Journal of Housing & Community Development

Learning About the World at the Olori Academy in Portsmouth

April 7, 2021
by Libby Miller

The Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority won a 2020 Award of Excellence in Resident and Client Services for developing a leadership academy for youth in the community. Nominated from among the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials Award of Merit winners each year, the Awards of Excellence winners are chosen by national juries and honored at the annual National Conference and Exhibition in November. They represent the very best in innovative programs in assisted housing and community development.   

When Brittany Thompson, youth service coordinator for Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority, started in her role with the housing authority she was actively searching for a program geared toward elementary-aged kids. 

“I wanted to take the opportunity to teach and expose our kids to different cultures and places,” Thompson said. “I noticed within my own interactions with the kids they even had limited knowledge of places within a close distance to where they lived.” 

In addition to wanting to broaden the horizon for the kids, Thompson was looking for ways to teach them how to use technology to learn about these cultures, places, and people.  

Inspired by the book “This is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from Around the World” by author Matt Lamothe, PRHA launched the Olori Leadership Academy in 2019. The six-week after-school program is geared toward teaching the kids about several countries and cultures.  

“The book is based on the lives of seven real children around the world, it includes illustrations, talks about different aspects of their lives such as the food they eat, what languages they speak, and more,” Thompson said.  

One of the aspects about the book that made it appealing to use is it allowed the kids to relate to people their own age. “It gave them the opportunity to realize there are kids just like them in all these places, such as Peru, India, Russia, Japan and Italy,” Thompson said.  

Each kid was assigned a particular country and culture to learn about, and each session would focus on a specific aspect such as food, language, or landmarks.  

The kids were taught how to use computer tablets to search on the Internet for facts about their assigned countries. Thompson said the kids would watch Youtube videos and use Google translator to learn how to say phrases in different languages. This provided the kids with hands-on experience using technology they normally had limited access to at home.  

At the conclusion of the six weeks, parents were invited to an event where the kids were allowed to play teacher for an evening. Thompson said the kids took great joy in showing their parents how to use the technology to learn about new places, cultures, and communities different from their own.  

“I think it just planted the seed in their minds that there is a world out there bigger than they know,” Thompson said. “While I can’t take these kids to any of these places, I can give them the opportunity to look and see different cultures.”  

More than 20 kids participated in the inaugural Olori Academy, according to Thompson. She said since the first session, there have been other renditions of the academy each focused on different themes. The last session taught the kids about African-American inventors. Thompson said the kids participated in fun activities such as creating their own ice cream scoopers after famed inventor Alfred L. Cralle. 

The goal Thompson said is to always infuse an aspect of “multi-culturalism.” While last year no sessions of the Olori Academy were organized because of the coronavirus pandemic, Thompson is confident the program will return when it’s safe as it continues to prove popular and educational for the kids at PRHA.  

More Articles in this Issue

key Member Content
Volume 78, Issue 2

March/April 2021

For decades, the affordable housing industry operated under the purview of its largest funder, the US Department…