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Cal State LA's Civic U. prepares neighborhood council members to be more effective grassroots leaders

February 1, 2017

More than 100 members of Los Angeles’ neighborhood councils graduated from Cal State LA’s Civic University with new skills to better represent their communities at City Hall. Civic U. is a joint project of Cal State LA’s Pat Brown Institute and the Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Civic U. Neighborhood Council 1.0 is a non-credit certificate program that trains neighborhood council members to best achieve their mission of grassroots representation and expand their influence at City Hall. The program is offered by the College of Professional and Global Education. Civic University arose from a realization that there are immense gaps in public knowledge and understanding of how city government works.

The course was attended by about 120 neighborhood council members and 30 members of Garcetti’s Youth Council. Participants heard from city officials, including Ana Guerrero, deputy mayor and chief of staff, three other deputy mayors, and Lilian Coral, the mayor’s data chief. A highlight of the evening was a dialogue with Los Angeles Councilmember David Ryu, a former neighborhood council member.

Ryu and Cal State LA Vice President Jose A. Gomez spoke to the graduating class on Tuesday night. Gomez formally awarded graduation certificates to the class.

Neighborhood Council 32 photo“Now, more than ever, your service and engagement are needed. With your skills, you will be able to help bring change at the ground level: Where people live, where people work, and where they go to school,” Gomez told the participants at the Ronald F. Deaton Auditorium in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday night. “Our communities will be better places because of you.”

Civic U. was supervised by Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute at Cal State LA. Sonenshein is the author of three books on Los Angeles politics and government. He also participated in creating the neighborhood council system during the 1999 charter reform as executive director of the appointed charter reform commission.

“It is inspiring to see our neighborhood council members and youth committed to making a difference in their communities,” Sonenshein said. “Civic education and engagement at the grassroots level are essential to our democratic process and an important step in making our elected officials more responsive to the people they serve.”

Photos: Top, from the left, Pat Brown Institute's Executive Director Raphael Sonenshein, L.A. Councilmember David Ryu, and Cal State LA Vice President Jose A. Gomez. (Credit: J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA) Bottom, from the left, Jackie Carrillo, Kathy Leal and Anthony Manzano of the LA-32 Neighborhood Council. (Credit: David Ng)

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Cal State LA is ranked number one in the nation based on the upward mobility of its students. Founded in 1947, Cal State LA is the premier public comprehensive university in the heart of Los Angeles and is dedicated to the mission of engagement, service, and the public good. The University serves more than 27,000 students and more than 247,000 distinguished alumni, who are as diverse as the region we serve. Led by an award-winning faculty, the University offers nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education and the humanities.

Cal State LA is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, Billie Jean King Sports Complex and the TV, Film and Media Center. For more information, visit