Awesome neighbors like Ms. Kim Harris bring positive changes to the Newhallville community.
A man walked past 326 Shelton Street and saw its door open. This place has been empty for a few years. “What is this place going to be?” the man asked. “A Training Center,” said Ms. Kim Harris proudly. Kim Harris, Principal of the Harris & Tucker School, Founder and Visionary of Inspired Communities Inc. (ICI), rented this 700-square-foot space to fulfill her vision of building a Community Training Center for all ages – especially youths – in the Newhallville neighborhood.
“I was born and raised here. I live in a house that I was born in, which was my grandma’s house. My love for Newhallville is deep and wide,” Ms. Kim said. “I had great people around me growing up here. Every kid in Newhallville deserves to have great people around them. What better gift can I give back to home than to serve?” Renting the 326 Shelton Street space for the Community Training Center is one of Ms. Kim’s ways to give back.
“I’ve been trying to get this space for two years. We’ve been here since September (2021). It really took me a while to have the owners believe in the vision,” Ms. Kim said. She convinced the landlord that this project won’t cause inconveniences to nearby residents and will only bring benefits to this community.
Last September, Ms. Kim connected with Dominiq Oti, a Yale University graduate with a Master’s Degree in Architecture, through Stephen Cremin-Endes, Director of Community Building & Organizing at Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven.
Dominiq made Ms. Kim’s vision feasible. After hearing Ms. Kim’s plan for this space, he immediately decided to collaborate and started the interior design process.
“I think it’s going to have a dramatic impact on the neighborhood. Ms. Kim lives to help people of all generations, whether you’re from the age of two to five to 10 years old. The training center is part of a mission to have a place where she can explore what education looks like for different ages,” Dominiq said.
Dominiq and Ms. Kim weren’t the only two people with design ideas for this space. They brought in young neighbors with their own perspective – the kids. Even when the training center was still an empty space, Ms. Kim opened up learning opportunities for the kids by bringing them on-site and letting them design the space together with Dominiq.
“So, imagine, you have these kids in the most underserved community in New Haven. Unless they’re in a family or in a circle that has some kind of architectural design, the closest they might come to is drawing from comic books. Now all of a sudden, we have this young man who’s from Yale, an architect, coming in. Now you have six, seven, eight, all the way up to 12 years of age, learning coding and architect design.” Ms. Kim said.
Not only did the kids suggest a TV presentation spot and some other details in the training center, but their interactions in the space also inspired Dominiq to design a place more suitable for the kids. “I was very receptive and accommodating to that because I thought this was an opportunity to change one variable (including the kids) in the design process, and it changed how we shaped the spaces.” Dominiq considers working with the kids a fun and enlightening journey.
The Training Center renovation is expected to be complete in August. It is open for some outdoor and informal events now. Once completed, educators and professionals will be invited here as paid trainers and provide training to people of all ages.
“This is one of those game-changers. Having a space like this, where you can come and feel free to create, bringing in people who can give training, is going to be the ultimate of training centers.” Ms. Kim is excited about how this project will turn out. “We plan on doing this in other neighborhoods that deserve to have it as well.”