Norte’s Explore Academy

Explore Academy is an opportunity for students to change the world, beginning with their neighborhood and community.  It engages and activates youth ages 13-18 around the hands-on, feet-on-the-street annual fall class. The class is student-directed and inspired. Participants gain an experiential understanding of how the built environment changes over time, how it impacts our lives, and our role as citizens to shape it.

This program is a spinoff of our annual Advocate Academy and is similarly geared at providing tools and training for engaged citizens to impact change. This course stands out on a college application!


Norte’s curriculum focuses on all participants getting out and exploring their community. We deploy a hybrid approach of both online (via Zoom) class discussion and in-person experiential exploration. We will have guest speakers representing local leadership and, importantly, have fun, explore the community with a unique lens, and make new friends along the way.

Students are expected to attend all sessions and complete all assignments each week. These assignments should take no longer than 30 additional minutes. Projects will include taking photos or a short video, observing a street corridor, taking a walk, riding their bike, or using the bus. In short, exploring!


  •  WHO: Teenagers, 13-18, who are curious about their community and how to their voice heard.
  • WHEN: Meet-ups begin Sunday, October 10, 10:30 am-Noon. The course runs every Sunday for six weeks, ending on November 14.
  • HOW: Registration is required and the class fee is $45. However, scholarships are available. Please email Gary at if interested in receiving a full or partial scholarship.
  • WHERE: This year’s Explore Academy will meet both online (Zoom) and in person. In-person meet-ups will be held at the BATA Conference Room at 115 Hall St. in Traverse City. Full details will be emailed to students after registration.

Questions? Email Norte’s Advcoacy Director, Gary at

Register Today via Active



Aspire traverse Area Association of Realtors


Explore Academy is made possible by a partnership with the Aspire North and a Smart Growth America grant from the National Association of Realtors.  The program was co-created and is co-facilitated with Megan Motil of Parallel Solutions.

If you are interested in donating to the program’s scholarship fund or in becoming a corporate sponsor, please email our Donor Relations Specialist, Wes Sovis at


Megan Motil has dedicated her 20-year career to community growth and development, land and water conservation and restoration, food and farming systems, housing, transportation, and access to nature and outdoor recreation. She was a former Director of Regional Planning at Networks Northwest and served as a past board member of the Michigan Association of Planning and of Michigan’s Complete Streets Advisory Council. She worked for seven years as the Associate Director and Director of Development for the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy. Pairing her professional experience in community and organizational development with a personal zeal for building trust and openness in decision-making, Megan founded Parallel Solutions in 2014. You can find out more about her firm’s services, clients, and recent projects at

Gary Howe brings over 10 years of direct experience in creating and advocating for public policy and planning processes that support healthy transportation and socially engaging public spaces to his role as Norte’s Advocacy Director. He served as a City Commissioner for the City of Traverse City from 2013-2017, in addition to serving on the Planning Commission and Parks and Recreation Commission, and on the boards of Neahtawanta Center, SEEDS, and International Affairs Forum. He is also a writer and New York Times-published photographer with over 20 years of teaching experience in China, Taiwan, and Traverse City, including 15 years as an adjunct instructor at Northwestern Michigan College.

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