Charlottesville's Neighborhood Leadership Institute (NLI) provides participants with monthly sessions designed to educate citizens about the tools and resources available to them in order to encourage civic participation. Participants attend speaker presentations and develop projects to benefit their communities, which they then present to city leaders during their graduation ceremony. Session topics range from the processes of local government and opportunities for civic involvement to "hot-button" topics such as affordable housing and transportation. The curriculum focuses on city structure, boards and commissions, planning and development, public safety, an overview of the city budget, transportation, local parks, housing, schools, the local economy and green building.
Since its inception in 2006, more than 150 residents have participated in the institute.
Cincinnati's Citizens on Patrol
The Citizens on Patrol Program is a community-based program of the Cincinnati Police Department. Volunteers receive some 2O hours of training in both the classroom and in patrol cars as preparation for their duties. Upon completion of the program, citizens patrol in groups and are sometimes accompanied by police officers. They monitor and report criminal activity using police radios. Additionally, they report other incidents such as litter and graffiti to the appropriate city departments.
Established in 1997 the program covers 29 of the city's 32 neighborhoods and involves more than 1,200 volunteers. Cincinnati's Citizens on Patrol program is the largest in Ohio.
Laura D. Lee, Community Relations Coordinator for the City of Cupertino, Calif., discusses the Cupertino Block Leader program at the 2010 City Showcase. The program encourages residents to become more engaged with their neighbors and their city. Block leaders get to know their neighbors, participate in emergency response training, and establish neighborhood watch programs. Block leaders meet quarterly for information sharing and training. Given Cupertino's extensive diversity, the program brings neighbors from very different cultures together to address issues of common interest. Currently, there are over 350 active block leaders covering 25% of the city.
El Paso's Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) provides enrichment for older adults through community service. More than 1,700 volunteers serve in more than 100 non-profit organizations in the city and county.
Since its establishment in 1974, seniors have devoted over 200,000 hours of service every year to volunteering in community organizations, day care centers for children and adults, nutrition clinics, hospitals, museums, libraries and law enforcement agencies.
RSVP also runs the "Calling All Seniors" program that offers telephone call service for seniors to check on each other. Referrals and other resources are available as needed.
The program is primarily funded by the federal and state budgets.
2011 Graduates of the Citizens Academy (Photo: Sacramento Citizens Academy)
In 2006, the Sacramento Police Department instituted the Cultural Community Academy, a six-week program designed to engage and support its diverse non-English speaking population. The goal was to provide pertinent information about public safety and the criminal justice system. The academy covers many of the topics covered in the city's citizen police academy but places special attention on issues that are important to the cultural or religious concerns of the group. The topics include gangs, code enforcement, community standards, communications and neighborhood problems.
The department uses community liaisons and faith-based leaders to reach out to individuals in their communities. Up to 50 persons attended each cultural academy. Each attendee received a simultaneous interpretation of the English language presentations in their language. In addition, software is used to present information in the native language of the participants. The department has hosted cultural academies for the city's Mien, Hmong and Slavic communities.
Due to lack of funding, the cultural academies were discounted. However, the police citizens' academy incorporates the following topics into their curriculum: multicultural sensitivity in the criminal justice system, race as a factor in the criminal justice system and perceptions of disparate treatment in the criminal justice system.
As a result of the academies, volunteerism has increased among the participants, and there has been some success in recruiting police officers from this diverse community. More than 450 residents have participated in the both academies.
Troy's Citizens Academy is the gateway for residents to become "City Ambassadors." Launched in 2001, the eight-week course and application are announced and posted through several venues, including the newspaper and the city's quarterly newsletter, which is distributed to all households in the jurisdiction. Recruitment includes a representative cross section of citizens-- men and women; professionals, homemakers, and laborers; and new and lifelong residents.
Sessions include presentations from city departments and site visits to the Department of Public Works, Police and Fire Departments, Library, Troy Museum and Parks & Recreation. Participants enjoy hands on activities and live demonstrations by city staff.
Of the more than 200 graduates, over 50 percent have applied to work on volunteer boards and committees or become volunteers with community organizations. Several participants have run for city council. Graduates have also served in focus groups to provide feedback about issues in the community.
The citizen's academy fosters awareness and understanding of city programs. Graduates earn the title of "City Ambassador" and the responsibility of sharing their city knowledge with family, friends and neighbors.