The Neighborhood History Project - A Transformative Experience
Editor’s note: This post was written by CTC’s own Sumi Montgomery, who first learned about CTC through her involvement with the Neighborhood History Project while she was a student at Rhodes College. Read on to learn about her experiences with the Project and how it helped nurture her passion for Memphis and Memphis communities.
At the start of the summer of 2013, I was a student at Rhodes College – introverted, quiet, and shy. I had just finished sophomore year, and a faculty friend recommended that I apply for a summer fellowship with a program called Crossroads to Freedom. I was accepted, and set out on what would be my first “real” job.
On my first day with Crossroads I met the other fellows – a group of about a dozen students from colleges and universities across the U.S. who brought diverse gifts, skills, perspectives, and experiences to the Crossroads team.
That summer also happened to be the first time Crossroads partnered with Center for Transforming Communities and several other community organizations to offer a youth internship experience that came to be called the Neighborhood History Project. As a Crossroads Fellow my goal was to empower Memphians to tell the stories of our city and region as a vital aspect of participation in the future of our community. Through the Neighborhood History Project, my goal would be to empower young people from South Memphis and Highland Heights to do the same.
While the work was hard and the weeks felt long, it all felt worthwhile. For once I felt like I was contributing to the betterment of the community. On the final day of the Neighborhood History Project, we hosted a neighborhood celebration inviting all community members and interviewees to participate in a presentation of the youth interns’ hard work. We asked the students to share about their experiences and their newfound appreciations for their communities. The change I heard in my students’ speeches from the beginning of the program to now was phenomenal. It was this change that solidified my desire to return for two more summers, supporting the program and supporting the work of Crossroads and CTC.
Over the course of my years working with Crossroads to Freedom and the Neighborhood History Project, I made a transformation. This experience challenged me to push myself beyond what I thought I was capable of. I can look back now and say that this experience changed my life – I am now more confident and outgoing, and I harbor a true love for the community and neighborhoods of my city of Memphis.
CTC is currently working with Crossroads to Freedom, the South Memphis Shalom Zone, The Corners of Highland Heights Shalom Zone, and Knowledge Quest to raise money to support the Neighborhood History Project this summer. Please consider making a donation so that other young people, like Sumi, can have this transformative experience.
To learn more about the Neighborhood History Project from some of our past youth interns, watch these videos: