Explore Class 2 Visits Yuma: Community as a Strategy
Earlier this month I had the opportunity to travel to Yuma, Arizona with the Explore Class 2 participants for a weekend of learning from our program partners in Yuma and San Luis. Having the opportunity to learn how Yuma’s community has come together to solve their most pressing issues directly from the people solving them was an invaluable experience.
Right now, Yuma is tackling the water shortages that the rest of the US will have to face in the years to come. Of all of the insightful conversations I had last weekend, meeting with a farmer, water lawyer and agriculture expert at the UA Yuma Agriculture Center on the US, Mexico border truly put the reality of shared resources into perspective. Whether I was talking to economic development specialists in San Luis or exploring the Yuma Arts Center, the message I got was the same: The water feeds the land, the land feeds the community, and when the land is abundant, the community can thrive.
I walked away from Yuma with the reminder that good economic strategy does not come at the cost of community. In fact, taking the time to share resources and build relationships across ideological borders is what makes strategic action easier to take.
Yuma leaders discussed being able to send texts, knock on doors, and have honest conversations with each other about issues they were facing both in their work and their personal lives. Our group learned about what it means to innovate with integrity through stories of how they’ve worked together to create opportunities for their community.
Throughout the weekend, I noticed our program participants starting to build community with each other as well. Starting group chats, sharing meals, carpooling, having long road trip conversations. With intentionality, this group is building the trust that leads to deeper connections.
I’ve often heard that “relationships move at the speed of trust.” That the more we trust each other, the more we can engage in deeper conversations, broach difficult topics, and eventually find common ground even if we don’t agree. Intentionally building community with people from different backgrounds takes patience and vulnerability – and I saw that from each one of our program participants last weekend.
I’m excited to see how our Explore participants grow and change over the course of this program, and I hope our partners in Yuma, San Luis, and Mexico will continue to work with us to create these enriching experiences. I look forward to letting the impact of these visits shape and influence the learning experiences I will create for Valley Leadership.
Special thanks to all of our community partners who made the trip such an incredible experience.
|John Boelts||Farmer, Desert Premium Farms|
|Paul Brierley||Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture|
|Meghan Scott||Water attorney at Noble Law|
|Abraham Andrade||Chicano Art Collective|
|Dr. Daniel Corr||President of Arizona Western College|
|Reetika Dhawan||Vice President of Workforce Development and Career & Technical Education, AWC|
|Lieutenant Marco Santana||Lieutenant, San Luis Police|
|Julie Engel||Greater Yuma Economic Council|
|Maria Del Socorro AmesOlea||OPRODE Executive Director|
|Luis Ramirez||Ramirez Advisors|
|Jenny Torres||San Luis Economic Development Manager|
|Chris Wheeler||Owner Prison Hill Restaurant|
|Ana Padilla||Yuma Art Center|
|Diana Gomez||Director of Health Department|
|Johana M. Megui||Arizona Western Community College|
|Maria Guzman||AWC Advising & Student Services Coordinator|
|Olivia Zepeda||District Governing Board Member|
|Jason Amon||Capital Patrol Commander, Yuma County Sheriff’s Office|
|Kelly Milner||Detention Captain, Yuma County sheriff’s Office|
|Lydia Aranda||DiVeritas Group and Better Futures Forward Institute|
|Caline Gottwald||AWC GOALs Project Coordinator|