Well, it wasn't the Hyatt, and Bill Daley wasn't there, but five Neighborhood Housing Services local advisory board members had dinner with Principal Valerie Brown of Hamline Elementary to honor her with the 2008 NHS Neighborhood Leadership Award for Back of the Yards/Garfield Boulevard.
Oscar Contreras invited the guys who play basketball in the Hamline gym on Tuesday nights to join us. About eight or 10 young men came up to the former kindergarten room where Principal Brown was once a teacher for steak fajitas, rice and beans and pork in a red sauce from Nuevo Leon. Two of the young men are recent graduates of Second Chance Alternative High School.
Before dinner, Oscar presented Ms. Brown with the official award plaque and she said a few words. "God put us on this earth for a reason, and it wasn't to serve ourselves. It's to serve others," she said. "Just the way a priest opens his church, so should principals open their doors to the community."
Especially in an area like East of Ashland, where community gathering places are few and far between. "I know that without Hamline, there's nothing here," Brown said. She's pretty much right. "I know this community better than I know where I live, because I spend all my time over here," she added. She's been doing that for about 30 years now. She even learned Spanish so she could communicate better with parents and community members.
Over dinner, I heard there's some interest in the NHS board's effort to jumpstart block clubs around the neighborhood. We'll see what comes of that.
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