Author Archives: Cary Oliva

Light House Studio Partners with Friendship Court’s Youth Leadership Team

lighthouse with zoe

On the heels of the Virginia Film Festival, where many youth present their film projects they have participated in through the Adrenaline Film Project, is a story about aspiring filmmakers that make up the Youth Leadership Team at Friendship Court.

During the summer months, Light House Studio partnered with the Youth Leadership Team at Friendship Court to teach them self-expression through the art of film.  Zoe Cohen, former managing director, worked with the youth as part of an ongoing program entitled Keep It REEL, which is offered to youth in Charlottesville’s local community centers and schools.​ In addition to teaching the youth many diverse technical skills (cinematography, lighting, editing, and sound design), Zoe worked with the students to develop soft skills for the job market.  claudette being interviewedfilming day

The Keep It REEL workshop, which is a focus on documentary filmmaking, began with a discussion about the types and stages of filmmaking. The Youth Leadership Team watched a variety of short documentaries to learn about camera angles and how different framing affects what the filmmakers wish to convey to the audience. Viewing and discussing documentaries also taught the students the valuable skill of critiquing. This process also helped them gather ideas for their own films. The subsequent three sessions were dedicated to brainstorming ideas, writing interview questions, as well as learning about the equipment and how to work as a team. Once pre-production was complete the group began production – working as a crew to film each other’s mini-documentaries. The youth took turns as Director, Camera Operator, Sound Recordist, Slate Operator, and Interviewer.

Zoe said, “It was exciting to see the range of story ideas from personal stories to short films about hopes and dreams for the future of Friendship Court.” The Youth Leadership Team worked very hard during their final stage of filmmaking: editing. Students spent many weeks editing their documentaries and learning how to craft their story, in addition to adding sound, music, and titles.

Javisha editting

The Light House Studio program concluded in October with an intimate celebratory screening at Light House Studio’s Vinegar Hill Theatre where they got to view the final projects they worked very hard to craft.

billboard sign

 

 

Friendship Court Advisory Committee Meets with Grimm + Parker

Grimm + Parker image

On October 26, 2017, the Friendship Court Advisory Committee held their monthly meeting at the architecture firm Grimm + Parker’s downtown Charlottesville offices. As background, the Advisory Committee is comprised of nine Friendship Court residents and six subject matter Charlottesville residents; last year, after an extensive interview process, the Advisory Committee selected Grimm + Parker to work with us through the design of the redevelopment.

This joint architect and Advisory Committee meeting took the form of a design charrette.  A charrette is a process of thoughtfully exploring design options for a site or building. In this case, the charrette focused on the Phase 1 of redevelopment for Friendship Court.

At this first design charrette, those gathered took a very close look at the details of Phase 1 of the redevelopment to better understand the options and priorities. Some of the questions posed were: What are the physical constraints of the site? What building types should be provided for residents? What are the pros and cons of different parking plans?

Grimm+ Parker charette

By the end of the meeting, it became clear that we need to find the right balance of families with different incomes to create a successful project. The group considered the values and desires of both current and potential future Friendship Court residents in conjunction with the physical design challenges. One resident member of the committee said, “We knew there was a lot involved, but really had no idea how much!”

On November 29, the group will take a bus to Washington, DC to tour three relevant housing developments there. This trip will afford a first-hand view into the way other communities have handled similar development challenges. Those on the tour will have the opportunity to ask questions and engage directly with the residents of these housing developments. The tour will hopefully become an invaluable resource to help the committee as they delve even deeper into the project details, including phasing, construction timing, and community cohesion.

Following the bus tour, on November 30, the Advisory Committee will participate in a follow up design charrette to continue to translate their aspirations and observations.

In January / February 2018, the committee will review plans that have resulted from the charrettes and site visits.  Soon after, discussions with the broader community of Friendship Court residents will take place in order to make sure everyone has a chance to provide input in shaping the new community plan.

For more information, contact Sunshine Mathon at smathon@piedmonthousing.org.

 

Fall Festival at Friendship Court

festival-2

On Saturday, October 7, Friendship Court residents gathered for a Fall Festival and enjoyed spending time together and with surrounding neighbors.  Kids played, got their faces painted, and jumped in the bounce house while adults enjoyed music, raffles, and a variety of foods.

festival-4 festival-12Piedmont Housing Alliance staff engaged with residents, asking for their preferred way to receive information and updates and to communicate opinions and ideas, as planning for redevelopment continues. Good Neighbor Appreciation nominations were received from residents, and these people will be recognized in the upcoming Friendship Court newsletter. Residents got to speak with Piedmont Housing Alliance staff about programs and activities at the community center, including programming for children and youth, financial education sessions, and employment opportunities. Residents also got to speak with Velvet Coleman from the City of Charlottesville who is excited about her new role as Parent Connections for Preschool through 2nd grades for the elementary schools of Charlottesville. Velvet provided kids with fun school supplies.festival-21

A delicious dinner was provided by Afghan Kabob and Mel’s Cafe. Thanks to all the other partners who helped make this possible, including Cindy Pollard of Transformations (face painting), Superfun Attractions with the Yanceys (bounce house), Coria RVA (DJ), the Party Starts Here, Virginia Tent Rental, Eze Amos (photography) and Charlottesville City Schools.  A special thanks to the residents who provide ongoing guidance and leadership in the community on the Friendship Court Advisory Committee, the Youth Leadership Team, and in other roles.

Project Manager Beth Kennan said, “It was great to see so many families enjoying the Fall Festival with their neighbors. We are so fortunate to be working with this wonderful community towards improved housing and economic opportunities.”
festival-13

Piedmont Housing Alliance sponsors community dinners and events several times each year, in addition to ongoing programs and activities at the community center.  To stay connected to happenings in the community, see the monthly newsletters on the Friendship Court website at www.friendshipcourtapartments.com and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/FriendshipCourt/.

Happy Fall!

Unity in the Friendship Court CommUNITY Anti-Bullying Event

Anti bully eventThe Love No Ego Group, LLC, in collaboration with Piedmont Housing Alliance, Friendship Court Community, Portico Church, Impact My Life Mentoring, LLC, and the Bridge Ministry came together on Friday, September 15 to present a much-needed motivational speaker event called Unity in Friendship Court CommUNITY.  Kids and several adults packed into the community center to hear two speakers, Freddy Jackson and Jay James share their own inspirational life experiences.

30% of U.S. students in grades six through ten are involved in moderate or frequent bullying as bullies, victims, or both, according to the results of the first national school bullying statistics and cyberbullying statistics survey. “This topic is important, very timely for the community”, said Friendship Court Community Organizer, Claudette Grant.

Freddy Jackson is the founder and president of The Love No Ego Group, LLC, an organization empowering youth through motivational speaking. It focuses on the suppression of all egotistical behaviors, while recognizing and uplifting the greatness within, and promoting honest and genuine self-reflection that allows positive and effective communication to happen. “Every person is meant to be awesome, especially our youth. That’s where it all starts. And my job is to get them to do a bit of self-reflection, and have them realize on their own exactly where they are living and operating from. Is it from a place of love or is it from a place of ego?” Freddy said.

Jay James anti bully eventJay James, assistant director of The Bridge Ministry, discussed the power of forgiving and explained how negative things happen in life, but that they should never stop you from living the best life possible. Jay encouraged the youth to do the same because he said, “there will be a time in their lives when something will not go as they would like it to, but they have to choose to make good out of a bad situation.” The Bridge Ministry works to transform the lives of troubled men and their families through a faith-based program grounded in Christianity, providing mentoring, skills, and relationships to “bridge” the gap from bondage to productive community and family life.  As Jay concluded his talk, he encouraged the kids to use a positive mantra for themselves, something like the famous lyrics of musical artist DJ Khaled, “Nothing can stop me! I’m all the way up!”

Break dancers

Some of the children recited poetry and displayed artwork focused on anti-bullying and the group enjoyed a breakdance presentation, thanks to dancers from Portico Church. Pastor Desmond Glenn from Portico Church collaborated in the organization of the event to help make it an inspirational evening.

Anti bully event reciting

 

Piedmont Housing Alliance’s Crozet Meadows/Meadowlands Apartments and Friendship Court Apartments Benefit from the 26th Annual United Way Day of Caring

Inside the colorful community center at Friendship Court, a team of volunteers got on their hands and knees and scrubbed down floors and windows to make the center shine as a vibrant, welcoming place for children and teens to hang out each day after school.

On Wednesday, September 20, 2017 nearly 2,000 people participated in the United Way Laurence E. Richardson Day of Caring taking place at about 100 non-profits and schools throughout the Charlottesville area, including a clean-up project at Friendship Court and raised garden bed building at Crozet Meadows/Meadowlands Apartments.

Eight employees from Jefferson Scholars Foundation gathered early in the morning outside the Friendship Court Community Center where Claudette Grant, community organizer, shared what needed to be done to help spruce up the center.  The team spent the morning as well as part of the afternoon scrubbing the walls, floors, and windows of the center until they were spotless, doing the kind of deep cleaning that never happens often enough. Others canvassed the grounds of Friendship Court, picking up trash to beautify the community space.

United Way Day of Caring Friendship Court

United Way Day of Caring Friendship Court

Robbyn Minnis, one of the volunteers from Jefferson Scholars Foundation said, “I’ve participated in the Day of Caring four or five times now, which I personally think is just a great way to give back to the community as well as being a great team building experience.  Everyone was really excited to be participating in such an event which is in line with the values of our foundation.”

 

 

Lauren volunteering at United Way Day of Caring CrozetIn Crozet, four more volunteers from PRA Health Sciences were carrying large 6×6 posts to form raised garden beds for the Crozet Meadows/Meadowlands Apartment communities. Despite the heat of the day, they measured and drilled holes with Maintenance Technician, Nathan Smoot and Chief Operating Officer, Karen Reifenberger. By the end of the afternoon, they had built two beautiful raised garden beds, fulfilling residents’ interest in having a place to gather to garden and build community. Crozet Meadows and the Meadowlands Apartments provide 96 affordable homes to low-income seniors. PRA Health Science employee Lauren Haberland said, “We so enjoyed our day with Karen and Nathan, and we cannot wait to see the garden bed full of fresh veggies!”United Way Day of Caring Crozet Meadows

Crozet Meadows United Way Day of Caring

Day of Caring Coordinator, Megan Borishansky added, “I feel fortunate to be part of such a caring community, and to have the opportunity to play a role in bringing people together for a constructive cause. The Day of Caring honors the individuals volunteering their time, helps them build relationships as teams, and connects them with the missions of non-profits and schools that they might not come into contact with otherwise. This is what I love about the Day: each project serves as a piece of the greater puzzle dedicated to building community and honoring the best in each other.”

The United Way Day of Caring in the Charlottesville area was established in 1992 by the United Way-Thomas Jefferson Area to promote the spirit and value of volunteerism, increase the awareness of local human service agencies and schools, and demonstrate what people working together for the community’s good can accomplish.

Portico Church and Piedmont Housing Alliance Sponsor 3rd Annual Love the Court Event at Friendship Court

Kids and adults came out for the 3rd Annual “Love the Court” community event at Friendship Court on Wednesday, August 9. The successful event, sponsored by Portico Church and Piedmont Housing Alliance, is a way to bring together people from the community to enjoy a night of fun before kids get ready to go back to school.Studio 360

Several partners like the City of Charlottesville and PVCC’s adult career and education center were there to spread the word about programs in the community with the residents of Friendship Court. Several local barbershops, like Studio 360 and A Cut Above the Rest, were on site to offer free haircuts to kids. Leslie Brown of LLC Hair Studios was also on hand to provide styling services.  Food was flowing and kids were bouncing from the dunking station, to the face painting, back to the basketball court, and to the bounce house. Desmond and ClaudetteBig KahunaDesmond Glenn, Pastor of Community & Discipleship at Portico, said their goal is to keep bringing people together.  “It’s all about creating relationships and loving our neighbors. We also try to make sure we are proactively seeking racial reconciliation,” Desmond says.

Each year, the event seems to bring more and more people together.  Multi cultural photo

 

For more information, see www.porticocville.org. Coverage by CBS19 news

 

Friendship Court Youth Participate in PVCC’s Summer KidsCollege

Musahar Ali enjoys sculpting during the Sculpey Clay Creations workshop

During summer break, kids and parents look for ways kids to keep busy and their minds stimulated.  That is why PVCC offers KidsCollege, with over 100 enriching, fun, and educational hands-on morning and afternoon STEM and arts workshops.  This July, several fourth- and fifth- graders from Friendship Court stayed busy participating in three different week-long Summer Academies offered by PVCC called Minecraft Designers Academy, Sculpey Clay Creations Academy, and Drones: Flying, Exploration, & Competition Academy.

Zanijsha Rodgers having fun designing games

Edwin Perkins participates in the Drones: Flying, Exploration, & Competition Academy

All of the classes ran the week of July 24th from 1:00-4:15 p.m. each day. Jessica Eldridge, Friendship Court community center coordinator said, “It’s wonderful that PVCC has created this great opportunity for community students. The academies have taught the kids to build drones, design Minecraft worlds, and to sculpt clay into figures from their imagination. Not only does it teach them about the different sides of science by allowing them the hands-on experience, but it also gives them visual insight into the world of post-secondary education. I think that is very important to experience as a young person. This program is of great benefit to the lives of our students, and I hope KidsCollege@PVCC will continue to grow.”

Adam Glymph is one of the instructors of Minecraft Designers Academy

This Academy was the result of an ongoing partnership between Piedmont Housing Alliance and PVCC KidsCollege, with funding support from Verizon. During the past few years, dozens of Friendship Court students have been able to take advantage of this PVCC program that offers unique, high-quality educational experiences.

 

Keeping Kids Fed All Summer Long

One in six kids in Virginia struggles with hunger. During the summer, kids who rely on school-provided meals may not have access to food during the day. That’s why, at Friendship Court, where all kids qualify for free and reduced lunch programs at school, we’re providing breakfast, lunch and a snack to residents aged two to 18. In addition, thanks to the generosity, of Myrtle Houchens, a community leader and former Friendship Court resident,  for three weeks of the summer, an evening meal is available Monday through Thursday. For several years, Ms. Houchens has been preparing meals during a portion of the summer to help bridge the gap for nutritious meals during the summer. We are grateful for Ms. Houchens’ commitment and dedication to the children in Friendship Court and for the resources given by Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.

Myrtle Houchens

“Growing kids are always hungry,” said Claudette Grant, Friendship Court community organizer. It’s great to be able to provide programs at the community center to keep them busy and the nutritious meals keep them fueled.

Resources for some of the meals are provided through USDA and the Virginia Department of Health, along with generous donations from our local community. Your donation can help fill the gap so no kid goes hungry during the summer, or at any time during the school year. Give today, and help us feed the kids of Friendship Court.

Youth Leadership Team Members Participate in UVa Ecological Democracy Class to Develop Solutions in the Friendship Court Redevelopment Process

Youth Leadership Team Ecological DemocracySeven eager members of the Friendship Court Youth Leadership Team (YLT) spent the spring semester engaging with UVa students in a class at the UVa School of Architecture called Ecological Democracy. The term ecological democracy was originally coined by Professor Randolph T. Hester from the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning at the University of California at Berkeley. Its main tenet is that community resilience “can be built through direct contact with the social and ecological processes that impact the built world, and that communities are stronger when co-powered to drive decision-making processes themselves.” Addy, Daemond, Emilee, Jarvis, Javisha, Justin, and Tyquan are the YLT members who are beginning to engage in decision-making regarding their community through this process.

The Ecological Democracy course was developed and led by Barbara Brown-Wilson, Assistant Professor of Environmental Planning at the University of Virginia, with master plan design team member Liz Ogbu as a visiting professor. Several graduate students also planned biweekly dialogues with the YLT members. The dialogues began as an exercise to get to know and trust each other and evolved to in-depth discussions and planning to address potential “opportunity areas” for improvement within the Friendship Court community.

The dialogue groups met once or twice a week, usually at UVa.

Katie Deal was a participating student whose interdisciplinary major focused on public and private partnerships that develop equitable models for affordable housing. “In order to develop solutions that fit the community, you need to talk to the stakeholders first to really understand what their day-to-day life is like,” Katie said. “We knew that we could do this with the Youth Leadership Team to learn best practices for human-centered design.”

Youth Leadership Team with students discussing

Human-centered design should ultimately create solutions that work well for everyone involved in the process, and should provide opportunities for those being directly impacted by the design to express their perspective and concerns. This type of design takes longer than the traditional design process and requires flexibility from all parties involved.

The students discussed design challenges, potential areas for improvement, and possible design solutions. The workshops included mapping exercises and brainstorming sessions along with intuitive design tools to visualize possibilities and to stimulate conversation and creativity as the students were asked to reflect on the design and evaluation process.

Through these exercises, the youth came to recognize the opportunity areas in their community. They identified five potential projects in the collaborative design workshops and narrowed those down to two through feedback and a vote. Through several design brainstorming sessions independently led by the UVa students in collaboration with the YLT members, these two opportunity areas were then developed into potential quick-win design solutions.

Youth Leadership Team class participatingOver the four months of collaborative effort, the group came up with both short-term and long-term quick-win goals designed to solve each problem identified by the YLT members. Some of the ideas included:

  • Creating a space for relaxation and community gathering, which could include benches and planters around the courtyards
  • Improving the basketball court area
  • Making enhancements to the fence, including opening of the gates all the time, beautifying the area if the fences are not taken down and ultimately taking down the fence

The quick wins are important elements of the redevelopment process as they help provide the youth with a sense of excitement and more immediate visible accomplishments during the longer redevelopment process. In addition, these wins teach them how to use basic strategies and tools to continue community improvement and support into the future. To read more about all the quick-win opportunities and the class, see the course evaluation put together by the students at the end of the class.

This collaboration between the youth at Friendship Court and the faculty and students at the University of Virginia is helping create a supportive platform for improving the quality of life of residents during the redevelopment of Friendship Court. The partnership and leadership program started in 2016 and will continue through 2018. The Youth Leadership Team is designed to involve the youth through mentorship, resources, and coordination. In addition to their sustainable land-use curriculum, the youth have participated in financial management courses, resume writing workshops, interview preparation sessions, and field trips.

We look forward to hearing more throughout the redevelopment process from the Youth Leadership Team about their role in helping create a more inclusive and improved community at Friendship Court.

Youth Leadership Team class

 

Friendship Court Resident Angela Brooks Becomes Newest Member of the Advisory Committee

Angela Brooks

Angela Brooks is a young mom with two teenaged sons. Friendship Court has been her home for more than fifteen years, and she’s seen a lot of changes in that time. “It’s definitely gotten better,” she says, “but there’s room for improvement.” That’s why Angela joined two committees focused on staying informed and providing input throughout redevelopment. An active member of the Residents’ Association, Angela volunteered to join the Advisory Committee as well. “I want to see what’s going on and stay informed. I want all the residents to be treated equally. I can help reassure other people in the neighborhood if I’m getting information firsthand instead of second- or third-hand.”

Angela works as a teacher of two-and-a-half to three-year-old children at Park Street Christian Preschool by day and cleans office buildings at night, leaving her little free time. It is noteworthy, then, that Angela chooses to spend some of that time attending meetings and making connections with community stakeholders involved in Friendship Court’s redevelopment.

“I think redevelopment is going to help the community be a friendlier, calmer place and a good place to call home. I’m looking forward to all the improvements to the apartments,” she said.

We’re delighted to have another long-term Friendship Court resident contributing to the redevelopment conversation. Welcome, Angela!