Explore Class 2 Final Reflection & Graduation

June 28, 2023

The second year of VL’s Explore class has wrapped! The Class 2 Explore cohort gathered in mid June for a final reflection of the program and a celebratory dinner. The day was designed to create space for the group to get creative and connect over the shared experiences.

We started our day with Charissa Lucille from Wasted Ink Zine Distro, who walked us through the history of zines (short for ‘magazines’, a DIY publication that anyone can create about anything), and then facilitated an activity where participants created their own. With an emphasis on the program themes, equity, adaptability, and interconnectedness, each participant created a short booklet documenting how they saw these themes show up throughout their travels. 

Then the cohort reflected on their big “aha moments” as a group, the things that struck them from each of the places that were visited. From the experience of a connected and powerful community, to the reality of border and water issues, art as an engagement strategy, and the impact of a story to shape the identity of a place. 

The day wrapped up with a final discussion and creation of a collaborative group zine, where each person created two pages of reflection using the prompts: “in this moment, what I’ve discovered about myself after the Explore journey is…”, and “based on what i’ve learned, what is a future version of myself doing differently?” Responses shared a common theme – a shift in how one approaches a new place with curiosity, and a desire to dig deeper to understand the complexities of community. 

The graduation dinner was an opportunity for participants to share their thoughts around connection, which surfaced as a consistent recognition of the value of connecting with their peers in the cohort. It turns out, experiencing Arizona in this way prompts incredibly long lasting connections among the group, as if they’ve opened a door in their brain that only the others in the group can understand. The Valley Leadership staff shared their appreciation for the commitment of the class participants, and their willingness to trust in the program and lean in to get as much as they could from the experiences. 

Among the themes, a sense of belonging rose to the top – a desire to belong, and a feeling that one does belong. At the conclusion of the Explore program, they were searching for a desire to be accepted and affirmed within a collective community and their space in Arizona; finding home in community and place. The cohort found that belonging through the Explore Program and with each other.

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