St. Cloud 101 promotes community involvement

City Administrator Michael Williams provides information about the new city program, St. Cloud 101, Saturday morning. Photo by Alec Kasper-Olson.
City Administrator Michael Williams provides information about the new city program, St. Cloud 101, Saturday morning. Photo by Alec Kasper-Olson.

The city of St. Cloud is introducing “St. Cloud 101,” a program developed to help the community learn more about the inner workings of city government.

On Saturday, St. Cloud 101 started at 10 a.m. in the Whitney Senior Center, with an introduction to the new program and information about upcoming events for the public. Each department under the city of St. Cloud had a booth set up in the center. Within the first few hours of the event, around 100 people walked around the room, going table to table to talk with city officials.

Michael Williams, city administrator, said that the mayor’s office took initiative on organizing this program, but all departments were on board. St. Cloud 101 offers 17 classes for community members to learn more about what each department does. Mayor Dave Kleis said anything from demonstrations to tours are incorporated in the classes.

City officials lead the classes, teaching the community about the specific department’s role in the community. The class schedule is laid out. The first class is “Creating a Vibrant Community,” followed by “Keeping St. Cloud Safe” and “Building Bonds and Bridges.”

Class updates will be posted on social media, Kleis said, while more information can be found at the city’s website. In the case people aren’t able to make it to class, Williams said classes are going to be recorded and aired on channel 181.

With a total of 17 classes, community members have a chance to learn about the various departments in city government, before graduation. For those who would like to add to their schedule, Kleis said there are bonus classes offered, including a St. Cloud history lesson that would take attendees on a trolley ride through St. Cloud.

“It’s surprising,” Williams said. “Some people don’t have a good understanding of what the city’s departments are responsible for.”

The program aims to increase that understanding, detailing the workings of city’s boards and committees, Williams said.

Around the room, people could be seen interacting with city officials or participating in example demonstrations, like putting out a virtual fire at the fire department’s booth.

Williams said the hope is to engage everybody in the community. In the center, St. Cloud State athletes were on standby to interact with children that came with their families.

“For students, it’s an opportunity to learn about the city,” Mayor Kleis said.

He wants students to live, work and learn about the community, and continue to do so even after graduation, he said. While what’s learned in the classroom plays a role in a student’s education, Kleis said what’s learned in the community is also important.

“It’s real life experience,” he said, explaining that it was his engagement in the community that led to running for mayor.

Gail Ruhland, interim executive director of the Center for Continuing Studies, said, “Along with the excellent academics, there’s so much more to St. Cloud State.”

Laid out across the St. Cloud State booth were flyers and posters with information on classes aimed for students who weren’t at a college level. One flyer detailed information about summer immersion camps for students who are ages 7 to 12 years old. Over a four day period, students would be introduced to a second language, including Spanish, Chinese and German.

Running the booth with Ruhland, Elizabeth Valencia-Borgert, with the Center for Continuing Studies, said that this program is for anybody with a desire to learn and for those who want to be a part of a community.

By reaching out and becoming involved, she said it’s a way for people to make the St. Cloud community their own.

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