Diversity & Inclusion Day (Pre-blog)


By Nancy Howe
Strong Cancer Recovery, 501c3

When you think of “diversity and inclusion,” do you think of hiring practices, or accessibility and the Americans with Disabilities Act, or institutional barriers like red-lining? I was in that state of mind when I met with Andi Robertson, one of the three day-chairs for next week’s session. (The other chairs are Ernie Flores and Marion Kelly.) I thought I could write a better blog if I knew the day’s objectives.

You’ll remember Andi from Day 1. Andi told one of the “impact” stories, describing how her Class 30 team transformed the yard of a dilapidated house, which is where she is now fulfilling her dream of a school to serve autistic kids like her daughter Lexie. We met at the house, where the yard is now a glorious green, with a playfully painted outdoor multipurpose space, enclosed by a new and artful fence — all built by her Scottsdale Leadership team.

Andi is not “just a mom” now, nor was she “just a mom” when she entered Class 30. She might not have had a typical Scottsdale Leadership biography, but driven by her passion as a mom, Andi had already transformed the City of Scottsdale and changed Arizona law. Lexie’s Law is now a model for parents in nearly 30 states who are seeking a quality education for their kids. Andi described how her Scottsdale Leadership Class 30 team raised more than $55,000 in donations and in-kind funds for the yard’s renovation, and then pitched-in and did the hard, sweaty work themselves.

“The work our team did is life-changing for so many,” she said. “It still blows my mind. The power of a team is insane.” After the yard’s renovation, Andi’s Scottsdale Leadership teammate Nicole Cundiff described the transformation to Executive Council, who were moved to pledge to Beyond Autism an additional $30,000 to finish the interior renovation. “Even more, I can call on any member of my Class 30 team, and I know they will be there for me. It goes beyond friendship,” said Andi.

It is the power of the team, and the devotion of teammembers to each other, that motivated Andi, Ernie, and Marion to schedule “Diversity and Inclusion” day for next week. “Diversity and Inclusion” day is intended to help each of us adopt — for one day — the perspective that the way that we see the world might be incomplete or based on a misunderstanding. Next Friday in conversations with each other, we will have the freedom to imagine new, and perhaps more accurate, explanations for the reality we experience. Surely we will meet colleagues who know different things than we do, and whose expertise is a resource we can call on.

Last year, Diversity & Inclusion day was scheduled just before the last month of Class 30. “During that day, I was able to connect with so many other amazing class-members who hadn’t been on my team and who I barely knew. I wished that it had all happened earlier, and many others did too. That’s why we are having it now, on Day 3.”

So get ready to engage with, to learn from, and to be impressed by, your Class 31 colleagues. Soon we will band together in teams that have the potential to change the lives of others. But this Friday, we may surprise ourselves as we discover how our getting-to-really-know-you conversations may transform our own lives.

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Social Services Day


By Rich Campana
Great Hearts Academies


“I am nothing without somebody and it’s the somebodies that changed my destiny.” –Ted Taylor

During our first field day of the Core Program at Scottsdale Leadership, we were brought to two little-known meccas for Social Services for our community: Paiute Neighborhood Center and Granite Reef Senior Center.

Although these centers might not be familiar to every Scottsdale resident, the impact they have on the community that utilizes their services is evident. Whether it’s the student who attends Boys & Girls Club every day, or the 98% of parents who participate in Parent/Teacher conferences at Hirsch Academy, or Frank, a Scottsdale resident who has had lunch every day for 15 years at the Senior Center – these are life-changing, life-sustaining community centers. All Scottsdale residents should not only know about these havens, but feel fortunate to live in a city that offers so many services for young and old.


“You can get everything you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want in life.” – Ted Taylor

In 2014, Arizona ranked in the Top 5 states for highest rate of “food insecure people.” Almost 8.8% of Scottsdale’s residents are not sure where they will get their next meal.

Unanimously, our Scottsdale Leadership classed asked Danny Gallenos from Vista del Camino Food Bank, “What can we do? How can we get involved? Where can I give?” Concerned Citizens are partnering with the community to take donations, create a website, add locations, donate food and raise awareness that Vista del Camino Food Bank and is here to help solve our food insecurity problem.


“Why is it so hard to trust? Even ourselves?” – Ted Taylor

In fact, why it is so hard to trust our local government? We filled eight hours learning about all the ways that the City of Scottsdale gives back to its citizens. Career centers, rent/utility assistance, homeless shelters, tax prep, Scottsdale Police Department, WIC, Meals on Wheels for seniors, Scottsdale Cares, STARS, housing rehabilitation programs…We can trust that our city is working tirelessly to care for her people.


“I’m going for gold today, coach!!” – Neal Halliham

The Adaptive Services Center is the bridge between our citizens with disabilities and programs provided by the City. They create awareness through dances, retreats, after-school and summer school programs, inclusion and accommodation services, and Special Olympics. Neal was a great reminder that we don’t need much to live life with joy.


“Do you learn more from the mountaintops or the valleys?” – Ted Taylor

Finally, our class learned about the Scottsdale Family Advocacy Center, which provides hope for residents who have been personally victimized. After a traumatic life event, this center will help guide you from reporting through recovery, rather than diverting you to different offices throughout town. They house the investigative services bureau, police crisis intervention, forensic nurse examiners, child protective services, and units for violent crimes, sex crimes, domestic violence, and gang investigation.

Police Lieutenant Joe Nichols said he struggles with the “tale of two cities,” where the exterior perception and the interior reality do not match. People assume Scottsdale is full of wealthy, prosperous citizens and that nothing bad ever happens. His stories of investigating sex trafficking was an eye-opening reminder that Scottsdale has “big city” problems as well. Thankfully, we also have services like the Scottsdale Family Advocacy Center.


Ready – Fire – Aim

If there was one message that Ted Taylor wanted us to take away from our first day in the core program, it’s this: Be a catalyst for change. Embrace both Joy and Pain. If you are ready to make a difference, don’t wait. Start today, and you can be the miracle that the world needs.

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Leadership Emerging

Cundiff_Nicole NEW

By Nicole Cundiff
Colleen’s Dream Foundation

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”
– Margaret Mead

Last week we put a bow on our Scottsdale Leadership experience. Our last class was filled with an in-depth look into not just our nine-month journey, but more importantly, into our future.

We began our day with a series of questions that required quite a bit of self-reflection.  We had to fill in the blank of various “I am” questions: “I am most resilient, hopeful and strong when I am __________.” These are questions that I wouldn’t normally evaluate, but I enjoyed taking the time to discover how I feel when I am at my best. This incredible exercise offered a deep look into our core values and challenged us to make life choices that directly or indirectly result in feeling resilient, hopeful and strong on a daily basis. We then used these values to help create a vision for our future.  We were tasked with writing letters to ourselves describing who we will be and what we will accomplish in a year from now. I loved this exercise because I am a big believer a manifestation.

When we open our letters in a year, I am excited to see how my life aligns with the vision I created last week. As a busy mom of three kids, I am work, yet fail, every day to create balance. I don’t want to miss any of their special moments, yet I have big dreams of my own. How do I achieve both? Well, the answer lies with defining my core values, making decisions that directly align with those values and setting the intention to make a difference. Sounds pretty easy, right? Probably not for someone like me, but I am up to the task and will let you know whether I was able to find balance next year.

What I found to be most powerful about the day was the push to get involved in the community and/or Scottsdale Leadership. From learning about what it means to be on a nonprofit board to speed-dating ways to get involved with Scottsdale Leadership, we were challenged to recognize the various needs in our community and to have the confidence to make it better. We have been blessed with an amazing experience and now we need to do something with it. We can’t just sit around and wait for someone to act on our behalf, but we have to be the change we want to see.

To round out the day, we had an amazing speaker discuss his leadership role in fighting for the legalization of marijuana after seeing the significant medical impact it has made in his daughter’s life. We were all in tears with his story and inspired by the action he has taken on her behalf. This is exactly the type of leader our world needs more of. We need to be bold, take risks, and most importantly, act!

Scottsdale Leadership has been a phenomenal experience. I have meet amazing people and learned quite a bit about myself and all of the amazing gems and resources that Scottsdale has to offer. I am sad to say goodbye to this experience and all my new friends, but I am so excited to see what everyone chooses to do with their experience!

Thank you to Margaret, Emily, Lindsay and so many others for making this such a meaningful year. You are making a huge impact in our community through this program and I am excited to utilize the tools you so graciously bestowed upon us.

Farewell, friends!

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Our Time to Lead

Hafer_Kevin (2)By Kevin Hafer
Henkel Consumer Goods, Inc.

After nearly 9 months of learning about the issues facing Scottsdale and about the amazing organizations that work everyday to make a positive impact on the community, on April 15th, it was time for Class 30 to present the results of the hard work the 4 teams put into their Lead it Forward projects.

Over the 5 months since our project teams were formed, the four Lead it Forward teams have dedicated thousands of volunteer hours into executing our team projects and the results of that hard work were on full display at the Lead it Forward showcase.

Here are some highlights from the four Lead it Forward project teams:

WildAbtWildlife-36Team WildThings – Partnered with Liberty Wildlife to throw the Wild about Wildlife Fun Fair, with the goal of increasing their community education outreach, increase donations, and increase volunteer opportunities for Liberty Wildlife as they get ready to move into a new facility later this year.  The results speak for themselves – the event attendance was up 10-fold over last year, generated over $20k in donations, and they set the stakeholder up for success in the future by creating a playbook for making it even a bigger success next year.  The judges also agreed as they selected this project as the winning project for Class 30 Lead it Forward.

IMG_8540Painting with the STARS –This team partnered with STARS (Scottsdale Training and Rehabilitation Services) to create an art show fundraiser to help drive exposure and donations to support the STARS “Drawn Together” arts program.   As part of the art show, art work that was created by STARS Drawn Together participants was auctioned off and a community art piece was created.  The event was a huge success with over $11k in donations(which will allow them to add ceramics to the curriculum and upgrade their photography equipment), had over 200 attendees, and reached over15,000 people with the STARS message.

GiGi's Go GettersGiGi’s Go Getters – This team partnered with GiGi’s Playhouse, which is an achievement center for individuals with Down syndrome to help increase literacy, math skills, and motor skills.  This project team worked to create an outreach and networking event called “Passport to the Playhouse”, with the goal of spreading awareness of GiGi’s in the broader community, but also to help create a network among their partner organizations from across the valley.  More than 20 organizations attended the event, and they definitely got the word out as they reached over 7,000 potential clients with the GiGi’s Playhouse message, had over 110,000 touches with #GenerationG hashtag, and earned 2 media spots on Channel 3 news and 250+ shares on Facebook

Team BeyondTeam Beyond – This team partnered with an organization called Beyond Autism to help create a new campus for their students.  Beyond Autism is a school for children that are experiencing autism, and focuses not only on teaching academics, but also sometimes overlooked critical social and life skills.  Team Beyond worked to secure over $50k in donations and volunteered over 2,000 hours to transform the run-down yard of their new campus into a safe, soothing, and fun space for the students of Beyond-Autism to swing, play, swim, garden, and learn life skills.

Two members of the class have committed to becoming board members at their Lead it Forward partner organization, others have committed to helping their events next year, and a team has signed on to help with the next phase of their stakeholder’s project because they were so impacted by the mission of the organizations.

Since one of the key benefits and goals of Scottsdale Leadership is to help it’s participants to find their passion and get involved, the ongoing commitment demonstrated by the members of Class 30 is a reflection of the success of the Scottsdale Leadership program and specifically, the Lead it Forward project.

As our classmate JheniferShipe said on the night of the Lead it Forward event, “While this was competition, we are all the true winners because we got to partner with these incredible organizations to make a true and lasting positive impact on the community”.  I couldn’t say it better myself and have heard the same sentiments from many of my classmates.  Knowing that we have given our all in the service of others is an amazing feeling and is just the start of the impact that Class 30 will make on the community in the future, because, quite simply… Class 30 Rocks!

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Will the Scottsdale Brand Continue to Adapt and Stay Relevant?

Piltz_Amanda Sue CropBy Amanda Sue Briggs
Scottsdale Area Association of Realtors

Class 30 Blog: This is a blog series about the experience and impact of Scottsdale Leadership’s Core Program. The views expressed here represent those of class members and not those of Scottsdale Leadership.

“Scottsdale would not be Scottsdale without the surrounding Valley.” That was the overwhelming theme of Beyond Scottsdale City Limits Day, held at the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. However, as became apparent throughout the panels and discussions, some aspects of the City of Scottsdale have historically been more accepting of that fact than others.

IMG_8366The Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau, led by Rachel Sacco since 1987, is an agency that helps promote the Scottsdale area as a premier tourist destination. But it wasn’t always that way. In fact, the first time the CVB suggested that multiple hotels partner with the CVB to promote Scottsdale – the destination – rather than the Scottsdale hotels, it wasn’t immediately a popular idea. But, as Ms. Sacco pointed out, “they have to come to Scottsdale first before they can book a night in a Scottsdale hotel.” That was over 20 years ago. Since then, hoteliers and resorts in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley have gladly voted to tax themselves in order to fund the CVB and its mission to promote the Scottsdale area as a premier tourist destination.

Collaboration is how the Scottsdale CVB found success when differentiating the Scottsdale area from its competitors, such as Palm Springs and even Phoenix/Tempe. “There is nothing more competitive than convincing people to come to your destination,” explained Ms. Sacco. It’s all about the brand of the destination – and the Scottsdale brand is one of the best in the world. Scottsdale only became that premier brand by its collaboration first with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa and Fort McDowell Indian Communities, then Paradise Valley in 1987, followed by Fountain Hills in 2000.

IMG_8383The tourism industry knows that Scottsdale would not be what it is today without the surrounding communities. And other cities often admit that they owe Scottsdale for some of their success. Gilbert, for example, which has passed Scottsdale in population, says that their town became “cool” because it’s “next to Scottsdale.” John Lewis, Mayor of Gilbert, said Scottsdale helps “open the door” to other Valley communities, which is a great thing for our entire region, because each community offers something unique and different.

But Scottsdale has not historically reciprocated that sense of community with our neighbors. Representatives from other neighboring communities spoke of Scottsdale’s “snobbish-ness”. They cited multiple cases, such as Scottsdale’s decision to look down its nose at the idea of connecting to nearby communities via mass transit, the fact that Scottsdale was the only city to decline the Phoenix Planning and Zoning Commission’s invite to work together, and Scottsdale’s inability to be “flexible when it comes to ideas about the future”.

Scott Smith, Interim CEO of Valley Metro, made the best case for why Scottsdale should change, be more cooperative with the region, and be more forward-thinking. One of the things keeping Scottsdale from doing things like light rail and other changes is the argument that Scottsdale has a brand to protect. The Scottsdale brand and its importance is undeniable: as Rachel Sacco from the CVB said, “it’s all about the brand”. But is keeping Scottsdale where it is – and being rigid and unaccepting of change – all for the sake of protecting its brand really the right answer?

Mr. Smith gave the example of Kodak, a company that vehemently protected its outdated brand in the midst of a changing industry. We all know what happened in Kodak’s case. Other companies chose instead to adapt their brands to stay relevant. Amazon, for example, began by only selling books, but adapted its business model to include a variety of products and consumer goods to meet the needs of its current customers as well as cultivate new ones. The result is a successful brand that is loved by fiercely loyal fans.

The Scottsdale brand is undeniably a successful and powerful image. Whether or not the brand will continue to adapt and stay relevant, well, I guess we’ll find out…

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Scottsdale Arts Culture: More than Meets the Eye

Chernhoff_Betsy CropBy Betsy Chernoff

Class 30 Blog: This is a blog series about the experience and impact of Scottsdale Leadership’s Core Program. The views expressed here represent those of class members and not those of Scottsdale Leadership.

If you were to have asked me before we started our Arts Day, “Does Scottsdale (or Arizona for that matter) have any artistic culture?” I would have easily responded with, “You mean, Wild West culture, right?” This is even coming from a Scottsdale native. So, sadly, I think this is often what most people think of when they hear “art, culture and Scottsdale,” all in the same sentence.IMG_3623

Scottsdale Leadership Class XXX got a rare opportunity to see just how diverse our arts culture truly is. To start our day, we were lucky enough to have Ocotillo (Cindy & Ro bert Leger) serenade us with everything from classical music to the Beatles.  They also took the time to answer any questions that we had, either about them or their musical aptitude. As they answered our questions, it was amazing to see just how passionate they were about music and how differently they developed that passion. Cindy came from a line of musical talent and she studied music. Robert was self-taught and came from a journalistic background. Regardless of their differences, both had a love for their music that was as easy to hear, as it was to see.

As we moved through our day, we got to listen to a panel speak about arts in Scottsdale and some of the debate that goes on. Our Moderator Robert Ledger led our panelists: Rusty Foley, Marcy Warner, Councilmember Kathy Littlefield and Lynn Trimble through difficult topics that our arts’ community is facing, like arts and their role in our children’s education.  It was clear, that every single person on this panel was fiercely dedicated to the arts and their role in our community.

Next we had the opportunity to see a live dance performance from Pilabolus. I must admit, dancing isn’t necessarily my favorite form of art, but this group immediately removed my apprehensions and made me an instant fan! Their dances got the entire crowd thinking, enjoying and feeling emotions, all from shaking their tale feathers. It was most certainly a site to enjoy and to watch.

IMG_3625Our final activity (and the one I most looked forward to) centered on Cosanti and the Poalo Soleri studio tour.  Seeing his artwork and understanding the man behind the ideas was a phenomenal treat for me. I’ve long been an admirer of his work, so this tour had a very special place in my heart. Getting the opportunity to learn about his residence and how he constructed the different, circular concrete structures, bells and other pieces of artwork were unbelievably fascinating. Getting the experience to see his work, his office and his personal swimming pool was also a unique experience that I will treasure. While I had some experience with Arcosanti before this visit, I quickly learned that Paolo had many unique ideas, and that Arcosanti was merely one of them. His belief in arcology (architecture and ecology) will continue to live on, thanks in part to Cosanti’s continuation of his bells.

Our day experiencing some of what Scottsdale has to offer us in art was educational, fun and beautiful. The opportunity to ask questions, dive further into the experiences and understand how our community plays a part in the continuation of arts in Scottsdale was something that the whole class seemed to take with them as the left for the day. It was truly something to be in awe of.

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We MUST take time to care for ourselves!

Cundiff_Nicole NEWBy Nicole Cundiff
Colleen’s Dream

Class 30 Blog: This is a blog series about the experience and impact of Scottsdale Leadership’s Core Program. The views expressed here represent those of class members and not those of Scottsdale Leadership.

Thomas Edison said, “The doctor of the future will give no medicine but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.”

Last Friday’s Health Care Day at the beautiful Shea Campus of HonorHealth was very interesting.  It was clear that the event Chairs put a lot of thought into our experience. Thank you, Lindsey, Alice and Maire!

Healthcare has become a polarizing issue in our country, so I will focus on the one thing that most of us can agree on: taking good care of our bodies results in not only a happier and healthier life, but, a thicker wallet!  No complaints here!

One of the primary messages of the day was how to improve our own health.  You would think a hospital would want us to get sick so they could treat us.  Wrong.  One of HonorHealth’s initiatives is to empower citizens to take better care of themselves!  In essence, they don’t want us to have to visit their hospital and the culture they are creating in this regard is pretty great.  Not only is the patient at the center of everything they do, but they want to decrease the amount of time a patient spends in their hospital.  Annual check ups with a primary care physician are a primary factor in realizing this goal.  To this end, HonorHealth is vertically integrating health care and creating a system where a patient’s care is covered on every end of the spectrum from the primary care physician to hospice.  They are not only increasing collaboration and improving communication, but also helping the patients to empower themselves.  In this spirit, HonorHealth offers a Body, Mind and Spirit Program to any patient who has been diagnosed with cancer, even if they haven’t been treated by the Virginia Piper Cancer Center.  This is the type of forward thinking that has helped HonorHealth to become a “top 100 large hospital in the USA.”

Throughout the day, we discussed everything from improving our nutrition to getting enough exercise. In order to live healthier lives, one of our speakers referred to the Blue Zones, which are places in the world where people are living longer than anyone else on the planet.  For example, “people on a tiny Aegean island live eight years longer than Americans do. They experience 20% less cancer, half the rate of heart disease, and almost no dementia.”  What are they doing differently?  According to my good friend, Wikipedia, people living in Blue Zones share the following characteristics:

  • Family – put ahead of other concerns
  • Less smoking
  • Semi-vegetarianism – except for the Sardinian diet, the majority of food consumed is derived from plants
  • Constant moderate physical activity – an inseparable part of life
  • Social engagement – people of all ages are socially active and integrated into their communities
  • Legumes – commonly consumed

IMG_8043For some reason, Americans seem to have a tough time with these.  Why do you think that is?  It seems so simple.  All I can think is that we are all too engaged in the hustle and bustle of moving up the corporate ladder while trying to also take care of our families, all with a smartphone in our hand.  Rarely do we take the time to disconnect and focus on the people sitting right in front of us.  The end result is not only hurting our relationships, but our bodies pay the ultimate price.  We do not take time to take care of ourselves.  Workouts are skipped, or non-existent, and running through the fast food drive thru to feed our family can become routine.  This has to stop!  It’s time to be kind and respectful to our bodies!  Our long-term health, and that of our spouses and children depend on it!

All in all, I think the messages we heard from the various speakers incorporated the Blue Zone characteristics in one way or another.  HonorHealth has metrics showing the longevity of remission for cancer survivors who participate in their support groups and services versus those who don’t.  Having a community of people to support you, in addition to eating well and engaging in physical activity, helps to reduce stress, which in turn reduces inflammation (a suspected precursor to cancer).

IMG_8047Speaking of cancer, the talk by Dr. Northfelt, a breast cancer oncologist from Mayo Clinic Arizona, really hit home for me.   I lost my mom to ovarian cancer and I have dedicated my life to finding an early detection tool (there isn’t one – know the signs, ladies!) so my ears really perked up during this segment.  I loved hearing about the Mayo Clinic’s and HonorHealth’s focus on finding an early detection tool for cancers that don’t have one.  The research in this realm is fascinating and we are fortunate to live in a place that houses institutions that are at the forefront of cancer research.  Many amazing discoveries have come from TGEN, Mayo Clinic, and HonorHealth.  Right now, these institutions are working hard to break down our cells (DNA/RNA) to a molecular level in an effort to detect cancer when it is most treatable.  There are so many molecules in the human body and they are sifting through them all in order to save lives!  In my opinion, the cancers that desperately need an early detection tool right now are pancreatic, lung and ovarian cancer.  These diseases are rarely caught early so the mortality rates are staggeringly high.  While there is a lot of work to be done to cure cancer in general, prevention and early detection are our best tools we have in the fight.

We are very blessed to live in a city that not only has such outstanding health care choices, but world class research happening.  As we move about our daily lives, I hope we take Friday’s key messages with us and make better decisions in our lives so that Scottsdale can add “Blue Zone” to its amazing list of health care accolades!

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