The Town of Chapel Hill just completed its first ever People’s Academy, which brought residents together to learn the ins and outs of local government.
The academy was a five-week, 10-class program that, among other things, sought to diversify the voices heard in the town.
“That could be, diversify the voices on our boards and commissions, or it could just be having more people come to our meetings or be leaders in their own communities,” says downtown special projects manager Sarah Poulton. “Our goal was to educate more people, different types of people on the town’s services, our goals, our hopes and dreams – and hopefully they take that information back into their communities.”
Of the 10 classes, five took place in classrooms and the other five consisted of tours of different town facilities and sites, including OWASA, the Police Department and the Fire Department.
The last tour was of the whole town, which included a call to action and an elected official panel.
“Our goal with that was to take people to sites and to things that they may not realize the town had a hand in,” says Poulton. “Everything from public art to the town limits to public housing neighborhoods to our new accessible playground at Cedar Falls Park to the Blue Hill District to the Friday Center – places where we take an active or partnering role.”
The People’s Academy had over 100 applicants, of which over 60 were selected and 40 graduated.
Poulton said the town is already looking towards next year’s People’s Academy, which will likely take place around the same time.