Unlike the citizen police academy, where topics vary greatly from city to city, citizens academies across the United States share similar agendas.
Most session topics correspond to city or county functional units and departments. As such, most programs cover the following topics:
- Planning and zoning,
- Public safety,
- Parks and recreation,
- Health and social services,
- Budget and finance, and
- Economic development.
Many programs’ first sessions cover government form, community history, and introductions by elected officials. Some programs, such as Catawba County, NC allow participants to determine the topic of the final session.
Number of Sessions
In North Carolina, the average number of sessions per academy is about eight. Programs range from having five (Mecklenburg County, NC) to as many as 12 or 13 (Raleigh, NC, and Concord, NC, respectively). Nationwide, there is also variance in the number of sessions per program with several at or above 10 and those with as few as three to five.
Participants from Two Rivers, WI, Citizens Academy simulate a mock council meeting
To keep participants engaged in the topic at hand, department presenters are often encouraged to make their presentations interactive and engaging.
The City of Clearwater presents information about their city finances in a game-show role play that uses participants as contestants. In Greensboro, NC, participants are allowed to vote for their favorite presenter/presentation at graduation. Staff there report this promotes healthy inter-departmental competition.
Participants from Morrisville 101(Morrisville, NC) observe a fire demonstration in the public safety session
Ideas for participant icebreakers and innovative topic formats abound. Some include:
- Game show or board game-type quizzes (e.g. for city/county history),
- Behind-the-scenes tours of facilities (e.g. public works operations center/garage),
- Demonstrations of equipment (e.g. fire trucks),
- Informal interaction with city/county staff (e.g. dinner with elected officials or city/county employees), and
- Group exercises/simulations (e.g. mock council meeting where budget decisions must be made).
Sample Agendas & Session Materials
Please use the links below to view sample agendas and session materials used in programs throughout the country.