More than 60 graduates of the Masters Leadership Program (MLP) recently made a day-long educational tour of parts of San Antonio to learn about progress in the downtown high-tech scene as well as the ongoing development of EastPoint. The event was part of a continuing education program for MLP alumni to help them keep up to date on new citywide developments and the ongoing needs of a wide range of nonprofit organizations.
San Antonio’s Masters Leadership Program is one of the largest training programs in the country aimed at preparing retired and near-retired professionals for director positions on nonprofit boards. Since 2004, the program has trained more than 525 individuals who currently serve on more than 300 nonprofit boards in the Greater San Antonio area.
“The mission of the event was to expose MLP alumni to all that was happening in the downtown high-tech scene and on the Eastside in the way of the multiple, multi-million dollar grants the city received for the Promise Zone and Choice Neighborhoods,” said Brad Freeman, one of the tour organizers and 2010 MLP graduate. “Part of being a valuable nonprofit board member is keeping up to date on what’s happening throughout the community.”
Geekdom and the 80/20 Foundation
The day started with a visit to the downtown headquarters of Geekdom in the Rand Building, the startup co-working space started by Graham Weston that provides “an environment for bright minds to explore ideas in entrepreneurship, technology, leadership, creativity, and connect to a community of like-minded people,” said Geekdom Director Lorenzo Gomez (top photo).
Gomez briefed the group on efforts by Weston’s 80/20 Foundation to fund educational, cultural, political, and civic strategic partnerships, and nonprofit philanthropic endeavors. With the organization’s overall theme of “San Antonio: A City on the Rise,” its stated goal is to create an environment that attracts the best and brightest minds to live, grow, and prosper in San Antonio, he told the group.
Eastside Promise Zone
Next stop on the tour was St. Philip’s College in the heart of the Eastside Promise Zone. In January of 2014, San Antonio’s Eastside was identified as one of the first five Promise Zones in the country designated by the Obama Administration for developmental assistance. After a welcome by St. Philip’s president, Adena Williams Loston and a lunch prepared by the culinary arts students of the college, the group heard from several individuals involved in the Promise Zone project, including Dr. Mike Etienne, EastPoint director for the City of San Antonio, Beverly Watts Davis, director of Choice Neighborhood, and Tony Leverett, director of the Eastside Promise Neighborhood.
There were presentations on EastPoint, the Promise Zone commercial projects, the Choice Neighborhood Housing Initiative and educational developments in the Eastside Promise Neighborhood. The programs are funded through federal matching grants and city, county, and nonprofit partnerships to help revitalize the cultural, economic, and educational fabric of the neighborhood. One of the early accomplishments in the Promise Zone is the revitalization of the Wheatley Courts housing development. The group toured the neighborhood and viewed construction of the new Wheatley Courts complex that was underway, as well as numerous substandard homes marked for demolition and replacement with mixed-income housing.
Critical to the success of maintaining a vibrant, functioning neighborhood is a support system for families and children. The group next visited the Ella Austin Community Center, an organization that for more than 100 years has been providing family services, parenting classes, early child development, after-school programs, summer youth programs, food and utility assistance, and senior services. The center is named for Mrs. Ella Austin, who founded Ella Austin Orphans Home in 1897.
Anthony Hargrove, executive director of the Ella Austin Community Center and himself an MLP graduate, briefed the group on the center’s activities in the community and then led a tour of the facility that has 32 staff and 30 volunteers.
Business moves back in
Attracting commercial development to the east side is critical to rebuilding thriving neighborhoods, so the group ended its day at the new Alamo Beer Company under the shadow of the Hayes Street Bridge. According to Jim Walter, chief operating officer of Alamo Beer Company, the company wanted to be part of the area’s revitalization and be one of the first businesses to lead the way.
Several members of the tour were recent graduates of MLP who had yet to select a nonprofit board affiliation. However, within two weeks of the tour, they had an opportunity to meet with more than 50 nonprofits in an event known in MLP circles as “speed dating.” Several of those nonprofits represented organizations active in Eastside programs in the Promise Zone, including Communities In Schools, Community Housing Resource Partners, Each One Teach One, Housing and Community Services Inc., and Martinez Street Women’s Center.
“Exposure to Promise Zone organizations and activities will help to attract trained and motivated nonprofit board members to add to their success,” Freeman said.
*Featured/top image: Lorenzo Gomez explains the goals of Graham Weston’s 80/20 Foundation and its role in helping nonprofits. Courtesy photo.