Park Pride celebrates graduation of first-ever Park Stewardship Academy cohort

The 2023 PSA cohort includes Luis Indacochea, Glen Emerald Park; Joanna Powell, Lillian Cooper Shepherd Park; Barbara Mobley, Shoal Creek III Park; Donna Stephens, English Park; Taryn Arbeiter, Chosewood Park; Carrie Salvary, Rodney Cook Sr. Park; Chinelo Arinze, Cascade Springs Nature Preserve; Coreen Dent, Empire Park and Harper Park; Mary Kilgo, Tanyard Creek Park; Micah Coleman, Lenox-Wildwood Parks; Ursula Kendall, Deerwood Park; Gwendolyn Stegall, Hairston Park.

Originally published on SaportaReport.

By Hannah E. Jones, Park Pride Marketing & Communications Manager

Earlier this month, we celebrated something big — the graduation of our inaugural Park Stewardship Academy (PSA) cohort! It was a lively event, with Park Pride and the graduates gathering to commemorate their hard work and dedication over the last few months. The class even surprised Director of Education Eli Dickerson with a Certificate of Appreciation for his mentorship.

As a thank-you, the PSA cohort surprised Director of Education Eli Dickerson with a Certificate of Appreciation.

Established earlier this year, PSA is a three-month educational and skill-building program designed to teach Friends of the Park (FoP) members ways to better activate their respective parks.

Over the course of three months, these 12 park leaders-in-training learned how to plan events, fundraise, organize a volunteer day, work with elected officials and get neighbors involved. They also explored areas of special interest, including training in Adopt-A-Stream chemical water quality testing.

The participating parks span our service area — ranging from Glen Emerald Park in DeKalb County to Rodney Cook Sr. Park in Vine City and Tanyard Creek in Collier Hills to Hairston Park in Stone Mountain.

“This group of park ‘super volunteers’ took part in a deep dive into the varied facets of advocating for, improving and activating their parks,” Dickerson said. “They each gave up many evenings and weekends to take part in this 15-module curriculum with the common goal of gaining skills, contacts and resources to better their local greenspaces.”

After 15 sessions, these park advocates are equipped with the tools needed to further activate neighborhood parks. They are also all eligible to apply for a $2,500 award to support these efforts. Congrats, PSA! The application cycle for the 2024 cohort will open in May.

Dickerson added: “For me, as the leader of this new initiative, the excitement is really just beginning. We’ve formed bonds as a group, inspired each other, learned from each other and numerous guest content experts, and now it’s time to let the cohort shine.”

We’ve also been having a great time with another new program, Second Friday Walk in the Park. This is a one-hour walk in a different park each month, co-hosted with the FoP group, that’s designed to help folks discover hidden gems throughout the Atlanta area. In November, we visited the Kirkwood Urban Forest Preserve. This month, we went to Frazier-Rowe Park where visitors learned about the park’s storied past, its expansive garden and the role it plays within the community.

Join us at Melvin Drive Park for a one-hour walk on Friday, January 12 at 9 a.m.

Join us in January to explore a local greenspace, connect with outdoor enthusiasts and get inspired by the power of parks! Our next walk will be held on Friday, January 12 at 9 a.m. at Melvin Drive Park.

And we aren’t slowing down in the new year! If you’re looking for an impactful service project on MLK Day, join us on Monday, January 15 from 9 am to 12 pm at Hairston Park. Volunteers will work with The Friends of Hairston Park on maintenance and beautification efforts in this DeKalb County park. Click here to sign up.

We’re also looking forward to our 2024 Parks & Greenspace Conference, held on Monday, March 25 at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. This year’s theme is “Parks for All: Intention to Action.” Tickets will go on sale in January.

From Park Pride to you, happy holidays and happy new year!

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