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Hagerstown's Neighborhood College offering fall classes

July 29, 2005|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

HAGERSTOWN

gregs@herald-mail.com

Getting things done in city government doesn't have to be scary, said Emily McFarland.

The Maryland Avenue resident spent her spring in Hagerstown's Neighborhood College program, which is ramping up again for a fall session.

The program is a series of classes on city government that aims to educate residents on how city government works and is an attempt to get residents more involved in their communities.

"I think I have a more positive outlook in that I understand the chain of command," said McFarland, 29. "People often think that it's so cumbersome that they get a little overwhelmed, but it's not that way."

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McFarland, who also is the chair of the South End Neighborhoods First group, also organized by the city, said she's been able to help coordinate tree and flower plantings, lighting improvements and safety upgrades with the knowledge she's gained from the city's college program.

Shelli Dronsfield, a city worker who is coordinating the college, said this is the second year the city has offered the Neighborhood College, but recent interest has led to its expansion to a fall program also.

The free classes are open to people who either live or work in the city and who can attend eight out of 10 weekly sessions, which are set to begin Sept. 12.

"We're trying to give them the tools and background about city services and operations," Dronsfield said.

The students will spend about three hours once a week with city officials, learning about how different departments work, including police, fire, public works, water and sewer, light, planning and others. Participants also work on individual projects, and present them at the end of the program.

Dronsfield said the Neighborhood College and the Neighborhoods First program draw on each other to try to get more people involved in local government, in an effort to get government to act in neighborhoods.

One example of Neighborhoods First action is a group along South Prospect Street advocated for repaving of West Baltimore Street between Walnut and South Prospect streets. The project was posed as a question for the City Council on whether to repave the street or close it, but the neighborhood group's recommendation to repave and improve the section of street prevailed.

Dronsfield said there is room for 18 participants, and priority will be given to those who submit applications on or before Aug. 26.

More information can be found on the Web at www.hagerstownmd.org/Housing/neighborhoodCollege.asp, or by phone at 301-739-8577, ext. 136.

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