Make a Difference! Leadership Academy Fall 2017 class graduates

Six community residents graduated as part of the Fall 2017 Make a Difference! Leadership Academy on December 14, the ninth class to finish the grassroots program, an initiative of the Magnolia Project and the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition.

The goal of the Leadership Academy is to instruct individuals on how to advocate on behalf of their community through attending policy meetings and learning how to speak up during them. It also supports the efforts of residents to make changes regarding neighborhood factors that contribute to health disparities and birth outcomes.

The six graduates set out to change the dynamic in their community of Oakland Terrace Apartments through establishing the “Neighborly Love” Volunteer group; they want people to know that there is friendship, helping hands and opportunities available whenever needed. The community project was done in partnership with the Eastside Community Council.

Keynote speaker Theodore Graham, a mentor and teacher at Year Up Jacksonville, mentioned that in his life “neighborly love” is what broke him out of the cycle of unequal opportunities. “Too many times we have the information needed to help somebody out and because it can’t help us out we sit on it; we have got to stop that,” said Theodore. Year Up Jacksonville is a program designed to help urban youth get an education and job training skills.

It truly takes a community working together to initiate change, to say something is not right and to fix the problems so that the future children of the community have a healthy start.

These graduates are now leaders who have the power to do that and more.

For more information about the Make a Difference! Leadership Academy, please contact LaRonda Howard at