LIMA — How well do you know the city and county?
Eleven members of the Community Assets and Resources Education Academy graduated from the 10-week course Tuesday at the Cambridge Center, leaving with more than they came with.
Creator of the CARE organization, Connie Dershem, said her idea for this organization blossomed six years ago when she wanted to bring those outside — and inside — Lima proper into the city for an opportunity to show residents how the city functions.
Throughout the course, Dershem said various speakers would come to meetings to share their expertise in certain areas and to teach students what their roles entail within the city.
Lima City Council President John Nixon, a speaker to the group, said he wanted to bring knowledge of the legislative process to the students, to allow them to fully understand what goes on in council chambers and beyond. Nixon said it is his hope that the students will take what they know and share it with fellow residents in their area.
Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin said graduates now have a sphere of influence in their communities, “they take the information that they’ve learned here and they’re then able to share that information with other people,” he said.
The CARE Academy effects the LPD operations in a positive way, Martin said, in that these graduates can communicate with law enforcement the needs of their community, or if an area needs more law enforcement or if it is too highly policed.
“We work hard at the process of communication,” Lima Mayor David Berger said of the bond between his office and the public. “This is a tool in which we try to get information out of them.”
Berger said while the media can play a huge role in the communication process, this “immersion experience” is essential to an “informed citizenry.”
Dershem said because students are from all areas of Allen County, friendships begin to form, solidifying the county even further.
Graduate Dave Garrison said he has learned a lot from the program and has gained a greater appreciation for the city, “Lima is truly a great place to live.”
Dershem said in six months, the now-alumni will get together for an update, to share how the program has impacted their lives since graduation.
The program is free to anyone in the county. Sign-ups begin in July with the deadline in August. For information about the program, visit http://bit.ly/11AdZ53.