As a winner of the 2017 Neighborhood USA Who’s Who Leadership Award, Rondae Hill has led the Prospect Village Neighborhood Association for the past three years with enthusiasm and ambition. The significance of Hill's leadership aids to the growth of Prospect Village through its corridor infrastructure and stability alongside the rebirth of Highlander.
Prior to creating a neighborhood association, Hill recalls seeing kids hanging out, bullying other kids and having nothing to do. She noticed elders needing help with their gardens so she decided to help with the community garden and bring kids with her.
“I was always active in the schools and working with teenagers. I’d be the one out there screaming, ‘What are we doing for our kids?!’ I’ve been doing that for 15 years ever since my vision started going,” Hill remembers. “There wasn’t an active neighborhood association for so long that when we first got out there and started knocking on doors it was like pulling teeth.”
After adopting her grandkids, Hill was prompted to research and alleviate neighborhood issues like Lead Poisoning and other health initiatives with Omaha Healthy Kids and the City of Omaha with funding from revitalization grants. “We got to help 28 people get over $40,000 worth of work done through the owner rehab program,” Hill said. “With that program, the Health Department and Omaha Healthy Kids came to help. Even in my home they helped take out an old bathtub that had led in the drain and two windows.”
Hill has been motivated to build a strong neighborhood for over a decade. As the third generation in her home, she began to rely on inner strength to envision and witness positive growth in Prospect Village. After the lead removal initiative, Hill was asked to bring together a group of active ambassadors and residents. She started meeting and pulling together people who had never been involved with neighborhood associations.
Hill lead the Prospect Hills Neighborhood Association to accomplish projects like a mural installation, bus bench designs, street rezoning and a pocket park redesign for the pedestrian traffic coming from the nearest elementary school, Franklin Magnet Center.
“The exciting thing about that mural is that you get to do it at night. So you use the overhead projector to see all of the lining on the design. The artist let us help with some of our families on that. And then we had a gigantic block party and serve date,” Hill recalled. “We asked volunteers who normally come to clean up yards to put a brush in their hands and help paint the mural. It was really neat.”
The mural can be found on the building of the American Legion Hall which was a collaborative effort between the neighborhood association and The Union for Contemporary Art (mural artwork created by Betni Kalk). Important moments in the neighborhoods history were added to the mural including Franklin Elementary, Leola’s Record, Miss Lily (founder of the first Black-owned hair school in Omaha) and the Compass Building.
Additionally, Rondae helped the City of Omaha Parks and Recreation redesign a walking path and park by Yale Apartments to coincide with the corridor of North 33rd Street. They added fruit trees near the community garden to alleviate food dessert issues. “Taking traffic back to Lake street was important,” Rondae says. “After Yale Park was finished I finally decided to walk back towards Lake Street.”
Rondae’s comments were hinting towards the rough patch in Prospect Village’s history of dilapidated homes and forsaken violence stricken streets. But over the past few years, revitalization has helped improve these issues. Over 300 volunteers come out throughout the year to help with gardens, dumping issues and neighborhood clean ups.
“I was born and raised here,” Rondae said. “I remember when you could and couldn’t walk around the neighborhood. Watching people come out of their houses again, watching everybody start waving at each other and the kids ride their bikes again has been phenomenal. I have to sit back sometimes and say, ‘wow, we did this!’”
Located next door to the Highlander, Prospect Village brings character to the historic North Omaha community with local landmarks like Prospect Hill Cemetery, the Harry Buford home and a dozen churches that were in existence for over 50 years. It is one of the oldest residential areas in Omaha.
Prospect Village Neighborhood Association continues to add memories that encourage neighborhood pride with annual celebrations like Christmas parties, Block Parties and National Safe Night Out through Rondae Hill’s leadership.