Neighborhood Leadership Development Program Seeks 2015 Applicants

KC Petraitis

Are you a passionate, committed Clevelander dedicated to taking an active role in improving your community?  Could you use help enhancing your leadership skills?
The Neighborhood Leadership Development Program is a free community engagement training program for residents of Cleveland, and its inner ring suburbs, who are working on projects within the City of Cleveland.

NLDP was established in 2006 by the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation and is directed by former Cleveland mayor, Michael White.

Each year 20 committed individuals are chosen for the program.  NLDP participants and graduates are from diverse backgrounds and range in age from their 20’s to 60’s.   Their interests and pursuits are similarly diverse.  NLDP currently has 143 graduates who are still working to improve life in their communities.

NLDP graduates build and maintain community gardens and work in community development organizations; they support homeowners through financial literacy programs, teach computer skills to residents and build playgrounds for children. NLDP graduates are community activists, they provide services to people in need; work with the homeless and those facing re-entry.  They enrich their communities through arts and culture and advocate for housing rights.

Stephanie Pope and KC Petraitis are two such NLDP graduates.

Stephanie is on the boards of Northeast Shores Development Corporation and the Northeast Cleveland Little League. Her issue is voting and voting rights and youth development.

In 2013 she organized a group of women, called “Cleveland Vote Like a Girl”, to educate themselves on voting and voting rights.  Empowered by this, they learned about the ballot issues and then went as a group to vote.  Their first meeting brought together a number of community groups to partner with the project. They went out on National Voter Registration Day to register voters and will be doing it again this year.

Pope has also created a leadership development program for girls’ ages 10 to 17 called “The Destiny Project. Beginning June 5, 2015 the group will meet at the Salvation Army every Friday. The purpose for this initiative is to empower inner city youth to understand who they are, who they want to become and the path they need to take to achieve a life of success and purpose.  

Pope says that NLDP “strengthened her leadership skills and that she was able to carry those skills into all her other projects and responsibilities.”  She said she learned to “create things that are sustainable so that if she goes the project will still go on.”

Kestutis (KC) Petraitis also feels that NLDP gave him an understanding of “people tools and skills”.  KC is from Collinwood and currently works at the Cuyahoga Land Bank where he assists in the productive reuse of vacant and abandoned properties.  KC remains involved with Northeast Shores Development Corporation and various Lithuanian-American groups in the neighborhood.

Improving, and giving back to, the community is very important to him, and how better to do that than by getting involved with its young future leaders.

KC is a soccer coach at Villa Angela/St. Joseph.  Last year, he partnered with the Salvation Army to start a soccer program for about 25 children ages 10 to 12.  The event grew as a launching point for more soccer activities. This spring KC coached a travel soccer program with Royal Academy Soccer. The team is comprised of Cleveland residents that compete against suburban communities in Northeast Ohio with an emphasis on sportsmanship, hard work, and collaboration.

“NLDP taught me the power of networking with other people and organizations, like our partnership with the Salvation Army and Royal Academy Soccer,” said Petraitis.  “It helped me to see other community assets that could work together.”  He continued, “I automatically know that when I meet someone else who has gone through the NLDP program that I’m dealing with a committed community member and I know they care. That’s a great feeling.”

Practitioners in the areas of nonprofit management, marketing, program planning, fundraising and organizational leadership are NLDP presenters and facilitators.

Every NLDP participant and NLDP graduate has ongoing access to the services of a Program Coach. NLDP coaches give advice and support tailored to the needs of the participant.

The 15 sessions take place on Saturdays at Trinity Commons at 2230 Euclid Avenue beginning August 29.  For more information and an application, visit or call 216-776-6172.  The deadline for applications is August 5.

Sandra Kluk

Program Administrator for the Neighborhood Leadership Development Program

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Volume 6, Issue 7, Posted 10:29 AM, 07.12.2015