Philanthropy Executive Director Mary Thomas. .

Thomas is helping organize a nine-month program called the Highland Neighborhood Leadership Institute, modeled after the Grassroots Leadership Development Institute that has been going on since the mid-2000s.

“Inspiring hope, showing what’s possible, and valuing the voice of people,” she said.

Once a month, the 15 people in the program will meet to discuss topics from poverty to housing, crime, and more.

This program comes a couple of years after the City of Spartanburg approved the Highland Transformation Plan.

“Giving us an opportunity to learn how to handle the transformation and how to work with the transformation plan. Ensure that we get what we want,” explained Jeter.

The group plans meet for the first time in February. At the end of the program, the group will work on a final capstone project that directly impacts one of the neighborhood’s issues.

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