Inside the crowded Fellowship Hall of Community Baptist Church, the residents of Greater Malibu Groves recently shared their concerns for their community – and then shared their solutions.

From creating after-school activities for the community’s youth to developing better access to affordable housing, these plans were the result of a six-session leadership certification called Propel.

Graduates from the Polis Institute’s Propel program are applauded by their friends and family.

Nine Greater Malibu Groves residents graduated from the program Thursday to the delight of family and friends in attendance. These classes were hosted by the Polis Institute, a nonprofit geared toward revitalizing distressed Orlando neighborhoods.

“What’s important for us to honor is that by coming here and standing here and sharing time and choosing to propel themselves further into leadership, they have demonstrated to each of us that they powerfully believe that no matter how far you have come, you can go further still,” said Dr. Bahiyyah Maroon, the Polis Institute’s Senior Project Director, of the graduates.

“That is an inspiration that all of us can grow from.”

The Polis Institute first launched Propel, initially called the community leadership certification program, in 2016 in the Town of Eatonville. Multiple conversations with residents and others interested in the community made known the need for more resident-led community leadership, said Shawn Welcome, the lead facilitator of this program.

“The goal of Propel is [to] build on existing leadership skills to leave residents inspired and equipped to pursue their aspirations as it relates to their community,” Shawn said.

Rev. Alfred J. Moore discusses his plan for an after school program during his graduation from the Polis Institute’s Propel program.

Habitat for Humanity Greater Orlando & Osceola County partners with Greater Malibu Groves as a part of our Neighborhood Revitalization (NR) program. NR works in partnership with neighborhoods to improve quality of life through repairs and community development. Habitat Orlando & Osceola brought Polis and its Propel program to the neighborhood to further empower residents.

Some of the classes involve understanding Asset-Based Community Development, a strategy for developing neighborhoods by empowering residents with the skills they need to effect change. Other topics included “self-care” techniques, the science around non-verbal communication and more.

Even with their graduation, the work doesn’t end for those residents. Propel plans to play a supportive role with the graduates with access to one-on-one mentoring to help them refine the skills learned during the program.

Shawn said they “look forward to seeing many of these dreams come to pass.”