Exploring the County through Citizens Academy

Asset 2

“I’ve always been drawn to community health,” says Community Health Center Network nurse Maggie McNair. “I’m from Oakland and from a low-income household and I’ve always been interested in giving back to further the community.”

McNair, a member of the Care Transitions team, wanted to expand her understanding of the community and enrolled in the Alameda County Citizens Academy. The free, six-session program offers insight to County services and operations and opportunities for civic engagement. Participants learn about county government and its impact through presentations by County leaders and behind-the-scenes experience.

“We meet at different locations throughout the county with a different subject for each session, depending where we were.” Emergency services and juvenile justice were of particular interest to McNair. “One week we met in Dublin at the office of Emergency Services. Someone from the Sherriff’s department as well as the fire department spoke with us. At the Juvenile Justice Center, we had a tour of the center and someone from probation services and the district attorney’s office presented to us.

The format kept her engaged. “Rarely did we just sit and listen. We had team building activities, interactions with each other. At the Emergency Services Department the group gathered among the emergency services vehicles and had an opportunity to see and ask questions about the gear and equipment.”

Citizens Academy also surfaced new and surprising information for McNair. “At the Juvenile Justice Center we took a tour and learned that they were able to house more than 300 youth, but at that time there were only at 60 youth there. So that was good news. Presenters shared that they have been implementing programs over the years to prevent youth from returning to the Center.”

In addition to learning more about how a county operates and ways she may get more involved, McNair appreciated the networking opportunity Citizen Academy provides. “It’s a unique opportunity I would recommend anyone taking. It was a good foundation for me to start exploring what’s happening in my community and where I want to take my career.”

(CHCN’s Grace Chu from Care Neighborhood also participated in the program. Stay tuned for an upcoming story about her experience).