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Greensboro's New "Government Works" Academy Opens the Door to City Hall

October 18, 2004


Greensboro (NC) Mayor Keith Holliday, along with city officials and staff are working to further improve communications with the community through an array of new initiatives. The city operates a wide variety of award-winning services and is constantly examining ways to let residents know how to access these services, the thought that goes into providing them, and how decisions are made. With the implementation of Government Works: A City Academy program, Holliday feels that residents will have an opportunity to learn about the local government and the roles and challenges city officials and staff face everyday.

"The Academy uses experiential learning to build a better community through well informed and civically engaged residents," says Holliday. "The idea is that improved communication, cooperation, and understanding among residents and their government will build social capital and increase trust," he adds. By its very definition, civic responsibility means taking a healthy role in the life of one's community and the city of Greensboro hopes to cultivate this role through the City Academy.

The first session of the City Academy, aptly named Ready, Set, GOv!, serves as a broad overview of the public policy process and begins with a discussion by Greensboro's City Manager. Students also participate in an interactive Jeopardy game that promotes a better understanding of the public arena and Greensboro's history.

The second session, Show Me the Money!, shows the connection between the quality of life in Greensboro and economic development. Special attention is also paid to the budgetary process as students participate in a simulated balanced budget game in which they hear mock budget requests from city "department heads."

For the third session, Rescue Me I, the Greensboro Police Department gives an overview of police functions and duties using experiential activities such as a driving simulator and a visit to the firing range. The Greensboro Fire Department is in charge of the fourth session, Rescue Me II, and treats students to an authentic firehouse meal. After dinner, students participate in activities such as rappelling from the firehouse tower, a search and rescue, and a hazardous material exercise — all done while in full gear.

The fifth session, From Literature to Leisure, finds participants discovering the beauty of outdoors and experiencing the power of knowledge at the city libraries. Parks and Recreation uses its theme of "Celebrating 70 Years of Outstanding Leisure Services!" as a backdrop for an informative lesson. The library segment educates residents on the multitude of services they provide to the community.

During the sixth session, Green and Clean, participants learn about the services provided by the Environmental Services and Water Resources Departments. With Environmental Services, students learn how their garbage and recyclables are collected and processed. The Water Resources section allows individuals to tour a Water Treatment facility and participate in a Q&A session.

The seventh section, dubbed R-E-S-P-E-C-T, gives students an inside look at diversity and human relations and how it affects the quality of life that we all enjoy. Role playing and team building exercises are used to highlight issues surrounding aspects such as fair housing. In addition, this session is held at the nationally renowned Greensboro Coliseum Complex where students receive a guided tour of the facilities.

At the eighth session, What's the Plan?, students learn the ins and outs of transportation and planning. The transportation segment is held at the newly renovated downtown J. Douglas Galyon Depot. Students learn how improvements and additions to transportation infrastructure help to boost the economy by making it easier to transport products throughout Greensboro and the United States. At the planning session, students get an in-depth look at the city's award winning comprehensive plan — Connections 2025.

The ninth session, Get Involved!, allows students to learn how to become involved on a board or commission and assume a leadership role in the community. Also a part of this night is neighborhood planning, in which participants hear from a nationally renowned instructor who provides real-life neighborhood planning scenarios for the students to solve.

The final session, Connect the Dots, connects all the themes and ideas that students have learned while attending the City Academy. City Manager Ed Kitchen, Deputy City Manager Mitch Johnson, and Assistant City Managers Ben Brown and Bob Morgan are present to participate in a round-table discussion with students. Also included in this session are the new Guilford Metro 911 Communication Center and the City Contact Center. The Guilford Metro 911 segment includes a tour of the new consolidated city / county communications facility and information on emergency response efforts, while the Contact Center provides an overview of its innovative customer service program.

The City Academy is free to attend and meals are provided. Classes are held every Thursday for 10 consecutive weeks beginning each fall at various locations throughout the city. Participants attend a special graduation ceremony in front of city council at the conclusion of the program. Individuals must be 18 years of age or older to apply and reside or work within the city limits of Greensboro, with special preference given to Greensboro residents wanting to serve on a board or commission.

"Getting involved in the local government process is not a difficult thing to do in Greensboro," says Holliday. "Greensboro has an unprecedented opportunity with the City Academy to build on past traditions and to utilize the raw resources of the citizenry for a prosperous future," he adds. For more information on the City Academy, please visit www.greensboro-nc.gov.