2023 Advocate Academy

Academy Grads Reflect on Impact

April 12, 2023 |

The 6th annual Advocate Academy is taking place Saturday, April 15th. The hands-on training is designed to help people become more effective advocates for their communities.  
Even though Advocate Academy is based in Traverse City, it’s had an impact around Michigan, and we want to celebrate that by featuring a few past participants.
Craig Wood from the 2021 class is doing great work alongside others in Livingston County through a nonprofit called Go Liv Co- Horal Family Foundation, 2022 participant Mark Hymes is involved in the Livingston County Transportation Coalition and works as the Program Coordinator for his region’s Disability Network, and 2022 class member Neal Glazebrook has been involved with both groups, chairs Oceola Township’s Planning Commission, and is the Events Director at the League of Michigan Bicyclists.
You participated in a class that met virtually over a six-week period, thinking back, what message stuck with you the most?

Craig (pictured below)The message that stuck for me most was that a small group of passionate citizens could make a difference by focusing attention on non-motorized efforts and speaking up during “calls to public.” Not complaining but creating walkable communities. 

Craig Wood, Deputy Director of Go Liv Co Horal Family Foundation, is an advocate for non-motorized transportation, a passion ignited in his earliest childhood days riding bicycles with his brothers in Mexico City.

Mark: There were two major takeaways that I have implemented in my personal advocacy. 
First, I’ve made it known the struggles that I am dealing with to form a larger group behind the cause. Like when we formed a group to brainstorm solutions. We have more power in numbers. If you don’t talk about your situation, no one can relate to it. You need to have some common ground to get people behind your issue. As for mine, it was safer intersections and crossings for people walking and biking.  
Second, what I never understood until Advocate Academy was the value of celebrating little wins. This may seem trivial at first, but each step of the way is a win, and if it is not celebrated then you may lose interest or the mountain may seem too great to conquer.  

Neal (pictured below): Celebrate your wins! We are often rushing around trying to accomplish so much it’s worth taking time to stop to celebrate your wins.

Neal Glazebrook, Secretary of Go Liv Co Horal Family Foundation, is a resident of Oceola Township and is currently the Chair of the Planning commission in his township. He sits on several boards for the township and is an advisor to the Livingston County Parks and Open space committee. He chaired the Livingston County Transportation Coalition for a number of years.

How did Go Liv Co form?
Craig: In April of 2019, Dan Horal was biking at Island Lake State Recreation area and was struck and killed by a distracted driver. After Dan’s passing, the community was in shock and rallied in support of the Horal family. Hometown Bicycles, organized a “Do It For Dan” Memorial Ride. The inaugural event was held on May 5, 2019, bringing together over 500 people to complete the ride that Dan was never able to finish. The event focused on creating awareness to share the road between motorists and bicyclists. It also promoted cycling safety and advocacy. If we can save one life it is well worth it, not only for the cyclist, but for everyone affected by these preventable tragedies.
Go Liv Co was born during the pandemic as a Facebook page to create a more bikeable and walkable community in Livingston County. Completely grassroots but frustrated by the lack of safe connectors for bikes and nonmotororized. We coined the name Go Liv Co to represent mobility (GO) in Livingston County (LivCo).
Ultimately, the efforts came together to create a nonprofit organization. The mission is to develop and advocate for safe active mobility solutions in Livingston County. We focus on streets, roads, and trails that will allow people to safely walk, run, bike, horse back ride, and enjoy nonmotorized transportation regardless of age or ability.
Tell us a bit about the purpose behind the transportation coalition.

Mark (pictured at right): The Purpose of the Livingston County Transportation Coalition is to increase the awareness of transportation and active mobility issues, and improve public transportation, trails, and greenways in Livingston County by implementing the Transportation Master Plan, Trails Plan, and other related initiatives, while evaluating community transportation and active mobility needs on a regular basis. 

Mark Hymes is involved in the Livingston County Transportation Coalition and works as the Program Coordinator for his region’s Disability Network,

What advice would you give to others who are interested in advocating for change in their communities?
Craig: Gather interested individuals and organizations together. Bike shops and biking groups are a good start but expand your definition to include all participants. All ages and ALL abilities. Walking or rolling. 
Mark: If you want to advocate for change in your community, don’t be afraid to start by telling your story, chances are there may be many more people with similar experiences who can rally around you. If it is a big enough issue in your community, seek out a coalition or workgroup in your area that may focus on your advocacy issue. You may be shocked to find out someone else has started a group that your advocacy topic relates to. Have faith that you make change.  It may take longer and there may be some setbacks, but if you have the right backing, passion, and you celebrate the little wins, you are bound to motivate others to make things happen.
Neal: I would say to do your research and be prepared. And TRY! Don’t get discouraged if you or your group get declined. You never know if or how your communities’ problems will get resolved if you don’t interact within your community. Go to a city council meeting, a PTA meeting, whatever group you need to address to rally to your cause and gain community support for the change you