This opinion piece was originally published by the Times of Trenton on Friday, August 22, 2014.

During Trenton’s municipal election, The Citizens Campaign hosted a forum focused on education and provided a unique opportunity to hear from the candidates and the residents on how we can better empower our youth.

What we learned during this last election is that residents are eager to be forces for positive change in the City of Trenton. Since the conference, The Citizens Campaign has continued to meet monthly to drill down on the issues residents care about. Each month, more and more residents come forward to join this conversation to get results.

We are capturing this excitement through Impact Trenton, an initiative of The Citizens Campaign, which is building a pool of citizen problem-solvers in our city. From improving public safety to strengthening the arts community to empowering our youth – it’s Trenton residents who can be, and are, the catalysts for civic innovation. Getting real results is just a matter of capitalizing on that passion with the right tools and techniques.

In Perth Amboy, residents have created two new commissions to mobilize more city leaders – a green team and an arts council. In New Brunswick, residents passed the state’s first-ever ordinance protecting workers from wage theft. And in Paterson, one resident saved the city $2 million through implementation of a more competitive and transparent way of doing business.

Trenton stands out among the rest: Citizens were the catalyst for the establishment of Trenton’s first ethics board; the creation of a Trenton green team; the adoption of a strong “anti-pay-to-play” law to ensure contracts are awarded on merit and cost-effectiveness; and now residents are beginning to examine other ways citizens can have a powerful voice in City Hall.

Through the leadership of its alum and current social studies teacher Jerell Blakeley, Trenton Central High School’s west campus will be offering leadership civics to students for the first time this year.

The course will be offered as an elective for TCHS in grades 10-12 and will teach the skills needed to be active and informed citizens who will work collaboratively to address the city’s challenges of today.

This innovative curriculum is planting the seeds for the next crop of leaders who are ready to find solutions to Trenton’s most pressing challenges. By expanding students’ knowledge of local government and politics at a young age, they are more likely to become active and empowered Trentonians as adults.

These accomplishments weren’t driven by politics as usual, but rather by an empowered and engaged community that has embraced the core guiding principles of The Citizens Campaign: working on common-purpose issues, identifying evidence-based solutions, using a no-blame political strategy and focusing on producing cost-effective results.

There is still time for residents to join this growing force of problem-solvers in Trenton and change the game. We currently have three task forces focused on public safety and ex-offender re-entry, education, and arts and economic development, and they all would welcome new members.

At our monthly “Power Hour” meetings, attendees break into their chosen task force and work collaboratively to identify priority issues and evidence-based solutions. Each task force is provided with experienced coaches in politics and policy who assist the group in developing effective strategies that they will implement.

This month, the education committee is celebrating its first accomplishment with the launch of the leadership civics course at Trenton Central High School. The public safety and arts committees are just getting started and we are excited to see what solutions they advance.

Another way Trenton’s people are strengthening their city is through the power of the press. The Citizens Campaign is recruiting and training residents to become city storytellers to harness the power of journalism and online media to tell the story of their city and of citizen leaders who are getting results.

The Citizens Campaign is hosting the inaugural City Storytellers Boot Camp Oct. 25-26 in Asbury Park for a select group of citizen journalists who are passionate about their community and willing to make a one-year commitment to share the story of civic innovation in their city.

I encourage people who are willing to put in the time and effort to create an informed and engaged Trenton citizenry to visit and sign up for our “power hours” or apply for the City Storyteller Boot Camp.

Together, we will Impact Trenton.