Teens Need Training
The Resident Services Department of Highlands Residential Services, along with the Cookeville Police Dept. provides after-school and summer programs for up to 22 at-risk youth living in and around HRS public housing developments. Teens Need Training (TNT) provides our teens with after-school snacks, homework or tutoring assistance and a computer lab. At this time, we are only able to offer the TNT program in Cookeville.
Summer Day Camp
The TNT Summer Day Camp gives our teens an opportunity to have fun, learn new things, visit new places and develop social skills. Goals of the TNT program are to improve academics, reduce truancy and build character. Achieving program goals is possible through the collaboration of many community partners, including, but not limited to, the Cookeville Police Department and Tennessee Tech University. These partners assist us in mentoring the children, sustaining funding and expanding opportunities.
Throughout the year, TNT members give back to the community by doing volunteer projects. Our teens have an “Adopt- A-Road” through the Keeping America Beautiful Clean Commission in which the teens collect trash along Pine Avenue three times a year. This helps keep our town and housing site clean. The youth also perform at the Highlands Residential Services Christmas luncheon, visit area nursing homes to sing, help to sort Toys for Tots and take part in other volunteer opportunities.
Children in KIDS Matter — our new after-school reading program for grades K-4 in Cookeville’s Pine Avenue area — enjoy story time, reading games, arts, crafts, and are provided with a super snack. Participating children can check out books from our lending library.
NAHRO Poster Contest
HRS’s Resident Services Department participates in the National Association of Housing & Redevelopment Officials poster contest. This event is for all housing youth in grades K-12. Usually held during school spring breaks, this contest encourages youth to get together on-site and design their own “What Home Means to Me” poster for an opportunity to win cash prizes and go on to state and national contests. In 2009, HRS had a national winner, Helen Priester, who was 8 years old at the time. Her poster was one of 13 that was made into a calendar that was distributed all across the country. In 2012, Kayla Padgett, a 17-year-old Celina resident, created the grand-prize-winning poster. Kayla’s poster featured puzzle pieces with words like “love,” “togetherness,” “comfort” and “peace.” The caption read: “Home is where good things come together.”
Annual Easter Egg Hunts
Annual Easter egg hunts, sponsored by HRS for all housing youth ages 0-11, are held on-site in Algood, Baxter, Celina, Cookeville, Gainesboro and Monterey. Held close to Easter, these events give children the opportunity to see the Easter Bunny, hunt for candy and try to win the “prize” egg.
In 2011, Resident Services began planning an annual day of fun for all housing youth in grades K-12 in each town. During this event, youth can come out for a day of games, arts, crafts and lunch.
Services for the Elderly or Disabled
Services to our elderly/disabled public housing residents include recreational activities, holiday celebrations, singing events and various socials. An elderly or disabled mentoring program is available to residents who may need assistance to access local community services or resources. HRS is a participant in the UC Senior Expo held in October of each year.
Services for Adults
HRS partners with US Bank to provide our residents and the general public an opportunity to attend a home-buyer’s class. Participants can learn what it takes to qualify for a home loan, how to get their credit rating in order and about the general home loan process.
Each Monday morning area job announcements are posted in the HRS main office lobby for those seeking employment.
At various times during the year, local groups or businesses will sponsor block parties at HRS’s housing sites. They offer programs for children and adults, games, singing, food and more. These events are free and open to all residents.
In 2012 for her Make a Difference Day project, Shaquawana Wester, our Youth Programs Coordinator, started Quawana's Coats. Held on the 4th Saturday of October each year, coats collected from the community are distributed to anyone in need, no questions asked. Area supporters provide refreshments, music, games for kids and informational booths. The project has now expanded to include collected hygiene and food items that are distributed to Teens Need Training youth or through area food banks.
The purpose of the Resident Council is to improve the quality of life for all residents of HRS. The council meets on the second Tuesday of each month in the community room at the HRS main office. During these meetings, informative guest speakers provide information on area resources. Tenants can also voice concerns or issues, suggest changes in policy, advocate for programs that will improve the quality of life for residents, and more. Members of the Resident Council often have a covered dish lunch and play bingo and or learn new ideas, all while having a great time. All residents are encouraged to attend.
Highlands Residential Services has a partnership with the AmeriCorps Community Cares program, an AmeriCorps State Domestic Peace Corps program sponsored by Tennessee’s Community Assistance Corporation. Community Cares receives generous support from Volunteer Tennessee, public housing authorities, nonprofits and faith-based agencies to provide home and other supportive services to frail, challenged and disabled citizens.
AmeriCorps members are placed at service locations to assist individuals with a wide array of supportive services that include home and health, transportation, cognitive activities, environmental education and disaster relief.