University of Houston Honors Change Happens! CEO with 2016 Community Partner Award

Rev. Leslie Smith, CEO and founder of Change Happens!, is the recipient of the University of Houston’s 2016 Community Partner Award. UH President Renu Khator will present the award to Smith on Feb. 3 at 4 p.m. at the Change Happens! youth center and office (3353 Elgin Street).

The Community Partner awards are presented annually to honor people and businesses that contribute to improving the quality of life in the community. UH Vice President of Community Relations Elwyn Lee said the University has worked closely with Smith and Change Happens! for the past 25 years. Collaborations have included co-hosting KIDS University on the UH campus for the past 15 years, partnering on tutoring and mentorship programs, and community outreach to share information on HIV prevention and better health practices.

“Rev. Smith and Change Happens are improving the lives of residents in the Third Ward,” said Lee. “We are committed to continuing our partnership, and the University looks forward to future collaborations that will continue to uplift our neighborhood.” 

Each year, Change Happens! continues to advance its mission of empowering families to help themselves. Through their programs and services, they are able to touch over 100,000 lives each year.

In the 27 years since Change Happens! was founded, Rev. Leslie Smith and the organization he established have worked diligently in local communities and schools to decrease the number of violent crimes, teen pregnancies, substance abusers, high school dropouts and new cases of HIV/AIDS. The organization has been successful in increasing the number of children with health insurance and access to tutoring and positive after-school/summer alternative activities.

Together, UH and Change Happens! have partnered to submit a planning grant that could lead to even grander collaborations in the future. The grant proposes to construct energy-efficient housing in the Third Ward, which would be designed by UH students.

According to Rev. Smith, “Change Happens! is a beacon of hope for all those that seek change and strive to make it happen.” 

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