CRC Newsletter
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CRC Newsletter

Opportunities to Grow in Your Civic Leadership

Justin Lyons, CRC Member

Group of people participating in a class

You may be familiar with the mantra “start where you are,” meaning each of us can contribute to our community with a few small actions. For residents looking to take that next step, the City of Charlotte offers two great programs — Civic Leadership Academy (CLA) and CLT Aviation Academy — to do so. Both initiatives aim to build broader awareness of local resources and to foster connections so that more residents and communities can benefit from them.

Launched in 2016, the CLA is a free, 13-session program for City of Charlotte residents who want to take the next step in their community leadership. The academy provides participants with useful knowledge and tools as well as the chance to discuss community issues with city and county leaders. With cohorts hosted twice per year, participants receive an education in topics such as Charlotte history, City Government 101, Housing, Environment, Implicit Bias and more.

Around 40 applicants are selected to participate in each cohort and representation from each Council District is ensured in each cohort. Adrienne Martinez, a past member of the CLA and Chair of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s Community Relations Committee (CRC)’s Communications Subcommittee, reflected on her experience: “No matter whether you are a current or aspiring community leader, CLA is an incredible opportunity to get an inside look at City departments and the people that run them, to better understand the work they do to support and improve our lives as residents of Charlotte.”

Philip Freeman manages the CLA as part of his role in the City of Charlotte’s Neighborhood & Community Partnerships team. He said the goal is to support CLA graduates to join local commissions or boards and take up leadership roles in neighborhood associations. “I’m always moved by witnessing participants going on to spearhead changes after building their power, accessing more city services and collaborating with city employees,” Freeman reflected.

For a more acute focus on economic development and transportation, the CLT Aviation Academy offers residents the chance to connect to Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)’s contributions to our community. Managed by Aviation Department’s Community Affairs staff in partnership with Centralina Regional Council, the annual program recently took its latest flight in February with 30 community members and private sector leaders across the region. As a member of the CRC (and an aviation enthusiast), I am fortunate to be part of this diverse group.

In a short amount of time, I’ve learned much more about the critical role that CLT Airport plays in our local economy, the region and the world. We have received an inside look into CLT’s operations and future planning efforts, including a comprehensive 101 session from the Airport’s executive team and a tour of the Airport’s airfield and terminal. Arun Nair, Chair of the CRC’s Intercultural Relations Subcommittee is an Aviation Academy participant with me.

“I believe it is my responsibility to educate myself on everything that happens in our city, county and country, so I can help promote the various city services available to our residents, especially for the minority community and new immigrants,” Nair shared. “As a civic servant who participates actively in some very diverse and untapped communities, I hope to help spread the knowledge that I learn from various training opportunities including the CLT Aviation Academy.”

The Aviation Academy, which started in 2017 as a pilot program, aims to transform those that are interested in the Airport into aviation subject matter experts, develop community relationships with influential stakeholders who can further engage more local entities about CLT Airport’s practices, and advocate for its positive impacts across our communities. Stuart Hair, the Director of Economic & Community Affairs for CLT’s Aviation Department, spoke on his experience delivering the program over the years.

“Through a series of intense, behind the scenes sessions, we provide in depth information that is not readily accessible to the general public,” Hair said. “Despite the past two years requiring numerous pivots in content delivery and virtual participation due to the pandemic, the demand for the Academy continues to exceed our class size limit. We look forward to continuing to provide it in the future.”

If you’re ready to take the next step in your community’s leadership (no matter where you are today), be sure to keep these programs in mind in 2022 and beyond. In the meantime, take a moment to consider these educational and development opportunities:




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