Hughes’ “Journey to Success” Started at CSCC

(Pictured from L-R): Hughes with Chrissy Pugh, Family Cornerstones Executive Director stand in front of Family Cornerstone’s “Gallery of Hope.” Pugh took over as Executive Director after Hughes served as the Founder / Executive Director for 17 years.

Hughes’ “Journey to Success” Started at CSCC

Holly Vincent
Thursday, June 30, 2016 9:44 AM
All, Events, Community

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - It was just a few months ago when Brenda Hughes heard her name called amongst the many award recipients at Cleveland State’s Community First Gala. Although she knew ahead of time she would be receiving the award for Non-Profit Leadership, the Community First Person of the Year Award was a huge surprise for Hughes.
“There were so many true leaders up on that stage,” stated Hughes. “I was truly astonished that they called my name!”
Cleveland State’s 2016 Community First Person of the Year credits CSCC for starting her on her “journey to success.” Hughes had attended Bradley Central High School, but later dropped out. It was at CSCC where she was able to complete her GED 27 years later, and the connection with CSCC didn’t stop there.
“I found so much support at Cleveland State,” stated Hughes. “When I stepped foot on that college campus for the first time, everyone was so welcoming. It was such a pleasant environment and still is. I’d like to thank CSCC for being the first step in my educational career.”
After earning her GED at CSCC, she later entered Eastern University in St. David’s, Pennsylvania where she graduated with honors in a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Economic Development and then went to Chicago for additional training at the Center for New Community. In 2005, she earned a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She then returned to Cleveland and founded the Bradley Initiative for Church and Community (BICC) in 1998. The organizational model of engaging many people from across the community has been a major contributing factor to the success of the organization. The first BICC meeting was held on November 12, 1998 at Cleveland State.
Hughes attributes much of the success to the fact that the BICC took a different approach to addressing issues and concerns in the community by using a one-on-one community listening process.
“Personally engaging individuals through listening conveys a powerful statement; it challenges individuals to reflect on their own values and those of our collective community. For someone to take the time to listen makes the statement that I value what you have to say; I value your perspective and your experience.”
Hughes continued, “Face to face listening restores dignity to people whose dignity has been lost. Many times it gives voice to those whose voice has been silenced. Not only do we listen to the prominent and educated, but also the marginalized and disadvantaged who are legitimately part of who we are as a community. We cannot effectively move forward without recognizing and engaging every aspect of our community.”
It was through these one-on-one interviews that BICC was able to determine the major issues of concern in the community. At that time it was 2003 and public education was at the forefront since the school systems were struggling with major funding issues. So, one of the early projects the BICC focused on was the REACH Adult High School. An adult high school that offered the traditional diploma was a major project. Much research and networking came together in order for the REACH Adult High School to become a reality and a high school in the Bradley County School System.
“Cleveland State graciously provided space on their campus for the classes, and it continues today as a quality resource in our community having graduated many adults with high school diplomas. We are very appreciative to Dr. Carl Hite (Former CSCC President) for stepping up and for all that Cleveland State did in order to make this happen, as well as Bob Taylor.” (Former Director of Bradley County Schools / Current Chair, Family Cornerstones Board)
In 2014, the BICC’s name was changed to Family Cornerstones, Inc. This organization has spawned almost a dozen other programs including the Bradley Initiative Credit Union, Festival of Cultures, REACH Adult High School, Black Fox Community Preschool, Bradley Savings Initiative, Commission on Racial Equality, BICC Scholarship Program, Inspiring Tomorrow’s Leaders Today, Bridging the Gap Mentoring, Starfish and the Transitions Program of Cleveland and Bradley County. Some of these programs have become independent and self-sustaining, each meeting a specific need in the community. Hughes did not set out to lead such an array of non-profit programs. She simply saw a need and took action, day after day. Her sense of call and passion for the community, in particular families, children and youth, has been her driving force along the way.
“Family Cornerstones would not be what it is today without the thousands of people who have provided financial support and valiantly taken the initiative to recognize that we are ‘together a community.’ It is only through our togetherness and the grace of God that our community has become a model, although not perfect, but a model that other communities are taking note of and inquiring how they can achieve the level of unity and quality our community affords. I’d like to commend Dr. Seymour (CSCC President) and CSCC for going above and beyond and being so pro-active and engaging in our community. It makes a difference.”

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