FOCUS Greater Syracuse highlights 20 communitywide achievements as the organization marks its 20th year. These 20 are a glimpse of how far we have come since the 1998 community vision sessions identified 87 goals. These accomplishments show what can be done and has been done, not necessarily by FOCUS, but by Forging Our Community’s United Strength. MORE of the 87 Goals
Teaching Citizenship may be the goal nearest and dearest to the heart of FOCUS Greater Syracuse, which has as its mission enabling citizens, organizations, and government to work together to enhance the quality of our lives and our economic future. Each year FOCUS and Syracuse University sponsor a Citizens Academy that brings together a class of 35 to 40 people interested in how government works. They meet over dinner and spend an evening each week for eight weeks discussing local government concerns with the officials who make decisions that shape our future. The application period for the class runs from May through July with decisions made in August. Classes traditionally run in September and October.
And each month FOCUS sponsors a free public forum to discuss issues. These efforts convey the responsibility we each have to help make this a better place to be.
It’s not just a FOCUS priority, the state of New York requires participation in government studies as part of the high school curriculum. In the Syracuse City School District that includes a requirement that students attend and report back on a local government or community meeting. Suburban districts have similar and sometimes more extensive options.
The programs gain and lose steam, but Syracuse added a districtwide mock election in 2016, and in 2017 the Syracuse Common Council formed a youth advisory council. Some high school programs have mandatory community service requirements, and local colleges and universities also have some long-standing and some new requirements for volunteer community engagement from students.
Other organizations have created programs to inspire and inform residents about how our systems work and what it takes to keep them working. Notable among them is the CNY Political Leadership Institute begun by Leadership Greater Syracuse. Another is Nourishing Tomorrow’s Leaders a program begun by a coalition of non-profit organizations to grow and diversify the number of community members available to serve on volunteer boards.
All this is independent of the required citizenship courses for new Americans who have given the Syracuse area and economy a boost. The share of the Syracuse area population that was born outside the U.S. grew by 42 percent between 2010 and 2014, according to a study done for Centerstate CEO. These new Americans are some of the most active participants in other citizenship efforts.