CPDC’s Formative Years (1989-2004)
Tribute #4 – Our Competitive Advantage: Providing Technology, Education, Youth Development, and Senior Solutions
When CPDC created the Gateway @Edgewood Terrace, the organization was in essence working to minimize the “digital divide” – the gap that exists between those who have ready access to computers and the internet, and those who do not. Providing access to technology was the cornerstone of CPDC’s community development programs. The other components involved addressing education issues for youth and adults, and ensuring that seniors had the proper resources needed to live healthier, more active lives. These areas became CPDC’s competitive advantage over other developers engaged in affordable housing.
Providing access to technology and training residents on software applications and other skills allowed CPDC to build upon its conventional job training program and tackle the digital divide that had affected so many individuals earning very low wages. Guided by a survey of Edgewood Terrance residents and a host of available funding sources, CPDC’s leadership team began shaping several programs focused specifically on technology. In 1998, Al Browne, Vice President and Director of Community Development Programs, persuaded Bell Atlantic (now Verizon) to fund classes in customer service and technology support at Edgewood. The team also provided a state-of-the-art Youth Development Gateway Learning Center designed to bring stimulating and kid-friendly high tech education to children and youth residing at Edgewood Terrace. Building on the momentum gained through the technology programs and capitalizing on a large, captive youth population on the property, CPDC began structuring programs targeting education and youth development.
Education and Youth Development Programs
In collaboration with several nonprofit organizations and universities, Browne and his team offered education and youth development programs based on residents’ interests and abilities. Adult programs included everything from jobs skills training to college courses. Programs for youth ranged from homework assistance to youth mentoring and athletics. Lecester Johnson—a community development programs staffer with a background in transitional special education— was instrumental in ensuring that the programs reached youth with learning disabilities.
The success of CPDC’s programs was continuing to gain local and national attention. As a result, CPDC was able to provide day care centers for small children, a recreational youth center, and a college and career center at Edgewood Terrace over the next few years. By 2003, CPDC’s high-tech approach to educating individuals was so effective that the average income of 125 adult residents who completed the 18-week career-training program almost tripled from $9,400 prior at enrollment to $26,800 after graduation.
With increasingly effective programs in technology, education, and youth development, CPDC realized that a critical population was being underserved. The team began outreach to seniors in the community to determine their needs and interests. CPDC discovered that there were a range of health issues impacting seniors along with issues of isolation and lack of activity. In an effort to address these issues, Browne negotiated an agreement with the Berklee College of Music in Boston to operate a music technology center for seniors called the Electronic Village Elders Program. This center was in addition to one the university built at Edgewood for teenagers to learn to use electronic keyboards and digital recording. In January 2004, Browne also announced a partnership with Catholic University of America Biomedical Department, funded primarily by the U.S. Department of Commerce and Bell Atlantic, to set up a health clinic. The clinic was equipped with monitoring technologies to allow off-site medical professionals to evaluate the health of seniors from the Edgewood Terrance facility.
Today CPDC continues to provide adult education and literacy, after school programs and activities, workforce development, and senior solutions at Edgewood Terrace. Through these key areas, CPDC has maintained its competitive advantage and continues to strive for new opportunities to innovate and partner in resident services.