To discuss the recent designation of Geneva as an 2015All-America City, Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning (CCESL) Director Katie Flowers joined City Manager Matt Horn and Geneva Director of Neighborhood Initiatives Sage Gering for the WXXI radio program “Connections with Evan Dawson.”
Dawson, a resident of Rochester, N.Y., framed the program as an inquiry into the success of Geneva and its abilities to propel positive initiatives to combat issues of poverty and inequity of achievement.
“Geneva has many parallels to Rochester: the same kind of challenges and the same evolution,” explains Dawson.
The three community members were interviewed by Dawson on their appreciation for the city of Geneva and were asked to speak about specific initiatives that gave them pride in the community. As representatives of different methods of outreach, each participant was able to discuss at length work they and others were conducting to better the community of Geneva. Among topics discussed were the revitalization of downtown storefronts, the rise in Geneva City School District’s graduation rate and housing market successes.
“The All-America City Award is based in civic engagement and the idea of work at the grassroots level,” explains Horn. “Geneva is a place where we rely heavily on talent capitalization, the energy and enthusiasm of our residents. It’s a big point of pride for us.”
Flowers cited the Geneva 2020 initiative as a major catalyst to improving community literacy and contributing to the well-being of residents. Aimed at increasing literacy and preparing the young people for college and career paths, the effort involves a number of community partners focused on furthering collective impact.
“We put it out as a call-to-action,” she says. “Hobart and William Smith Colleges has served as a backbone founding organization, and we have been able to bring young people to the Colleges to learn about financial aid, careers and college life. That is mirrored in community partner actions, too.”
Gerling included information on neighborhood outreach movements, such as the LoveGeneva program which was begun by several residents looking to instill a sense of pride and sense of belonging. She also discussed the efforts of several organizations to cultivate cultural and academic literacy for young people in Geneva with reading programs.
“It’s starting to send a message that each kid is important to our city,” she reflects. “Their future and importance in our community is something we take seriously.”
Commenting on the push to reach young people in Geneva, Horn says, “We are going to continue to make progress and get our kids to a two- or four-year college or university. More importantly, we’re going to give them some place to go when they graduate, so they are circling right back and living in Geneva and keeping that cycle going.”
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 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 as an All-America City. The Geneva 2020 initiative and its advance of career and college readiness, graduation rates and literacy rates of K-12 students was a central part of the City’s submission.
The full WXXI broadcast may be found at wxxinews.org/post/connections-what-all-america-city.