As part of a student-initiated community development project to promote civic engagement and rural development in the Mississippi Delta, nine Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) students, led by master in public policy candidates Babak Mostaghimi and Ololade Olakanmi, will spend 10 days in January in Greenwood, Miss., working on service projects for the community. Last spring, a group of HKS students helped the residents of Baptist Town — a largely black, historically important neighborhood of Greenwood — establish a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and helped facilitate a community-driven planning exercise to guide the nonprofit’s activities. This January, the HKS volunteers will conduct focus groups to gauge community perceptions of the nonprofit, provide leadership training, work to set up a community technology center, and build relationships with local political and business leaders to foster cross-sectoral initiatives in support of the community’s development vision. Travel grants for the students were provided by the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation and the Taubman Center for State and Local Government at HKS.
— Molly Lanzarotta