Explore Class 2 Visits Yuma: Community as a Strategy

April 17, 2023
Leadership LessonsPrograms

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.

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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.

Downtown Yuma, AZ

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 BoeltsFarmer, Desert Premium Farms
Paul BrierleyYuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture
Meghan ScottWater attorney at Noble Law
Abraham AndradeChicano Art Collective
Dr. Daniel CorrPresident of Arizona Western College
Reetika DhawanVice President of Workforce Development and Career & Technical Education, AWC
Lieutenant Marco SantanaLieutenant, San Luis Police
Julie EngelGreater Yuma Economic Council
Maria Del Socorro AmesOleaOPRODE Executive Director
Luis RamirezRamirez Advisors
Jenny TorresSan Luis Economic Development Manager
Nazzer Mendez4FrontEd
Chris WheelerOwner Prison Hill Restaurant
Ana PadillaYuma Art Center
Diana GomezDirector of Health Department
Johana M. MeguiArizona Western Community College
Maria GuzmanAWC Advising & Student Services Coordinator
Olivia ZepedaDistrict Governing Board Member
Jason AmonCapital Patrol Commander, Yuma County Sheriff’s Office
Kelly MilnerDetention Captain, Yuma County sheriff’s Office
Lydia ArandaDiVeritas Group and Better Futures Forward Institute
Caline GottwaldAWC GOALs Project Coordinator

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