VL Welcomes Ginger Sykes Torres to Board of Directors
Valley Leadership recently welcomed Ginger Sykes Torres, an environmental consultant with Shikeyah Environmental, to join its Board of Directors. Get to know Ginger, why she loves living in Arizona, what motivates her community work – and her advice for getting more engaged.
Valley Leadership: You were active in the community before you engaged with VL – how did experiencing a program and joining Impact Maker impact you as a leader?
Ginger Sykes Torres: Everyone came into the VL Ready Together program as an expert in their specific field. The Ready Together program exposed us to a diverse range of insight, from experts working on the most complex and pressing issues that are faced by Arizonans today. As the program progressed, we began to see how so many of these issues – from affordable housing, to education, to the environment – are interrelated. As a result of participating in the program, I feel more confident in my understanding and ability to engage on issues that are outside of my professional background to lend my skills to help find solutions to improve our communities.
VL: What Principle of Doing is resonating with you most as you take a seat on VL’s board?
GST: The Principle of Doing that resonates the most with me is “Arizona First.” I am motivated to find ways to make my community, my city and my state a better place for my children. As a member of the Navajo Nation, I am driven to advocate for Native communities, who experience a disproportionate burden of many of the problems facing Arizona. How we solve these complicated issues as a state will impact Indigenous cultures and traditions in the long term, which makes it all the more urgent to collaboratively come together to find solutions for all of Arizona’s communities with our future in mind.
VL: The Impact Maker Environmental Sustainability Team has really hit the ground running since its launch at the end of last year – already successfully advocating for dollars to focus on heat mitigation and tree cover in Phoenix. How did you all build momentum so quickly?
GST: As a member of the City of Phoenix Environmental Quality and Sustainability Commission, I have been plugged into the citywide environmental conversations for the past several years. When the Impact Maker Environmental Sustainability Team was created, I was thrilled to jump in to lend my knowledge to the team working on tree cover and shade! It was great timing for our Impact Team to start off successfully advocating during the City of Phoenix budget process for heat resilience funding, which will be critical to jumpstarting tree-planting projects to mitigate the urban heat island effect throughout the Valley. We are working with other stakeholders to share collective resources and steer projects to the most heat-vulnerable areas where they will have the greatest benefits. We would love to have more passionate leaders join the Impact Team, so please reach out if you are interested!
VL: How long have you called Arizona home, and what’s your favorite thing about the community?
GST: You can say that I’m a 400th generation Arizonan. I was born on the Navajo Nation in Tuba City, Arizona, and I was a graduate of Westwood High School in Mesa. I went to school at Stanford University in California, but my husband and I moved back to Phoenix in 2014 to raise our family here. We have three small kids – our youngest just started preschool this week!
I love that Phoenix, as the fifth-largest city in the country, has a strong arts and culture scene. I serve on the board of trustees at the Heard Museum, so my family participates in many programs there – most notably the Annual World Championship Hoop Dance Contest. Also, my daughter studies ballet at the School of Ballet Arizona, where I helped found a Tribal Nations Advisory Council to engage more Native American youth in dance. My family and I also enjoy visiting so many of the family friendly locations in our city such as the Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix Zoo and Phoenix Children’s Museum.
VL: What’s your advice for someone looking to deepen their engagement in the community?
GST: My advice is to become an active citizen – attend events and meetings and participate in your community as much as your time allows. By showing up and getting to know others in your community, you will foster relationships and begin to make connections that can inspire amazing projects and collaborations. Valley Leadership is very good at bringing people together with varied skill sets that can work together on a common goal to benefit our community. Participating in a Valley Leadership development program like Catalyze, Explore or Summit would be a great first step to engaging in the community!