Tonya Rooks had not led anything before being elected president of College Hill Courts Residents Council, the largest and oldest public housing site in the city.
Since her election, the 47-year-old public housing resident brought a job training program to the site, hosted several anti-violence rallies and was named the 2012 United Way Impact Award recipient.
Taking the city's Neighborhood Leadership Institute helped her do her job, she said.
"That's the best thing I could have done, not just for being a president, but for being a community advocate and for my job," said Rooks, who is also a recruiter for First Things First.
She said the Neighborhood Leadership Institute taught her how to prioritize tasks and get things done. It also taught her how to have better control of neighborhood meetings.
Rooks is one of 107 institute graduates.
Being surrounded with leaders from other communities is inspiring, said Teal Thibaud, a Cowart Place resident, who also graduated from a previous class.
"To see that other people had the same like mind and passion to see change for their neighborhood, that was the best part," she said.
Thibaud lives in Cowart Place but works for the revitalization of Glass Street.
Students learn team building, motivation techniques, neighborhood building blocks, time management, conflict management, how to run effective meetings and basic city services.
City Administrator Beverly Johnson started the Neighborhood Leadership Institute in 2007 after a number of neighborhood leaders died or wanted to retire.
Classes begin with orientation in June and end with a graduation in October, according to the city's website.
Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...