2020 Program Excellence Awards: Community Diversity and Inclusion

Recognition of outstanding local government programs

Sep 1, 2020 | ARTICLE

10,000 to 49,999 Population

Northglenn Arts

Northglenn, Colorado


Heather Geyer, ICMA-CM, City Manager

With vision from the city council and members of the community, the city of Northglenn developed the Northglenn Arts program to provide high-quality, accessible, and diverse cultural arts programming through collaborations with arts entities, businesses, service groups, schools, and artists. The program incorporates several action items under the “diverse community” goal in the Northglenn strategic plan.

The vision for Northglenn Arts is to provide all members of the community access to the performing and visual arts and sciences, to promote an awareness of the arts and sciences, and to enhance the community image through the development of a cultural climate. The city offers a robust, diverse arts program through a well-developed partnership with the Northglenn Arts and Humanities Foundation (NAHF) and funding from the city.

Northglenn Arts provides residents with an opportunity to participate in cultural arts activities as performers, artists, audience members, volunteers, committee members, students, or teachers. Individuals can celebrate their own culture and learn about others in an open-minded, inviting, and experiential setting. Northglenn Arts events are consistently well-attended and generate revenue to help offset program costs.

Northglenn Arts partners with entities that are dedicated to the celebration of cultures that reflect the community’s demographic makeup. Examples include:

Cleo Parker Robinson Dance (CPRD), which leverages the universal language of dance to honor African American heritage and explore the human condition.

“The History of African American Music,” a presentation in partnership with the Source Theatre Company and the Colorado Black Arts Festival in celebration of Black History Month.

Cine en el Parque (Movies in the Park), started by the founder of a biweekly Spanish-language newspaper. The event featured a movie with Spanish subtitles, music, food vendors, and entertainers.

Travel Films, one of the city’s longest-standing offerings, which highlights cultures around the world.

A presentation of “Interview with a Mexican,” in partnership with Su Teatro Cultural and Performing Arts Center. The show pushes boundaries in a way that results in a tremendous amount of insight and informative perspective.

ImaginASL Performing Arts, which strives to entertain, educate, and unite the deaf and hearing worlds with theatrical experiences that integrate American Sign Language and workshops to teach both deaf and hearing actors how to work together.

Public art installations throughout the community that represent Northglenn’s diversity; from “Bison,” a recycled steel piece that was dedicated with a sacred prayer by a local Lakota spiritual leader, to the Tunnel Mural, a 311-foot-long painted tunnel created by a young, up-and-coming street artist.

The Healing Hoop Pow Wow, an event showcasing Native American dancers and traditional arts, crafts, and food from the Lakota Way, Shoshone, and Arapaho Nations.

Partnerships between Northglenn Arts and Northglenn High School celebrating students’ diversity and unique talents—e.g., a “Poetry Slam” and a student photography display in city hall.

From drum circles and African drum making to Flamenco and traditional Eastern Indian dance, Northglenn Arts prides itself on providing relevant, authentic programming that speaks to and celebrates cultural differences in a way that brings people together.


50,000 and Greater Population

MoVaLearns—Mayor’s Challenge

Moreno Valley, California


Mike Lee, Interim City Manager

In Moreno Valley, just one in four adults are college educated. As the city embarked on economic development initiatives, its leaders recognized the need to improve the educational level and diversity of the local workforce—in short, the need for Inclusive Economic Development. In California, and the nation, workforce is among the top three criteria site selectors consider when evaluating prospective business locations.

In response, Mayor Yxstian Gutierrez launched a serious dialogue with local educational and county leaders to explore ways to provide a larger and more diverse group of residents with opportunities for the economic prosperity that comes with new growth.

They started by focusing on the city’s most important asset—the students at Moreno Valley College, many of whom were at risk of dropping out, often for economic reasons. Faced with the “earn versus learn” choice between attending school and working low-wage shift jobs, many were forced to choose work.

Starting with a baseline survey, the city and the college partnered with students to design MoVaLearns–Mayor’s Challenge, a program that provides a $250 monthly stipend to give students a chance to pursue their education, supplemented by support and “wrap-around” services from the college, the city, the business community, and nonprofits.

The planning team included members from the city’s economic development department and media staff and the college’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) administration. But the most important designers were the students themselves, who used prototyping, story mapping, surveying, and interviewing to shape the program.

MoVaLearns targets CTE students who are in the second year, when they are at greatest risk of dropping out. Goals were to enroll more students in programs that lead to a living wage, ensure that students are aware of college and community support services, and increase the number of students who graduate with associate degrees and certificates.

Initial funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies allowed the city to fund 50 students in the design phase. Students reported that the stipend and support services reduced their stress and enabled them to focus better on school. Approximately 93% of participants said the program helped them finish school more quickly. And 58% saw an increase in their grade point average.

Based on these results, the city council approved additional funding. In addition, the college formed an advisory committee with representatives from local industries to advise on the curriculum and facilitate job placement for CTE graduates. Finally, the city formed a community foundation to help secure private and philanthropic funding and buy-in.

Moreno Valley learned that it takes a village to envision a future that accelerates opportunities for everyone. The success of the MoVaLearns first-in-the-nation Universal Basic Student Income program resulted from partnerships involving the city, the college, the business community, other local organizations, and students.

Inclusive Economic Development, in programs like MoVaLearns, has direct benefits not only for students, who enjoy job-related education, but also for cities, which enjoy a competitive edge that allows them to attain such traditional economic development goals as attracting new businesses, jobs, and revenues while at the same time creating economic benefits for residents.