Release Date: March 29, 2013
BUFFALO, N.Y. – Leaders from across the City of Buffalo and UB joined together Wednesday to congratulate the graduates of a leadership training program offered to two-dozen members of the city’s historic Fruit Belt neighborhood near the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC).
Over the course of four months starting in the fall, these 24 business owners, residents, parishioners and Fruit Belt property owners learned how to become more effective leaders in the community through the Active Conscious Communities Training (AC²T) program provided by UB, the BNMC, Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Kaleida Health. With this training, graduates are better prepared to engage more frequently with partners, acting in the best interests of all Fruit Belt residents.
“Going through this training has been a wonderful experience for me,” graduate Freida Joyce said during the graduation ceremony in Roswell Park’s Gaylord Cary Conference Room. Originally from Buffalo, Joyce left the area for a time before returning in 2003 to take over Café at Masten & Eaton, the business her father started in the 1960s. Joyce decided to join the AC²T program after seeing an announcement for it in UB Today, the university’s alumni magazine.
“I got to meet a lot of people from the community that care about the neighborhood and the direction that Buffalo is going in,” Joyce said after the ceremony. “It’s wonderful that the university and the medical campus are bringing the neighborhood together to let them know we’re not going to be left out.”
From the AC²T leadership program emerged a Fruit Belt community advocacy group called the Orchard Community Initiative (OCI), which is committed to improving the quality of life in the neighborhood. That community dedication coincides with the objectives of UB 2020, President Satish K. Tripathi said during his remarks during the graduation ceremony.
“Your leadership in the fields you represent – business, industry, health care, education and beyond – will provide the foundation for a strong and vibrant future for our city and region,” Tripathi said, adding that the university looks forward to continuing to partner with leaders in the Fruit Belt and across the city.
Although they’ve graduated from the program, participants’ work isn’t done; in many ways, it’s just beginning. Patrick J. Whalen, BNMC chief operating officer, presented the group with a check from the medical campus for $7,500 to use toward initiatives that benefit the Fruit Belt. The group’s first effort involves hosting a signature event in the neighborhood to help bring together what can sometimes be a fragmented community. Additionally, some of the graduates also will receive scholarships to attend a Leadership Buffalo program in 2014.
OCI members said they look forward to working together for the betterment of the Fruit Belt. “I think we have finally got the collective vision that we are going to rise and we are going to be successful in our mission, and whatever program we decide to do with the $7,500, it’s going to be a united front,” said Zaid B. Islam, an AC²T graduate.
City of Buffalo leaders expressed optimism and excitement for the group. “I’m very thankful that we have citizens like you who are working to make a difference in the community,” said Mayor Byron W. Brown. “When we all work together, we can make this the kind of community that we all want it to be.”
“There has to be somebody in our community who stands up for what’s right,” said pastor and Buffalo Common Council Member Darius Pridgen, adding that he is “thankful to UB and to all who participated” in the AC²T program for bringing together a new group of community leaders.
The Active Conscious Communities Training program builds upon the work of the BNMC’s “Four Neighborhoods, One Community” planning process, which began several years ago, said Ekua Mends-Aidoo, BNMC project associate. The initial group had approximately 40 people, of which 24 stuck with it to do something special for their community, attending a minimum of four group mentoring sessions on weekday evenings and Saturdays.
“We acknowledge that although we were doing good work individually, what we could accomplish together would be great,” said AC²T graduate Alexander Wright, a UB Law graduate and executive director at Urban Christian Ministries. “No one group or one interest can unilaterally make a decision. We are forced, in OCI, to take a holistic approach to problem-solving. This is a heavy job. And to do any job, one must have the appropriate tools, which UB provided for us by way of the training we received here.”
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