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--- Issued Oct. 22, 2008

The headline on the Oct. 21 Editorial said it all: "Heroes of Public Housing Earn Honors." Referring to our 70th Anniversary and the celebration held to commemorate the event on Oct. 17 at the Erie Bayfront Convention Center -- more than 500 people attended -- the editorial, quoted below, pretty much sums it all up:

"For public-service agencies, the challenge is always how to show the public that its programs are making a difference.

The Erie Housing Authority met that challenge and more by highlighting seven success stories of former public-housing residents who were honored at the Housing Authority's Future Heroes of Public Housing dinner Friday night.

They include Torry Mitchell, a Mercyhurst College graduate student; Onjanette Jackson, a customer service representative for National City Bank and a small business owner; Claudia Mokwa, a Mercyhurst North East counselor; Melanie Dobbs-Hilliard, a caseworker for Family Services of Northwestern Pennsylvania; Tammy Tate-Coleman, a prevention specialist for the Trinity Center and also a Mercyhurst grad student; Damian Bounds, a high school teacher in Atlanta who has returned to school for his principal certification; and Shelley Pulliam, who has been deployed to the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base by the National Security Agency. Pulliam is pursuing an online master's degree in information systems.

Each of the seven people honored has a different story about growing up in public housing. Some lived in Franklin Terrace, now called the John E. Horan Garden Apartments. Others lived in single-family homes, with the rent subsidized by the federal Section 8 program. Their career paths are varied, but they all say they couldn't have gotten where they are today unless their parents had received some type of housing assistance when they were younger. Some remember the sting of the stereotypes.

"It's almost as if a person is looked down upon if they're in public housing," says Jackson, 33, who grew up in a single-family home owned by the Housing Authority.

She had a positive experience, thanks in part to the Housing Authority staff. In high school, she worked in the authority's maintenance department as part of the Greater Erie Community Action Committee's summer jobs program. The authority also awarded her a Louis J. Tullio Memorial Scholarship of $1,000, which enabled her to enroll at Mercyhurst College after she graduated from Strong Vincent High School. She graduated from college in 1997 with a degree in computer management information systems and earned an MBA from the Keller Graduate School of Management in 2007.

The dinner was part of the Erie Housing Authority's celebration of its 70th anniversary.

The list of previous honorees from the Housing Authority's 60th and 65th anniversary celebrations is also impressive. It includes military officers, elected officials, police officers and school administrators, as well as two of Erie's most well known celebrities -- Tae-Bo founder Billy Blanks and former Gov. Tom Ridge.

Congratulations to the new heroes who have been added to that list of heavy hitters."