TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Engage Toledo started an ambassador training program Wednesday night.
The initiative was launched last year to inspire civic engagement and participation.
"If I can do it, every single individual in Toledo can do it," said member of the new class, Quontranon Burks.
It's a diverse group. Some just graduated from college while some are there to focus on what Engage Toledo can do for retirees. Others see this as an add-on to the block watch groups they already are a part of in their neighborhoods.
This is the second class of future ambassadors to go through the city-run community outreach program, and is an expanded version from the first time around.
"We wanted to continually raise the bar in our citizen engagement for the city, and so we thought: what better way to do it than have citizens come and get a behind the scenes look at city government? So, each week, we are going to travel, we'll go to a different location, and we're going
to the police 911 building, we're going to go to a fire station, we're going to go to the water treatment plant, the division of streets, and show everybody an inside view, if you will," Jenny Gogol, Customer Service Manager for the Department of Public Utilities and the Engage Toledo Customer Service Call Center said. "It's an expanded version of our inaugural academy that we did last fall, based off of feedback from the participants. We expanded the time each session and we expanded the number of weeks."
Engage Toledo has an app and a phone number to call if you have any issues you think the city needs to address, from dreaded potholes, to grass that needs attention, or a vacant building in need of being boarded up.
Of the 29 in this class, some participants learned about the academy on social media, including a Facebook Live of one of the mayor's press conferences.
"I'm here to engage in Toledo. Engage my thoughts of Toledo and what Toledo can be and should be, and to learn how to implement those ideas, engage those ideas in Toledo," said Burks.
The city will honor those who complete the 12-week program during a graduation ceremony on August 22. Graduates will also be recognized in Toledo City Council chambers and during the mayor's 2019 State of the City address.
The City of Toledo is nationally recognized for citizen engagement. In 2016 the city was nationally recognized by the Public Technology Institute as a citizen engaged community.
In 2017, The Association of Government Call Center Professionals blindly picked one city in America without knowing where, only by looking at criteria, for the Award of Distinction for Citizen Engagement, and Toledo, Ohio won best in the country.
"On a national level, people that don't know what Toledo, Ohio is all about , but they hear and read in our submissions and our applications, they believe in us, and so, now it's our job to reinstill that confidence and have the citizens believe" said Gogol.
Recently, much of the tracking connected to Engage Toledo has been put online for more transparency with work orders that are submitted. The city urges citizens who have called before to continue doing so in hopes that we can all work together to improve citywide.