Seeking our next round of local elected champions for Complete Streets


Applications have been extended to June 30 for the third round of the Active People, Healthy NationSM Champions Institute, an opportunity for local elected officials to gain the knowledge needed to effectively advocate for safer and more Complete Streets hosted by Smart Growth America (SGA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity. Building on two successful years of the program, this third cohort will receive comprehensive training to help them become champions in their communities to promote activity-friendly routes to everyday destinations. The Champions Institute will also help position participants to make the best use of the influx of funds from the infrastructure law, make their communities more competitive for federal grants, and more.

Watch the 2022 Champions Institute Q&A webinar recording

SGA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity are now accepting applications for our third Active People, Healthy NationSM  Champions Institute, building on successful programs in 2020 and 2021. The Champions Institute has a track record of preparing mayors, city council people, tribal representatives, and other local elected officials to become champions for promoting activity-friendly routes to everyday destinations, as part of the Active People, Healthy NationSM Initiative.

Applications for the Champions Institute are now closed. Please contact Anushka at [email protected] with any questions.

What is the Champions Institute?

The Champions Institute is a technical assistance and peer learning program designed to help local elected officials become effective champions for Complete Streets, downtown revitalization, and other local initiatives. Selected participants from across the country will form a cohort of local leaders, attending six interactive virtual learning modules beginning in September and ending in early December 2022. Champions will learn from national experts and each other in a collaborative and supportive environment. From January to June 2023, participants will plan and begin to implement their own local initiatives in line with the goals of the program, whether a policy, a Complete Streets project, or another effort to support active travel and vital downtowns.

What will I gain from participating? 

Local leaders who are selected for the Champions Institute will have the opportunity to learn from a broad array of national experts and former elected officials in the areas of public health, policy, street design, and project implementation. Champions will become experts in promoting community reforms to create safer streets for all users including pedestrians, cyclists, transit riders, and motorists. Champions will be prepared to support plans, policies, and funding that promote the CDC’s Active People, Healthy Nation℠ initiative and activity-friendly routes to everyday destinations. SGA will provide continuing support to these local champions as they serve their communities and act as emissaries to other local leaders, growing a network of champions across the country.

What current Champions are saying

“As an immigrant and a complete newcomer to public office, I am extremely grateful to the Active People Healthy Nations Champions Institute in enabling me to become a civic agent of positive change. The Complete Streets program, steered by a panel of experts in the field, allows one to grasp fundamental concepts while teaching you what to think critically about. A vision of health for a better world is a call to care wisely for our communities, our resources and earth. The course has woven together a national network of organizations, resources and individuals to compassionately care for the common world that we all live in, ensure equity and pass a healthy planet to our future generations”

Chaps Poduri, Councilmember, City of Pacific Grove, CA

“The Champions Institute has taught me so much about leadership, and how to properly govern a city. The knowledge that I’ve gained is indescribable, and I’m able to share what I’ve learned with my council colleagues. I would recommend any elected official to apply and receive the many lessons and ideas, as I did.”

April Gaulden, Councilmember, Dunn, NC

“It was an honor to be chosen for this program. I learned so much from these sessions and was able to take the information back to my borough with an understanding of ideas, implementation and strategy. I have so much respect for the speakers and their knowledge. I can not thank you enough for all of your help, advice, strategies, and support.”

Tarah Probst, Mayor, Stroudsburg Borough, PA

“Representing a town of less than 5,000 people, the Champions Institute brought big time ideas and solutions to a Mississippi town. No matter how small a city, the Champions Institute interacted with the small guy as well as the ‘big’ guy. The Champions Institute challenged my thinking, exposing a totally different way to look at Magee, MS.”

Sue Honea, Councilmember, Magee, MS

Program timing and commitment 

Champions Institute participants will be selected and notified in July 2022. The program will launch in September and include six virtual learning sessions (two hours each) between September and December 2022, with up to one hour of reading between sessions.

During the second half of the program, from January to June 2023, participants will each plan and begin to implement a local initiative based on what they learned. This second phase of the program will include two virtual 90-minute discussion sessions to report out on progress, as well a submittal of a brief final written report summarizing successes, challenges, and next steps from each Champion’s local initiative.


We seek a diverse range of local leaders for the Champions Institute. There are a few eligibility requirements:

  • Eligible participants in the Champions Institute include: mayors, city council members, county commissioners, tribal representatives, and other local elected officials.
  • Applicants should be able to commit the time required to actively participate in the Institute. Champions must attend Institute events, and may not delegate attendance to staff or other persons.  
  • Applicants don’t need to be experts but should have an interest in developing their capacity and expertise in establishing Complete Streets and activity-friendly routes to everyday destinations. 
  • Applicants should demonstrate a body of work and/or an interest in improving safety and access for road users who are on foot, bicycles, or other mobility devices, such as Complete Streets policies or other tangible efforts toward making streets and other public spaces safe for all users.

Selection criteria

The primary selection criteria are:

  • Interest in activity-friendly routes to everyday destinations and Complete Streets (25% of score) – Applications should demonstrate interest in implementing more activity-friendly routes to everyday destinations and Complete Streets as a way to address public health and sustainable development. The applicant should also demonstrate existing commitment to their community’s traditional center and affordable housing.
  • Need for technical assistance (25% of score) – The Champions Institute is seeking leaders that are interested in smart growth and/or sustainable community development strategies but may lack the capacity or expertise to implement local solutions. Applications should address broader equity concerns in their community including but not limited to income levels and demographics, along with other factors that may speak to the community’s needs.
  • Involvement of other community leaders (25% of score) – Evidence of support for the applicant from elected and other leaders in the community, including commitment to supporting activity-friendly routes to everyday destinations and Complete Streets. 
  • Ability to commit to time requirements (25% of score) – Applicants should affirm their commitment to fully participating in all functions if selected for the Champions Institute. 

Other factors that will affect the selection of communities to participate in the Champions Institute:

  • Geographic diversity – To the extent possible, selected Champions Institute communities will reflect a variety of states, regions, and communities with a diverse set of populations.
  • Equity The degree to which the application contributes to the diversity of the communities assisted through this program—and the diversity of communities that have adopted smart growth more broadly—with an emphasis on low income, disadvantaged, and mid-sized cities or rural communities.
  • Past receipt of assistance – Whether the community has received or is currently receiving assistance related to activity-friendly routes to every day destinations or Complete Streets.

How to apply

Applications for the Champions Institute are now closed. Please contact Anushka at [email protected] with any questions.

Complete Streets