CitizensNet Banner

December 8, 2023

Department of Neighborhoods Logo


36 residents complete leadership training with focus on civic engagement strategies

The Department of Neighborhoods (DON) is proud to announce the Complete Communities University (CCU) Class of Fall 2023 graduation. Thirty-six aspiring community leaders from neighborhoods across the city received certificates of course completion at a graduation ceremony held on December 6, 2023, at City Hall. The program featured a keynote address by Mayor Sylvester Turner, remarks by Shannon Buggs, Director of the Mayor's Office of Complete Communities, and TaKasha Francis, DON Director, and the presentation of the inaugural Sylvester Turner Leadership Award to Daphine Jack, founder of Prevention Zone Inc.

CCU is an 8-week training program for residents committed to making a positive impact in their communities. The training focuses on strategies for empowering and vitalizing communities through strong civic networks, partnerships, and residents’ active participation in volunteer service and government affairs as constituents and voters.

Class discussions explore how city and county government function and impact neighborhoods, how to effectively navigate city services and local resources, and strategies for building partnerships to address community interests and needs. The classes are conducted online and in person by DON staff with expertise in civic engagement and knowledge of Houston neighborhoods and feature presentations by City departments and community subject experts.

Group Photo

Complete Communities University Class of Fall 2023

Press Conference Photo

Daphine Jack, founder of Prevention Zone Inc, received the inaugural Sylvester Turner Leadership Award, announced by DON Director TaKasha Francis. The award acknowledges her work with the nonprofit, whose mission is to promote criminal justice, provide support for wrongfully convicted citizens, strengthen family bonds with incarcerated fathers, and empower young individuals to become proactive members of society.

Mayor Turner Speaking

Mayer Sylvester Turner encouraged the honorees to work for a better tomorrow.

“The goal of CCU is to help develop strong civic leadership in our neighborhoods and empower residents to improve our quality of life, especially in underserved communities,” said Mayor Turner. “As graduates of Complete Communities University, you are the leaders who will help us take on today’s challenges and those on the horizon. Thank you for your commitment and collaboration in fulfilling this responsibility.”

“We look forward to working with our newest CCU graduates as they support Mayor Turner’s vision to make neighborhoods more equitable by mobilizing civic action to address the issues, interests, and needs of our diverse communities,” said Director Buggs. “Ultimately, the goal is to make sure that all of Houston’s neighborhoods are communities of opportunity, and programs like Complete Communities University play a key role in that mission.”

“Congratulations to our 36 CCU graduates,” said Director Francis. “We are excited to work with you and create a stronger Houston through our civic networks and community partnerships. As you begin this important work, we are committed to providing guidance, connections to resources, and opportunities for everyone to play a role in moving our city forward. Thank you for your dedication to serving Houstonians and becoming the change you want to see!”

The CCU program was introduced in 2018 by the Planning and Development Department as part of Mayor Turner’s Complete Communities initiative. DON relaunched the program in the fall of 2021, introducing a new curriculum for emerging community leaders and opening participation to residents citywide. Since the program’s relaunch, 150 residents representing neighborhoods in all City Council districts have completed the training.

Complete Communities University Fall 2023 Graduates
Myra Jefferson, District A
Alexis Loving, District A
Bridgette Dorian, District B
Rachel Gravlee, District B, Near Northside Complete Community
Cornell Guion, District B
Teddy Resby, District B, Kashmere Gardens Complete Community
Leandra Scott, District B, Kashmere Gardens Complete Community
Rid Bhuiyan, District C
Emmanuel Nunez, District C
Selma Nellie PiƱa, District C
Brittney Vora, District C
Aliyyah Bey, District D, Sunnyside Complete Community
Desmond Davis, District D, Sunnyside Complete Community
Cecilia Lee, District D, Third Ward Complete Community
Victoria Spring Luddington, District D, Sunnyside Complete Community
Celene Vasquez, District D, Sunnyside Complete Community
Leroy West, Jr., District D
Mariana Carpelino Albano, District E, Edgebrook Neighborhood Resilience Area
Shirley Wong, District E
Christopher Roberson, District F
Olayinka Shorunke, District F, Alief-Westwood Complete Community
MaChelsea Thomas, District F
Monique Cecil, District G
Ashey Haygood, District G
Linda Flora, District G 
Andrea Saenz, District G      
Christopher Blake Yancy, District G      
Chris Bowers, District H, Near Northside Complete Community
Henry Cabrera, District H
Raymond Stubblefield, District H, Near Northside Complete Community
Rosendo Mendoza, District I
Deirdra Taylor, District I
Joana Dominguez, District J, Gulfton Complete Community
Michael Heath, District K
Daphine Jack, District K
Mary Shapiro, District K

CCU leadership training is offered twice yearly, in the fall and spring. For more information, email DON’s Office of Neighborhood Engagement at or call 832-393-1061.