SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – Some Spartanburg residents are taking the fate of their community into their own hands.

The Highland Neighborhood Leadership Institute is being created to give people in that area the power to make the changes they want to see.

The Spartanburg County Foundation, City of Spartanburg, along with other organizations are partnering to help residents’ voices be heard.

The historic area, within smelling distance of The Beacon, is getting ready for some changes.

“Too many times we try to build the community without the community’s input and without their voice,” said Mary Thomas.

The Spartanburg County Foundation is helping with the change.

“We believe that the real answers to community change lies within the community,” said Thomas.

Mary Thomas, with the Foundation, said their Grassroots Leadership Development Institute was asked to kick off this initiative, focusing on the Highland community.

“Tackle issues within their community within their neighborhood, that they believe is important to the overall sustainability,” she said.

With the public taking the reigns.

“They will consider data that is important to the Highland area. What do they need to tackle? Are we talking about crime? Are we talking about education? Are we talking about health?” said Thomas.

The city is also helping.

“They don’t have to have someone like a city leader coming in and say, ‘hey, we want to do this for you, we want to do that.’ They have the opportunity to come up with the ideas and solutions themselves,” said Mitch Kennedy with the City of Spartanburg.

Kennedy said the Highland area has already created it’s master plan, outlining what they want to see.

“Education improvement, health and wellness, economic development, they have a master plan that defines what they want to have,” he said.

Now, it’s time to give the residents the tools they need to make that plan a reality.

“It’s something they benefit [from] for years and years and years to come,” said Kennedy.

Fifteen people will be on the committee, all whom work, live, play, or have ties to the area. They will go through training sessions to help them achieve the quality of life they want.

“We will be building the skill set and the capacity of the individuals to be able to be champions for change,” said Thomas.

Here is the timeline for the Highland Neighborhood Leadership Institute:

  • September 22, 2022: Application process opens, people can pick one up at The Bethlehem Center, the Spartanburg County Foundation or City of Spartanburg.
  • October 31, 2022: Application deadline.
  • December 6, 2022: Select class and notify participants.
  • January 13, 2023: Class members are confirmed.
  • February 3-5, 2023: Opening retreat.