It’s always nice to be part of a community, to have a sense of belonging and the sharing of common interests and goals. But for some minorities having just a sense may not be quite enough.
They may be seeking an outlet in which to shape policy that would ultimately help them have a stronger voice and representation not only within the neighborhood where they reside but within the community as a whole.
Since 2001, the United Way of Summit County has been providing such an opportunity with Project Blueprint, a developmental program that furthers the involvement of minorities and helps place them on various boards and committees of area nonprofits. So far, there have been nearly 200 graduates.
The agency is currently seeking applicants for its 12th Project Blueprint class, set to begin in January and will run through April, culminating with a graduation.
Interested Asians, African-Americans, Hispanics and Native-Americans have until January 4 to apply. They may self-nominate or nominate others through an online application process, along with submitting a resume, after which time a selection committee will pick the students.
Though United Way uses its newsletter to reach potential candidates and has had help from its corporate contacts and the International Institute of Akron, “My best publicity is the graduates themselves,” says Brenda Cox, United Way’s director of community impact.
“Everyone’s a little skeptical about what they signed up for but by the end of the class, they’re telling their friends, ‘This was great,'” Cox adds.
The Project Blueprint classes, held at 90 North Prospect Street, cost a non-refundable $200 for the 10-week program and typically have up to 20 students to maintain a “comfortable fit,” Cox says.
“People are more inclined to open up and ask questions in a smaller group,” says Michael Gaffney, vice president of marketing and communications for the United Way. “And the speakers make the classes as interactive as possible.”
There may be some folks who are interested in attending Blueprint but find the cost too prohibitive.
“Don’t let the price necessarily put you off, that should be the last thing,” Gaffney says. “If they have an interest and the availability to reach out to us, there may be a way to help with a scholarship.”
Should cost be an issue for a potential student, the agency decides on a case-by-case basis.
Though there’s been discussion about letting younger people attend Blueprint, for now students must be at least 18 years old.
Classes are taught every Thursday from 6:30 – 9 p.m., beginning with a full-course dinner at 6 p.m.
Each week classes will cover various topics with presenters ranging from educators and accountants to professionals from both in and outside of the nonprofit arena.
A team building class, “Effective Communications,” begins the Blueprint and gives students the “opportunity to understand how you communicate with others and how you receive communication from others,” Cox says.
Some students come from the corporate side and may not understand nonprofit budgeting, “which can be daunting,” Cox adds. So a “Financial Management of Nonprofit Organizations” class will educate them on that process.
Other classes include tackling ethics and “Effective Communications II: Roberts Rules of Order,” a guide for conducting meetings in an effective and fair-handed manner.
Gaffney says Blueprint’s benefit is twofold, providing both the student and nonprofits an up-close trek into the other’s world.
“To come into a board situation can be very intimidating, so this class allows students to understand that, yes, it’s important, but it’s not rocket science,” Gaffney says. “It teaches them that they can do it [help shape policy], to share their experiences and make them feel more comfortable and qualified to be there.”
And by having on their boards educated minorities who share a passion to improve their world, nonprofits can diversify their agencies while accurately reflecting the communities they serve.
“This is a great tool for both personal and professional life,” Cox says. “Skills that you learn through Blueprint will benefit you throughout your career.”
Interested candidates may find more information about and the application for Project Blueprint at http://www.uwsummit.org/ProjectBlueprint/application.htm. Visit www.uwsummit.org or call Brenda Cox at 330-643-5508.