OurCity Academy



OurCity Academy is a program designed to help Grand Rapidians find services and resources in our community. The four-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.

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1167 Madison Ave SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49507
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All sessions take place from 5 PM - 6 PM. Dinner is served and transportation is offered to City Hall on City Commission nights from LINC Up. 


April 30, 2019

5 PM - 6 PM: City of Grand Rapids Values and Goals
Presenter: Mark Washington, City of Grand Rapids Manager

Hear directly from the new City Manager about himself, his values, his hopes and goals for the City of Grand Rapids.

May 14, 2019*

5 PM - 6 PM: Our Children, Our Future
Presenters: The Our Community's Children Team of Lynn Heemstra, Executive Director; Shannon L. Harris, Program Coordinator; Shayla Willis Young, Program Coordinator

Hear about the Office of Our Community's Children, a partnership of the City of Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Public Schools. Learn about the programs available to city youth to ensure they are ready for college, work and life!

May 21, 2019*

5 PM- 6 PM: Our Neighborhood Services and Resources
Presenter: Connie Bohatch, Managing Director of Community Development Services

Learn about the services and resources Community Development offers in housing, lead abatement, home loans, code enforcement and in building great neighborhoods.

June 4, 2019*

5 PM - 6 PM: Public Safety
Presenter: David Kiddle, Interim Police Chief

What makes a safe community? What steps have the Police Department taken to address community concerns? Hear directly from the Interim Police Chief.

*City Commission night. Transportation provided from LINC Up to City Hall. 


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 organizations in Grand Rapids to create year three of OurCity Academy.

Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS)

About GRPS



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