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Once upon a time, neighborhood associations in San Jose identified a critical need for the next generation of Resident Community Leaders, specifically in the Spanish-speaking community. San Jose alone is home to over 380,000 Spanish speakers. In May 2020, 10 Resident Community Leaders graduated from an 11-week course meant to develop practical, community-based participatory research skills to transform community concerns and priorities into actionable ideas. 

In the first week of the course, participants zeroed in on community issues to focus their research and leadership development, both of which play a major role in building social change. By diving into issues of great concern to them, they armed themselves with the skills to be stronger advocates for these issues and bring others with them in the future. 

After shelter-in-place orders were announced between the second and third workshops, the entire program shifted to an online format. 

Using the skills learned in the first phase of the course, Resident Community Leaders conducted a community research project to facilitate interviews that could be turned into data. During this second phase, a total of 44 phone interviews, which would have been in-person focus groups pre-COVID-19, were conducted with peers, mentors, and neighbors. The 18-day implementation period was followed by discussions of changes they’d like to see in their communities based on these interviews, and how data from these interviews could help create this change. To help the groups come to a conclusion, the last phase of the course walked the Resident Community Leaders through inductive coding to determine the main themes of the interviews.

Ultimately, the four groups committed to recruiting more people into new groups for an education with factually correct information resources for immigrant communities in collaboration with community centers, promoting a safer and cleaner community by forming new committees and collaborating with the police department, and engaging parents in the education of their children.

The culmination of these workshops was the opportunity for the Resident Community Leaders to present their findings and next steps. Experts from the San Jose Police Crime Prevention Unit, Center For Employment Training Immigration and Citizenship Program, San Andreas Regional Center, Parents Helping Parents, Nextdoor Solutions, and District 3 Council Office were all in attendance to witness the results, provide feedback, and offer support. All graduating Resident Community Leaders were given a Certificate of Completion and some inspirational parting words. This final session was also a celebration of a great accomplishment that will bear fruit for time to come.

My heart is in the community. My imagination soared thinking that the day will come when my dream is a reality and I have maximum support from my community. I know one day I will achieve it.”

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