While the price of some colleges is skyrocketing, the Guilford County Citizens’ Academy is still providing an in-depth course in county government for the low, low price of zero dollars and zero cents.

This month, the 2019 class graduated from the two-month course and seminar overseen by Guilford County Commissioner Kay Cashion – and those graduates were all smiles and compliments at the Thursday, Nov. 7 Guilford County Board of Commissioners meeting where their accomplishments were honored by the board.

“We’re very pleased and flattered,” a glowing Cashion said, speaking from the podium on the floor, as the room applauded the ninth – and the largest – group of Citizens’ Academy graduates.

“It’s been a very enthusiastic and a thoughtful group of participants,” Cashion said.  “They are really a blue-ribbon group; they really are.”

Graduates who spoke on the experience had a lot of praise for the academy that they said gave them new insights into county government.

Cashion said at the meeting that the graduating class included representatives from all of the commissioners’ districts and also that the attendees had asked a lot of in-depth questions at the roughly 50 presentations they heard from commissioners, department directors and various county staff.

According to Cashion, the class gives the students a highly beneficial insight into how county government works and it allows them to experience first-hand some of the pressures that county leaders face.  As in past years, this year’s group held a mock county budget discussion to get a feel for the kinds of tradeoffs commissioners must make when they’re trying to bang out a budget for real each summer.

According to Cashion, the impact of the Citizens’ Academy extends beyond the class itself since all the participants are encouraged to present what they learn to their civic and community groups around the county.

Cashion said some graduates may become future county leaders.

“We also felt that this would be an effective way to develop a pool of individuals for future boards and commissions,” Cashion said.

She added that some graduates might even go on to hold elected office in the county.  Years ago, in fact, one of the academy graduates ended up running against Cashion for her seat on the board – though that candidate didn’t fare well at all.

Commissioner Skip Alston, who’s a big fan of the academy and its outreach, thanked Cashion at the Nov. 7 meeting for her leadership.

“I want to thank Ms. Cashion for the continuing job she does with the academy,” Alston said, adding that it was an excellent way for those who are interested in Guilford County government to learn more about it.  He reminded everyone that there will be another academy next fall.