Tag Archives: STARS

Right Here, In Our Own Backyard!

Griffiths_Gina HeadshotBy Gina Griffiths

Class 29 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.

Class 29 embarked on our first full day of the Core Program with a little bit of uncertainty and a lot of enthusiasm. Our focus for Day One was Community Stewardship and Sustainability. This was a fantastic way to start the program year!  We were able to learn from community leaders and see examples of what can be done, often with only will and determination in the beginning. Who knew all of this was right here?

IMG_5354We began our adventure exploring the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. I had no idea this hidden gem was right in ourbackyard!  Mike Nolan (Class 27), Executive Director, shared the history of the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy (MSC); a group of dedicated citizens knew that Scottsdale had to protect this beautiful asset to the community. They rallied the greater community to come together and support this initiative. They have worked tirelessly for over 2 decades and MSC currently protects well over 30,000 acres. This is one of the largest urban preserves in the country! They utilize almost 600 volunteers and have identified 743 different plants and animals!  Without the forward thinking of the founders, this amazing area would not be available for urban visitors to connect with nature.

IMG_5394Next, we visited an exceptional nonprofit, Scottsdale Training and Rehabilitation Services or STARS (I have to admit, I’m a little biased about STARS because I’m fortunate enough to be their Program Director).  We heard from the esteemed Mary King; Mary founded STARS, along with a committed group of parents, by identifying a need for services for adult children with special needs in Scottsdale. Mary has been an active community advocate all of her life and is the epitome of how to find resources and get things done. For over 41 years, STARS has been improving the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities through day programs, vocational programs and a transitions program.  On any given day, we serve over 200 teens and adults on our two campuses and in the community. And throughout the visit, I heard several long-time Scottsdale residents say “I had no idea this was here!”

Community stewardship sounds rather big and intimidating, but we learned that fine examples of community stewardship are thriving all around us.  The common theme to finding success is people.  When any one of us identifies a need, we can rally the troops and make sustainable change.  It’s not easy, but with effort and determination, we really can change the world, starting in our own backyard.  At the end of the day, I felt grateful to be a part of a community that has a strong foundation built that will help foster it into the future.



Filed under Class, Community, Leadership

When You See Opportunity – Seize It

Davis_MikeMike Davis, Class 28
DMB Associates, Inc.

Class 28 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. 

On Community Stewardship Day, Scottsdale Leadership Class 28 experienced several amazing examples of community stewardship.  Each example carried a common theme – a recognized need leads to an opportunity.  What was unique about this class was the opportunity for us to witness community stewardship through several different pairs of eyes.

PreserveOur day began at the McDowell Sonoran Preserve – a beautiful 27,800 acres of preserved land in the McDowell Mountains.  We learned about the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy which seized the opportunity to secure the Preserve for the benefit of the community and where 400 volunteers help to provide public access to the Preserve, protect the Preserve through research and stewardship and increase the community’s understanding and appreciation of the Preserve through educational programs and community events. We then walked one of the nature trails, escorted by volunteer guides.

Mary KingNext, we traveled to STARS where keynote speaker, Mary King, shared her thoughtful story on her inspiration to get involved.  She hadn’t planned to be involved in serving those with developmental disabilities – but she seized the opportunity when she recognized the need.  We toured the campus and saw countless examples of stewardship through the life changing work that the staff at STARS does every day.


Lastly, we saw practical community stewardship in an impassioned debate regarding the 2013 City of Scottsdale Bond Election.  Bothsides were represented – those for the bond, and against.  Each side made compelling arguments for their position, encouraging us, as members of Scottsdale Leadership, to make up our own minds.

Community Stewardship day showed me that there are many opportunities to participate, Mary King inspired me to seize those opportunities.

I am passionate about mentoring, and I expect to find an opportunity to serve as a mentor, possibly on the board of an institution providing mentoring services.  So now I’d like to hear from you … given your passion, what do you think your opportunity will be and how do you think you’ll get involved?


Filed under Class, Community, Leadership

Can you see the STARS in Scottsdale?

Teshara Boston, MBA
Scottsdale Leadership, Class 26

This last April, I had the pleasure of volunteering at the 39th Annual Fiesta de las Madrinas hosted by STARS – Scottsdale Training and Rehabilitation Services. Fiesta de las Madrinas means “Party of the God Mothers.”

Since 1973, STARS has provided services for individuals with developmental and cognitive disabilities from Scottsdale and throughout the metro-Phoenix area. They serve nearly 200 people EVERY single day and host community workshops and provide social events for the participants and their families. The organization serves a range of ages from teens 15+ all the way up to the age of 75 year old individuals. Recently STARS had funding cut by the government but is still being mandated by law to provide the same level of services despite funding decreases.

Picture of the Wine Glass Markers the STARS participants created to raise funds for their organization.

Fiesta de las Madrinas is necessary to raise funds so that STARS can maintain the level of service they have to provide.  At the event several featured items that earned big returns are the wine glass markers that the participant’s hand made! Since they have some form of disability, the wine markers provided a great way to use the skills they have learned to make a beautiful, personalized message that just because they are handicapped, they are still talented and capable of great things!

This organization is one of personal importance to me. My mother was a teacher of the severe and profoundly handicapped at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Norfolk, VA. Growing up, I would go with her to work and at a very young age I had a compassion and understanding of the physical challenges handicapped persons can face. My mother taught me that patience and positive reinforcement is the key to being a change maker in the lives of those faced with physical and mental disabilities. I also have a cousin that was injured in a terrible car accident. I have seen the care and rehabilitation he has received over the past 10+ years bring him back to functioning and thriving status.

It is a special mission to uplift and encourage those that are not in main stream society. STARS’ mission is to improve the lives of individuals with developmental and cognitive disabilities. They also provide employment services and participants receive assessment, training and employment opportunities throughout the community. STARS provide businesses with product assembly, labeling, sorting, collating, packaging, disassembly, and kitting. Day programs, Creative Arts, Photography Program, and Music Therapy are also provided by STARS to encourage and promote social skills and creative thinking for participants. This assists in communication skills and gaining self-esteem, independence, and self-expression.

It was my pleasure to serve my community at this worthwhile and wonderful event. I am honored to have the opportunity to help the STARS organization in their mission to serve the Scottsdale and Phoenix-metro area.

Leave a comment

Filed under Community, Leadership

Principles for Civil Dialogue

Cynthia Wenström, MBA/GM, Class XXV
Faculty, University of Phoenix

It was 8 months ago when Class 25 Day Chairs, Virginia Korte (Class 3) and Rob Millar (Class 17) introduced the topic of civil discourse. The impetus of the topic was an ‘unruly discussion’ between two Tucson-area politicians making headlines at that time.

The lively afternoon produced a first pass at the ‘Code of Civility’ and a team volunteered to move the project forward. The following day, January 8th, Senator Gabriel Giffords was shot and the need for civil discourse really rang close to home. The event seemed a clear signal to move forward with the initial class-day work effort.

Fast forward to May 2011 and the project resumed, put on hold due to the rigors of Class 25’s Pay It Forward projects and twice-monthly class days. The civility team now consists of several Class 25 and Class 24 alumni, as well as Chris Irish, Executive Director.

With diligent work, the original ‘Code’ was rewritten, removing references to ‘code’ or ‘oath’ and was condensed. More importantly, the team’s Principles for Civil Dialogue was unveiled to Scottsdale Leadership’s Board of Directors at the August 2011 Board meeting, passing unanimously for adoption by the organization. The Principles will appear on the website, the blog and in literature with the Mission Statement and other core values of the organization.

Principles for Civil Dialogue

As a member of the Scottsdale community, I will:
Genuinely listen, Speak respectfully and Be accountable for my words and actions.

‘Genuinely listen’ means I will listen for the purpose of understanding the speaker’s point of view, without prejudging whether that point of view is right or wrong.

‘Speak respectfully’ means I will voice my point of view calmly and respectfully without losing the passion of my position and commitment, discussing the issues without personal criticisms.

‘Being accountable’ means I accept responsibility for my words and actions.


Presenting the Principles for Civil Dialogue to other Scottsdale organizations is the next milestone, while growing the enthusiasm for the Principles organically. As energy continues to build on this initiative, the ultimate goal is presenting the Principles to the Scottsdale City Council for adoption.

Leave a comment

Filed under Alumni, Community, Leadership, News

You’re not too busy

Katy ReeveKaty Reeve, Class XXII
STARS, Development Associate & Volunteer Coordinator

Something that drives me crazy is the response, “I’m just so busy,” when asked about doing more for someone/something in need. Everyone makes time for what is important and everyone is busy. In my nonprofit career, along with my professional and personal development, I have the privilege of knowing some amazing individuals. These are people who have never uttered the phrase, “I’m just too busy.”

They are parents of seven children who start a nonprofit after their fifth child is born with Down syndrome because they want to help other new parents of babies with Down syndrome. They are marathon runners, cancer survivors, single mothers and volunteers…all at the same time. These are real and amazing people.

Then there is one woman who always amazes me. To call her inspiring isn’t enough, but I don’t know what else to call her.

Stephanie Kundin-Krinetz is beautiful, young, a successful business professional, a mother of two little boys and she is an avid runner. While these are impressive stats, they are not what makes me stop and reevaluate my own purpose.

I met Stephanie through her involvement with STARS’ board of directors. She also gives unselfishly of her time and talents to several other organizations in our community. Stephanie is someone who follows through, is reliable and dedicated. She is that board member who responds to emails in the middle of the night. She keeps her promises and her word means so much to those around her. But, while she was doing all of these things, Stephanie was battling a serious illness.

This amazing young leader was told, at 28 years old, that she would need a kidney transplant one day. In the time I have known Stephanie, she has had a few “almost” transplants. I think everyone around her showed much greater disappointment than she ever did. A simple post on Facebook to let everyone know the surgery was called off, with an optimistic tone, was all I saw. On one occasion, Stephanie actually brought someone to tour STARS because “I didn’t have anything else scheduled,” after her transplant surgery was cancelled. Finally, in spring of 2011, she received her pancreas and kidney transplant surgery.

There isn’t one thing that makes Stephanie something we should all strive to become; it is that she is so many things in one.

In the words of this amazing woman: “I always ask myself, ‘If service is the rent you pay for your existence on this earth, are you behind in your rent?’ My answer: ‘Never have been and never will be.’”

I hope others will evaluate their use of the term “busy” the next time someone asks for help. If we are fortunate enough to be in a position of helping, rather than asking for help, we should always take care to not get behind on our rent.


Filed under Community, Leadership

Scottsdale Leadership does make a difference!

Karolyn KiburzKarolyn Kiburz, CMP, Class XXIII
President, Meetings & Concierges Source, LLC

This blog is part of a series from alumni about their experience in Scottsdale Leadership. Scottsdale Leadership is currently recruiting participants for Class 26. Visit scottsdaleleadership.org for details.

I graduated from Scottsdale Leadership in May 2009. It was such a fantastic experience that I chose to stay involved with the organization. I’ve have served on a couple of committees and will serve on the Board of Directors in 2011-12.

This year Scottsdale Leadership celebrates their 25th anniversary.  The celebration was held on April 14 with Kurt Warner as the keynote speaker and a joint $25,000 gift to the community by Scottsdale Leadership and the Kurt Warner’s First Things First Foundation. The gift was shared by STARS and The Best Buddies program. The event was one of the organization’s highlights. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for Leadership and the community in the next 25 years!

Kim Conway-Edwards was the alum that inspired me to be a part of Scottsdale Leadership. I have worked with Kim on a professional level since 2000 and we became fast friends. Since I the first time I met her, she encouraged me to apply for Scottsdale Leadership but the timing was never right.  However, she never gave up!

Kim is a true example of the type of leader the community needs. She possesses incredible ethics, has high standards and makes a difference in the activities she’s involved in.  She also encourages others to do the same and give back to the community.

I’m thrilled to be a part of Scottsdale Leadership and cherish the experiences and friendships I have made since becoming involved.

I’ve grown as a community steward too!

Leave a comment

Filed under Alumni, Leadership

A Leader Who Inspired

By Bill Spain, Class 10
Owner and CEO of Provident Partners Companies

This blog is part of a series from alumni about their experience in Scottsdale Leadership. Scottsdale Leadership is currently recruiting participants for Class 26. Visit scottsdaleleadership.org for details.

It seems hard to believe that fifteen years has gone by since Class 10 graduated from Scottsdale Leadership.  So much has happened within our community to substantiate the continued need for such a worthwhile program. When I look back at the Leadership experience, I recall many fond memories of numerous community leaders giving of their time and talents to benefit Scottsdale and help keep it a special place to live and work. The experience helped open my eyes to the huge opportunities we have to contribute to the betterment of our local community.

At that time I was working round the clock as a Vice-President for Robinsons Department Stores and Manager of the Scottsdale Fashion Square Store. Sixty hour work weeks were the norm and when adding the social responsibilities of the position there was rarely time for anything other than work.

When a good friend and local activist, Bill Heckman, recommended that I commit myself to the Scottsdale Leadership program, I did so not knowing that it would have a major impact on my life.  I met many truly wonderful, civic minded, concerned and involved citizens during the nine month program. I began to look forward to the classes knowing that I would be learning, experiencing so many new things and meeting unique people who invest themselves in community stewardship.

Human and Social Services day was an eye opener for me.  The day chair was Eileen Rogers; a women of such intense compassion and warmth that her very presence and personal belief in helping others and making a difference was mesmerizing. As she guided class 10 through the maze of needs, services and hopes of non profits, the senior center and finally the Scottsdale Foundation for the Handicapped, now called STARS, many of my classmates became enamored with her grace and style, and the manner in which she presented the various opportunities where people could help or contribute their time, talents or financial assistance.

Personally, this was a turning point in my life and Eileen Rogers was the inspiration I needed to make difficult career decisions. After Eileen’s presentation at the Scottsdale Foundation for the Handicapped, I approached her and asked how I could help, how I could make a difference and if I could work with her in some way. She invited me to participate in many projects the following year including becoming a co-chair with her of the Human and Social Services Day for Scottsdale Leadership the following year.  She encouraged me to follow my heart and contribute my time to an organization that I felt connected with. In turn, I joined the Board of Directors of the Scottsdale Foundation for the Handicapped and within a few years served as their President. Fifteen years later, I still contribute to STARS as a past-president and now a Los Padrinos, (Godfather) for their advisory board.

When an opportunity to help guide STARS through a tough financial time arose, Eileen suggested that I consider taking a position with the non-profit, leaving a 25 year career in retail.  I actually did so, in part because of her strength of conviction and an opportunity to put my business skills to use helping a non-profit survive lean times. She helped focus my life in a very positive direction with her keen sense of purpose and dedication to helping others.

Eileen Rogers is a “gem” to many non-profits, boards, commissions and agencies who have had the luck to work with her. She has earned numerous awards and recognition for her continuous efforts to help others, both here and abroad…even as far as Africa. Eileen has been recognized as a true leader in every sense of the word. She is even an Athena Award winner. She deserves each and every one of these accolades and more.  However, when I think back, fifteen years ago, to the moment when Eileen Rogers entered my life, during Human and Social Services day, I can only count my blessings and be thankful for the opportunity the Scottsdale Leadership experience afforded me.  I met a woman who has become a dear friend and continues to be an inspiration to me and so many others.

1 Comment

Filed under Alumni, Community, Leadership

Taking pride in Community Leadership

Cindy SlickCindy Slick, Class 4
Retired, APS

Scottsdale certainly had a different feel in 1990, the year of my participation in Scottsdale Leadership Class IV.  But having lived in this beautiful city since the late 50’s, I have seen every decade bring more residents, business challenges, expanded government, school district growth, environmental concerns, increased needs for health and human services and an ever blossoming arts and cultural awareness.

What better forum to dig deeper and learn more about all of these issues, than Scottsdale Leadership?  I still remember the excitement I felt when I found that I had been chosen to be a class member.  I had read an article about the organization in the Scottsdale Daily Progress (our long gone hometown newspaper) and filled out the application.  At the time, my job at APS had nothing to do with being community minded and I feared that if I was selected that I would not be able to get the time off to participate as Scottsdale Leadership held class every other Friday.  But, as they say, all of that is history.

I credit Scottsdale Leadership with the beginning of my career change; APS certainly did support my membership (and many other employees thereafter) and I went on to become the Community Relations Manager.  I just retired after a 31 year career with APS.  Scottsdale Leadership was the perfect training ground for my new job and for getting involved in the community.  I soaked up as much information as I could from each class day but more importantly, I learned so much from my fellow class members.

After graduating from Scottsdale Leadership I served two terms on its Board of Directors and was privileged to attend many National Leadership conferences.  I was so proud to note that Scottsdale Leadership was always one of the best examples of what a leadership organization should be.  In the early 90’s we were one of the first nationally to move away from training a hierarchical style of leadership and began to model servant leadership.  This approach, which includes self discovery and a desire to serve others, certainly enhanced my growth as a leader.

It enabled me give back to many organizations over the years – Scottsdale/Paradise Valley YMCA, ASU Sun Angel Foundation, Fiesta Bowl committee and the Paradise Valley Hospital.

Servant leadership was also alive and well on the board of Community Celebrating Diversity (CCD), where I had the pleasure of serving from 1998 – 2008. We took what started as a breakfast attended by about 35 people to what is now one of the premier events in Scottsdale honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Nearly all of the board members of this organization are Scottsdale Leadership graduates and I always list this as a proud community leadership accomplishment.

Congratulations to all of my fellow graduates and to a remarkable organization on this 25th anniversary.  I will be forever grateful for the difference Scottsdale Leadership made in my life and the lives of so many others.


Scottsdale Leadership is celebrating 25 years of developing community leaders. NFL all-star Kurt Warner will serve as keynote speaker at its 25th Anniversary celebration event on April 14. A $25,000 Gift to the Community will be split between Scottsdale Training and Rehabilitation Services (STARS) and Best Buddies Program in Scottsdale. Tickets and information available by calling 480-627-6710 or online at scottsdaleleadership.org.

Leave a comment

Filed under Alumni, Community, Leadership

Leadership Spotlight – Katy Kelewae, Class XXII

Katy Kelewae STARSThis blog is forth in a series from alumni about their experience in Scottsdale Leadership. Katy Kelewae is a graduate of Class XXII and the Development Associate & Volunteer Coordinator for STARS. Scottsdale Leadership is currently recruiting participants for Class 26. Visit scottsdaleleadership.org for details.

Katy Kelewae, Class 22
STARS, Development Associate & Volunteer Coordinator

Community Involvement: ASU Lodestar’s Generation Next Nonprofit Leadership Academy, Class 3; Kent State University Phoenix Alumni Chapter Co-Chair; Scottsdale Leadership, PR & Marketing Committee member

How has Scottsdale Leadership enhanced your community involvement? Scottsdale Leadership enhanced my community involvement in many ways – too many to list. Without the community knowledge I gained through Scottsdale Leadership, I would have never been able to know where I wanted to make a difference. Without Scottsdale Leadership, I would not have known the needs of the community, priorities of citizens, or where to go to learn more.

What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned and how did you learn it? The most important leadership lesson I learned was that true leaders will, at some point, have to do what isn’t popular, what is unpleasant, and may suffer personally as a result. But, that true leaders will make the right decision because it is the right thing to do. I learned this by meeting Jim Bruner and hearing about his past and experiences.

If you could solve any community issue or need, what would it be? If I could fix any community issue, it would be getting community leaders and passionate members of the community to communicate with respect. Passion is wonderful to have, but when it gets in your way of communicating with respect and understanding, decisions seemed forced on the opposition and divisions widen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Alumni Spotlight

Seeing the big picture is hard – but necessary

By Katy Kelewae, Class 22
STARS, Development Associate & Volunteer Coordinator

Looking at a present situation and deciding to take a leadership role in wherever your passion lies may seem daunting task. It is often hard, if not impossible, to visualize what the end result may look like. I am fortunate enough to know one amazing individual who took her passion from the very starting point to what is today the non-profit, Scottsdale Training and Rehabilitation Services or STARS.

Mary King had just moved to Scottsdale, in 1973 and was working part time in the City Manager’s office. She was given the task of researching what programs and services were available to adults with intellectual disabilities in the Scottsdale area. She found none. With the support of Scottsdale elected officials, including Mayor Herb Drinkwater, Mary began to pull together other passionate individuals and groups who all wanted the same result – employment opportunities for adults with intellectual disabilities.

For the past 38 years, Mary has stayed by STARS’ side through many changes including adopting the name STARS, the opening of new facilities and the closing of others. If asked in 1973 if she thought one project at her part time job would change the lives of so many people, she probably would have said “no.” Mary saw an underserved population, knew that something had to be done to make their lives better, and kept going by taking it one day, task, challenge at a time. Today, STARS serves 180 adults with intellectual disabilities and their family’s everyday because of her dedication and focus.

Looking into 2011 and beyond, we see others setting a course for the future of STARS, a future that may not be fully realized for years. In 1973 the shift for individuals with disabilities was from institutionalization, to programs and services. Today, the shift is from sheltered employment to full integration into the community. Scottsdale Unified School District took a big step in 2010 towards creating the next phase of services for individuals with intellectual disabilities by partnering with STARS and creating the Cholla Special Needs Community Campus. Companies such as Fry’s and Scottsdale Healthcare are leading the way locally by creating the employment future for adults with disabilities along with STARS and others who continue onward by taking it one day at a time.

One person was able to look ahead and take action, where do you think you can make a difference?

1 Comment

Filed under Community, Leadership