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 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 each year. This helps keep our town and housing site clean. The youth also perform at the Highlands Residential Services Christmas luncheon. Over the years our teens have helped sort and distribute Toys for Tots, packed UCHRA Commodities and Food to the Rescue food boxes and worked a community garden to share with area HRS residents.
Children in KIDS Matter — our after-school reading program for grades K-6 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 to read at home.
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, regional, 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 winners 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 national 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
HRS held our first Easter egg hunt in 2001 for all housing youth ages 0-11. The Easter egg hunt is held on Good Friday, on-site in Algood, Baxter, Celina, Cookeville, Gainesboro and Monterey. This very popular event gives the children an 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 in their neighborhoods for a day of fun,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 seeks to break down barriers to successful employment by partnering with area resources to assist our residents with educational or job training, transportation, finding and keeping gainful employment and even helping find work attire or uniforms. We maintain a listing of area employers and on-line job search sites.
We also offer monthly Lunch & Learn classes on a wide variety of subjects such as health and nutrition, children's needs, safety, and more.
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 as part of National Make a Difference Day, Shaquawana Wester, our Youth Programs Coordinator, started Quawana's Coats. Held on the 4th Saturday of October each year, new or good used coats collected from the community are distributed to anyone in need, no questions asked. Area supporters provide refreshments, music, kid's games 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 Quawana's Closet.
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 low-income families, children, elderly or disabled citizens.
AmeriCorps members are placed at service locations to assist individuals with a wide array of supportive services that include after-school and out-of-school youth programs, food distribution, assistance for senior citizens/disabled persons and information for families/single households.