For its inclusive, innovative and ongoing efforts to influence positive, communitywide change, Geneva has been named a 2015 All-America City, a highly-selective honor awarded annually by the National Civic League to only 10 cities across the country.
Geneva earned the national designation following the All-America City Competition held in Denver, where a group representing the City, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, the Geneva City School District (GCSD) and youth residents delivered a dynamic presentation that included personal testimonials as well as a special rap performance. This year, Geneva is the only city in New York to be nominated and named an All-America City. The Geneva 2020 initiative, a collaborative effort between HWS and GCSD in advancing career and college readiness, graduation rates, and literacy rates of K-12 students, was a central part of the City’s submission.
“This is an exciting time for the City of Geneva with national recognition of its efforts. Hobart and William Smith Colleges are immensely proud of our nearly two century partnership with the City of Geneva,” says President Mark D. Gearan. “Over the past decade, initiatives such as Geneva 2020 and Days of Service have been significant in bolstering progress and strengthening bonds, while demonstrating the civic engagement of students, faculty and staff of Hobart and William Smith. The distinction of All-America City is emblematic of those important efforts and our deeply held commitment to continue this significant progress.”
Representing HWS in the group were Director of the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning (CCESL) Katie Flowers and Professor of Political Science Kevin Dunn. The winning presentation was directed by Assistant Professor of Theatre Chris Woodworth. Presenters also included, Geneva City Manager Matt Horn, Geneva Neighborhood Resource Center Director of Communications and Marketing Julie Anderson Coleman, Two Herons Drum Circle Organizer Adam Fryer, as well as Geneva High School students Seamus Hoban and Trejan Mills, and their English Teacher Saul Shama, who wrote and performed a rap about the “uniquely urban city” that they love and call home.
“It was humbling to be selected out of 100 to be one of just 16 semifinalists invited to the final competition, so we were feeling pretty good just to be there,” Flowers says. “I think everybody has this feeling in Geneva, this palpable belief that it’s such a vibrant city. Our presentation celebrated we’re moving in the right direction and coalescing around some positive and innovative beliefs, and it was great to feel validated on the national platform.”
As part of the three-day competition, representatives from each of the 16 city finalists gave a presentation on three projects that best display the award criteria, which consists of civic engagement, collaboration, inclusiveness, innovation and impact. With one of the most unique presentations at the competition, Geneva representatives shared the story of the City’s growth and revitalization over the past decade through a full-length rap performance and explanations of some of the most successful community initiatives.
“Today you can’t drive down the street without seeing a Geneva 2020 sticker,” says Dunn, who also spoke about the “Love Geneva” movement that he initiated several years ago. “The project has been enormously successful, we’ve helped start a monthly art crawl, and Geneva Night Out has become the symbol of our city’s revitalization.” At the Colleges, Dunn is a co-founder of the First-Year Seminar, “You Are Here: Geneva 101,” a course that focuses on the interdisciplinary investigation of place.
The presentation focused on the work completed by the Neighborhood Initiatives for community development and neighborhood revitalization; Geneva 2020; and the downtown revitalization efforts. The City’s group of eight representatives made them one of the smallest groups of presenters at the competition where the majority of cities took up to 70 people. A video of the winning presentation is available online.
“Like many other communities in America, Geneva is a city with challenges,” said Horn in the presentation. “Education, economic development, safe, affordable neighborhoods. What sets Geneva apart is our approach to those challenges.”
National Civic League President Gloria Rubio-Cortés said the winners inspire other communities “with a sense of hope and purpose. They are leading the way when it comes to innovative efforts to promote positive community change.”
At the conclusion of the presentation, the Geneva group was praised by the competition’s panel: “You hit on the whole secret of community building, which is really tough work … it is that you turned it over to the people. And when the people decided what they needed for their community, then they’ll go for it if you give them a chance. So thank you.”
Other 2015 All-America City winners include Carson, Calif.; Salinas, Calif.; Stockton, Calif.; Tallahassee, Fla.; Somerville, Mass.; Tupelo, Miss.; Marshall, Texas; Spokane, Wash.; and Yakima, Wash. More than 550 communities have won the award since it was first given in 1949.
The top photo features eight Geneva representatives delivering their pitch to judges, including personal testimonials and a rap performance. Next, Professor Kevin Dunn and Katie Flowers with Patrick A. Corvington L.H.D.’11, senior fellow at The Campaign for Grade Level Reading, who served as the 2011 HWS Commencement speaker. Geneva High student Trejan Mills and Flowers posing in their “LOVE GENEVA” shirts. In the last photo Professor Kevin Dunn, fourth from left, holds a quilt square representative of Geneva. Each finalist for the All-America City award was asked to submit a square as a contribution to a quilt for public display.