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  • Writer's pictureChristina Miles

Unlocking the All-America City: Fayetteville NC's 2023 Prestigious Award Win!


City Council Members Shakeyla Ingram (District 2) and Brenda McNair (District 7) unveiling Fayetteville NC All-America City Award Plaque.


Fayetteville NC is named a 2023 All-America City!


On a bustling Friday evening in downtown Fayetteville, city council members, city of Fayetteville Staff and representatives, local organizations, and spectators all gathered together on Festival Park Plaza to celebrate and commemorate the prestigious award win for our great city, the All-America City Award!


Spectators and City Staff at All-America Award unveiling


Although this may be the first time you’ve heard of this award, this is the fourth time our city has earned the title granted by the National Civic League dating back to our first win in 1985. Wow! So what makes this award so notable and prestigious?… And how did we win? I was able to find out from the source: Fayetteville Chief of Staff Jodi Phelps and the Director of the Washington DC Office & All-America City Award, Rebecca Trout, on what it takes for a city to be named an All-America City.


FAYNC Mag Art Director and Admin Lead, Christina Miles interviewing Fayetteville Chief of Staff, Jodi Phelps


Christina: Can you explain to us what the award is that Fayetteville has received?

Jodi: Fayetteville this summer received for the 4th time the All-America City designation. That's an award that's given out annually to only a small amount of municipalities, only 10 throughout the nation, so it's really prestigious award. It really looks at how were you engaged in your community? What is that civic engagement, the education, your outreach? How are you ensuring you have a diverse and inclusive community? How are you representing all different walks of life, all generations, all people? Each year the competition is themed, you have to write an extensive application and submit that and then those applications are reviewed by a national panel of experts. From those applications, they select a certain number, 20 cities, to travel to Denver. So, we take a delegation to Denver and we provide a 10-minute presentation to a panel of about 10 to 12 judges. We also gave them 10 minutes to ask us questions about our presentation and our programs.


So this year's theme of the National Civic League was “Creating Thriving Communities through Youth Engagement” which when we found that out, we were like we got this! This is right up our alley. And we looked at different projects and things in the city that we had done to really encourage youth and young people to be engaged in civic leadership. Of those we took and divided out three different projects:


The first project was our Market House Repurposing. We talked a little bit about those efforts to engage the community, get community feedback, and really address head on, an important conversation that this city needed to have and not be afraid of it, right? We wanted to lean into that.


The second one was our youth leadership programs, and that encompassed FCYC which is the Fayetteville Cumberland Youth Council and Fayetteville Next which was formerly the Millennial Council, and our work to really create a pipeline of future leaders in Fayetteville. Our goal is to grow them, educate them, empower them, and then make them want to stay here in Fayetteville and make our community better. By having teenagers and FCYC, then we gave the Millennial Commission, now Fayetteville Next, an opportunity to fill that gap with the next generation of leaders. You see them here today out trying to engage people and get people involved in the community.


Fayetteville Police Department Officer


The third area was where we took a lot of the different programs and activities we have throughout the city to look at how we go in and help train, empower, and educate people. So, we covered our airport’s ACE Academy, that's the Aviation Career Education Academy. Every summer they take 50 to 80 middle and high school students. A certain percentage of those are from traditionally under-resourced communities and we expose them to aviation careers. Several of them get to fly in an airplane for the first time, even holding the controls which is pretty cool… Something I don't want to do, I’m good on the ground! And then we talked about the Fayetteville Police Department’s PAL Program, the Police Activities League where they have camps, in particular, they have a boxing program. Unfortunately, Javeon Taylor, who went to Denver with us, can't be here tonight because he's back in Denver competing to earn a spot in the Olympics.



Spectators and City Staff at All-America Award unveiling


Christina: Oh wow!


Jodi: So, through the PAL Program this young man, I think he's 18 or 19 now, learned how to box. He had a mentor in the Police Department who coached him, he took him to different competitions nationally and regionally, and now this kid's gonna go and compete in the Olympics which is pretty cool!



Then we had the Fire Department’s Community Emergency Response Teen Team. That’s a group of about 100 students, every year, that come together. They learn disaster response, mental health, and first aid. They learn all of those things so that in a crisis situation they can jump in and help their community and their neighborhood. So, in the event that we have a hurricane or natural disaster-first responders are strapped all across the city, you've got young people empowered in their neighborhood to jump in and help out their neighbors.


Fayetteville Fire Department Fire Truck


All of those things together were part of our presentation and really why I think we stood out to the judges, and what made Fayetteville clearly one of the top ten cities in the nation.


Christina: Yes! That's amazing, and you're amazing that you just went through the whole process again with me! My last question for you is how does this benefit Fayetteville? As a community member what does this award mean to me and how does it benefit the city?

Jodi: For us it's really important. We’ve won this award four times now, that's a really critical thing! For me it's really important because that demonstrates Fayetteville as a city, as a community, our commitment to each other. It demonstrates our commitment to really pushing forward and being an excellent city and a place where we want to help each other, we want to listen to each other, we want to talk to each other, and we want to be engaged with each other. It should, for our residents, show that your city is committed to making this a place where you want to be, you want to live, you want to grow. It's a point of pride for us, we work really hard. And these programs that I just talked about have worked really hard to do all of that. So, it should signal to you that this city is doing some really great things. We're trying to educate and empower and uplift our youth and that's quite frankly in my opinion is the most important thing you can do.


City Council Member Mario Benavente (District 3) and Fayetteville Chief of Staff Jodi Phelps


Jodi then introduced me to Rebecca Trout (Director, Washington DC Office & All-America City Award)

Christina: Tell us more about the All-America City Award

Rebecca: Sure, I’m with the National Civic League and we are the home of the All-America City Award. We are the national organization that actually gives out the award every year so we have been around since 1849 and the award has been around since 1949 so we're in our 74th year.


The award basically started out as a way to really recognize communities who are not doing top down decision making where an elected official, or a city manager, or even a council just comes in, gets elected, and makes all the decisions without any input. We're really about recognizing communities and sharing the promising practices of those communities that are engaging residents in decision making and actually implementation of those decisions as well. So bare minimum give people's opinions, and what we're really looking for is engagement from design, implementation, all the way to evaluation and assessment. So that's why the award is around to be recognized. We recognize 20 finalists each year through a written application process and then those communities join us typically in Denver, during non-pandemic years, and then we narrow those 20 communities down to 10 individual winners and they're announced during a big event ceremony in the evening. This is kind of a pandemic thing for us, we started coming out to the communities to help them celebrate. It initially started when we couldn't have folks in Denver because we wanted to find a way to be able to actually give them their award and celebrate them and now we have so much enjoyment out of that and now this is my fifth one that I've gone to this year! Just different celebrations, finding ways for communities to celebrate their success, and to give them more momentum to keep doing their work.



City Council Member Shakeyla Ingram (District 2) posing with Director of the Washington DC Office & All-America City Award, Rebecca Trout


Christina: How did you come up with this year's theme, what made you want to focus on youth?

Rebecca: We try to be really topical with what communities are facing so during the pandemic year we did equity and resilience and then we found that youth were having a really hard time kind of rebounding from post-COVID isolation, mental health issues, just kind of losing some of their formative years or those years looking very different for them than they did previous generations. So we felt a need there, and we were hearing from our network that they were really trying to fix that problem and so that's why we focused on that this year.


Next year we're actually focusing on strengthening democracy in and of itself. With 2024 elections coming up some of the federal challenges to democracy are beginning to trickle down into smaller communities.


Christina: Yes, they are.


Rebecca: And so you're seeing those threats happen locally and we're looking to kind of highlight communities that might have had some success addressing some of that locally.


All-in-all Fayetteville undoubtedly earned its spot as an All-America City of 2023. The FAYNC Mag team finished the evening connecting with local organizations, the Fayetteville Police Department, and Fayetteville City Staff and Council Members. The free ice-cream and t-shirts, face-painting, and DJ, rounded out a historic evening in our great All-American City!



All photos taken by Jalantai McClendon, FAYNC Magazine Photographer



With Peace and Love,

Christina


Art Director & Admin Lead

FAYNC Magazine


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