The Highland Hill Project is a community planning and organizing initiative aimed at creating opportunity, and empowering community members to develop and execute plans that uplift their neighborhoods. Highland Hill is the neighborhood that surrounds School 19, but the goal of this project is to create a model that can be replicated across Southwest Yonkers, and other communities who suffer from underdevelopment.
Last summer, we developed a community needs survey and trained 12 young people from the neighborhood to canvass Highland Hill and engage with community members to identify their most pressing needs. This summer, we plan to take our needs assessment to the next level by coordinating focus groups, tenant meetings, and town halls to get a more detailed look at peoples thoughts and feelings about the topics that we’re researching. Once our needs assessment is complete, we will develop a comprehensive neighborhood plan (guided by community input) that will address issues identified in the assessment by recommending concrete solutions that have been tested in other communities with similar circumstances. That plan will then become the roadmap for our efforts in Highland Hill heading into the fall as we work with community members to implement the projects and policy changes established in the plan.
Our Vision for this project is to equip Highland Hill with the ability to develop plans that reflect the needs and interests of its residents and stakeholders, and build the capacity of local leadership to turn those plans into action. When cities move to implement policies or push forward development projects, they are usually acting on interests outside of the communities that are effected, particularly in cases where those communities are poor and seemingly powerless. We believe that our communities should be equipped with the tools needed to assess our own strategic needs, interests, and goals, and maximize our collective power so that our voices will have more impact in shaping reality.
We believe that in order for our communities to become developed in a way that meets our needs, we can’t afford to wait for that development to be planned from outside. WE have to become the planners, WE have to become the policy makers, and WE have to become the leadership that we need to transform our communities from places that our children fight to leave, to communities that they can be proud to call home.