Thanh Kim Vu was watching a TED Talk about how it was difficult to get connected to politics and government. Undeterred, she did a quick Google search for how she could get more involved in her community and landed on the application for the Civic Leadership Academy (CLA). "I'm so glad I did, too," she said.
Thanh was part of cohort four of the CLA, a free course designed for residents who are ready to take the next step in being community leaders and improving the quality of life in all of Charlotte's neighborhoods. During this academy, participants grow in their leadership, analyze issues using data, connect with decision makers and other Charlotte leaders, and learn how to make a difference in their communities.
For Thanh, one of the most interesting sessions was focused on Charlotte history. "I'm a native Charlottean, but learning about Brooklyn was new to me. Brooklyn was a thriving Black community with families of all socioeconomic backgrounds until urban renewal destroyed it all for the beginnings of uptown. This class opens the discussion of gentrification and affordable housing that continues today," she said.
One of the biggest takeaways from the CLA for Thanh was that part of making our city a better place is working together and sometimes asking hard questions. "We have a lot of people, organizations, communities that want to do better and improve our city. I learned that we can't do everything on our own and we need each other, and that's okay. I learned that learning starts with sometimes uncomfortable questions and discussions," she said.
Thanh decided to take what she learned in the CLA and put it into practice by joining both the Keep Charlotte Beautiful (KCB) board and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee (CRC). "I applied for KCB as I've always been interested in sustainability, and I actually participated in a composting pilot program through the city. I applied for CRC because, after all of the violence and hate crimes against Asian Americans, I wanted to be a part of a group that works towards ensuring everyone knows they are welcome in this city. I hope I can do well in both roles to improve conditions for our environment and for our community," she said.
For those that want to become more civically engaged, the first step is learning where you can start, Thanh emphasized. "If you are interested in getting involved, be open to learning! There are so many programs and different organizations, such as CLT Aviation Academy, CMPD Citizens' Academy, Catawba Riverkeeper, the Charlotte Young Professional Mixer, Share Charlotte, or even your local HOA," she said. "Maybe it's as small as picking up litter in your neighborhood on your daily walks or learning how to properly recycle… It can be easy to think our actions do not have a direct impact on change. That's why I encourage folks to join other groups or organizations and attend learning events."
Applications for the next round of the Civic Leadership Academy are open until August 1, 2021. The Fall 2021 CLA will be held virtually – participants must commit to missing no more than three sessions. To review the workshop schedule or to apply, click here.
Applications must be received by August 1, and sessions begin September 21. For additional information, contact Philip Freeman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 704-336-1303.