By Julie Meyer Taylor
On September 22, 2016, 15 leaders of the community, including leaders from seven churches (Open Door Fellowship, Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, United Methodist Church, Royal Palm Baptist Church, Desert Christian Fellowship Church, Beatitudes Campus, and Palms Bible Fellowship Church), boarded a mini bus together to take a tour of the schools, neighborhoods, and communities within the 19 North boundaries (Montebello to Dunlap, from 15th Avenue to 23rd Avenue).
The idea for the tour arose during a meeting of the 19 North Interfaith Council, in which members discussed the need for a firsthand view and more insight into the communities they serve. The council suggested the tour to Councilman Daniel Valenzuela, who agreed to attend, and who also invited various local leaders to come along for the ride.
Councilman Valenzuela drove the bus, and shared his vision for economic development, as well as his hope for strengthening and supporting students. Lt. Charlie Consolian, Phoenix Police Department, offered his perspective as a police officer and suggested ways to help the community. He also emphasized the great need for positive mentors in the students’ lives. (If you are interested in becoming a mentor, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.) Lisa Hubbard, Neighborhood Services, discussed how important it is for everyone to play a part in neighborhood improvement. She encouraged the leaders to influence community members to make calls when they see graffiti or blight (cite page number/section for phone numbers) and to work together to make their neighborhoods safer.
The tour stopped at four schools in the area (Maryland Elementary, Royal Palm School/Arizona Cardinals Preparatory Academy, Richard E Miller Elementary, and Orangewood Elementary), and drove through the surrounding neighborhoods. Paul Stanton, Superintendent of the Washington Elementary School District (WESD), and Jill Hicks, Director of Communications and Public Engagement for WESD, shared some of the demographics for each of the schools and also discussed the unique strengths and needs of each school. David Marz, Pastor of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, said, “As we learned the needs and opportunities of our neighborhood, each stop provided an opportunity for us to specifically pray for teachers, students, and families of that community.”
This bus tour was a unique opportunity for faith and community leaders to come together. By sharing their individual perspectives, and viewing their common concerns, each leader was empowered in their efforts to better understand, lead, and serve their communities.