Jeanette Cuevas recently joined the Community Design Collaborative staff as administrative assistant and we’re so pleased to have her on board! Jeanette is “organized” in every sense of the word. At Georgia State University in Atlanta, she completed a major in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies with minors in public policy/nonprofit leadership, and anthropology. “I always wanted to bring practical skills to nonprofits,” she says.
Before joining the Collaborative staff, Jeanette was Operations Coordinator and then Development Coordinator for Project South, an organization focused on leadership development within communities directly affected by racism and economic injustice in the South. Project South acts as a “facilitative anchor” that provides Southern movement organizations with teaching tools, mentorship, and regular meetings to share experience and build capacity.
To a northerner, Project South’s geographic scope might be surprising. The organization focuses on the historic centers of the slave trade and Great Migration and serves organizations located Down South (the Southeast), Up South (Detroit, St. Louis, and other cities), and the Global South (Puerto Rico, Mexico, Palestine).
Creating spaces for everyone
Jeanette describes herself as “an avid fan of community design and creative place making.” She says, “I’ve discovered that the Collaborative is about so much more than design grants… A lot goes into creating community sustainability and there has to be space for everyone [in the process]. Just as I did at Project South, I want to be part of creating these spaces”
When she moved to Philadelphia last January, she was struck by the city’s rich physical and social fabric. “The infrastructure for community work is so strong here. Organizations like PhillyCam or the Collaborative should be modeled everywhere.”
Jeanette also finds that Philadelphia is easier to get around and city offers more places where people from different communities can interact. “There are lots of organizations in Atlanta, but not a lot of access to physical places. Philadelphia is a more walkable, interconnected city. Our ability to connect in community is often shaped by our geography.”
Still, it’s rural communities that really ignite Jeanette’s imagination. She grew up in Gainesville, Georgia. The daughter of Mexican-born parents, she's had to navigate different cultures in a place that lacks communal meeting places. “The rural landscape I grew up with—of chicken processing plants, farmland, and fast food strips—does not express the richness of the people who live there.”
Jeanette wants to figure out “how urban community design can be applied to rural places to support these differences. I’m interested in how the physical environment can help us thrive and can make it so people shouldn’t have to leave where they’re from to grow.”
I’m interested in how the physical environment can help us thrive and can make it so people shouldn’t have to leave where they’re from to grow.”