OurCity Academy



OurCity Academy is a new program designed to help Grand Rapidians find services and resources in our community. The 6 class series will focus on empowering residents to lift their voice in the community. We're committed to ensuring that all community members can live, work and play in Grand Rapids.

Want to apply?

Complete the online form in English here

Complete the online form in Spanish here

All workshops will be held at Cesar E. Chavez Elementary School, 1205 Grandville Ave. unless otherwise noted.

Click here to download the class schedule

Date and Time  Session  Curriculum

December 6, 2017

6 - 8 PM

 An overview of the City of Grand Rapids
  • Discussion about the formation of city government and Grand Rapids’ history

December 13, 2017

6 - 8 PM

Healthy Living, Social Services, and Transit in Grand Rapids
  • An overview of some City departments as well as agencies that help Grand Rapidians in need: (i.e. Parks and Rec, Social Services, the Health Department, and Transportation)


January 10, 2018

6 - 8 PM

Education, Student Opportunities, and Employment
  • An overview of education institutions in Grand Rapids as well as information about programs available to students and parents from Grand Rapids Public School
  • Youth-related programs
  • Employment


January 24, 2018

6 - 8 PM

City Commission, Courts System, Civic Engagement, and Public Safety
  • An overview of the elected body, as well as information from the offices of the City Clerk
  • An Explanation of the criminal justice system from representatives of the Public Defender’s Office, or the District Attorney’s Office, and/or the City Attorney’s Office
  • Overview of the Police Department, the Fire Department


February 7, 2018

6 - 8 PM

Economic and Community Development, Tourism, and Finance
  • Discussion of community and economic development initiatives
  • Learn about tourism and efforts to make Grand Rapids a preferred destination
  • Discussion about the City’s budget process and the tax system

February 21, 2018

6 - 8 PM

City of Grand Rapids Infrastructure
  • An introduction to some of the departments that help our City run: (i.e. 3-1-1 Customer Service, Public Services, Water and Planning)


Dear Participant,


The United States is a nation of immigrants, and immigration continues to shape and strengthen the economy of our country.  Throughout its history, the United States has become a beacon of opportunity to all people.  IN the mid-1800’s, the Irish migrated to this country for a better life.  In the early 1900’s, Polish Italian, Jews, and Asians joined the Irish in the pursuit of better economic opportunities followed by other groups, including Hispanics, in the late 1900’s.  Our diversity has long been considered a national asset and an important element of the unique American identity.  Empowering Grand Rapidians to understand and participate in our democratic process of government benefits the whole. 

Grand Rapids continues to attract Grand Rapidians to be part of our community.  As the Mayor of the City of Grand Rapids, I am proud of the diversity reflected within our population.  This growth is reflected within the student base of a key partner in our community.  Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) serves nearly 17,000 students, representing 55 countries with 54 different languages spoken. 

Your local government, not-for profits, and business community are aware of this growth and embrace the riches it adds to our community.  OurCity Academy Program is a new program being designed and implemented with key partners to empower Grand Rapidians to understand and participate in our democratic process and learn about services available to all members of our community.

Grand Rapids is known worldwide for the contributions made to elevate and celebrate diversity.  OurCity Academy Program reflects the commitment to our shared values and belief that excellence is best achieved through diversity. 

Upon graduation, OurCity Academy participants will be able to help others navigate successfully through our community and make contributions to ensure we continue to be greatest city in our Nation.



Mayor Bliss signature

Rosalynn Bliss

Mayor, City of Grand Rapids


We've partnered with Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) to create OurCity Academy.

GRPS will host this six week class at their facility accessible to the community.  GRPS understands and has established trust with our community.  

We'll review the program after the first year and make necessary adjustments. We'll identify additional partners for sustainable outcomes.

This innovative program was designed with the contributions of partners and members from the community.  This endeavor would not have been possible without the investment, expertise and experience of those listed here:

Elisa Perez-Arellano, BSW, LLMSW, Social Worker, Health Net of West Michigan

Reouhidi Reuben Ndjerareou, System Entrepreneur and Advisory Committee Member of African Collaborative Network (ACN)

Ndeye Rokhaya Ndao, Transition Coordinator of Wyoming High School, African Collaborative Network (ACN) Advisory Committee Member

Mayda Bahamonde-Gunnell, Ed.D., Executive Director for Leadership Middles Schools /ELL/Equity and Inclusion, Grand Rapids Public Schools

Ronald Gorman, Ph.D., Assistant Superintendent, Grand Rapids Public Schools

Lea M. Tobar, M.Ed., Educational Consultant

Roberto Torres, President, Grand Rapids Sister Cities International

Mary Cook, Transformation and Analysis Team Associate, City of Grand Rapids

Tom Almonte, Managing Director, City of Grand Rapids