Last spring for the first time ever, Valley Water graduated its inaugural class of Water Ambassadors, who completed the agency’s newly launched Water 101 Academy. The program gave a diverse group of 21 community ambassadors the opportunity to learn about local water issues and projects impacting our region. The goal: to empower, educate, and inspire participants to become water champions and leaders of environmental stewardship and sustainability for their own neighborhoods and communities.
Since completing the inaugural academy last spring, ambassadors have continued to be active spokespeople in their communities on water issues. Many of them have expressed strong support of the program and are encouraging others to share in the experience. With such a welcome and enthusiastic reception, Valley Water is launching its second Water 101 Academy this coming spring. Applications are now available online at valleywater.org/water101academy.
Community members who are curious can learn more about the program firsthand from our previous Water Academy graduates. We’ve had the opportunity to sit down and chat with two rock star water ambassadors about their unique experiences.
For 10 years Jenny Sant’Anna has been a disciple of water and natural resource conservation, both living it and helping businesses and employees learn how to conserve water, energy and reduce waste in her role as a sustainability consultant. Her passion for preserving our natural resources was a perfect fit for Valley Water’s Water 101 Academy.
Kristin Apple, who is also a water conservation buff, was curious to know more outside of the scope of conservation and wanted to gain knowledge on water systems. She is currently involved in starting a nonprofit organization that provides environmental education for kids, works in product quality development and security management, and has previous experience in water conservation.
Much to their surprise, both ambassadors took an interest in Valley Water’s budgeting and finance process, but for different reasons. For Jenny, the budgeting and decision-making process informed her on how to engage in conversations with the public. “The academy gave me the necessary language to explain it’s about the service, not the water. As a rate payer, it’s helpful to have that knowledge of what our rates fund and how that supports the infrastructure,” she stated.
As for Kristin, the budgeting piece provided a sense of transparency on issues that impact the health of our creeks and ecosystems, including habitat restoration, homelessness, and flood impacts and mitigation measures. “The training that was provided prior to volunteering was helpful because I was able to convey some of the challenges that the district faces like land ownership and the limitations surrounding creeks cleanup and watershed maintenance,” she shared. This knowledge was very valuable in preparing the ambassadors for volunteer roles during a series of public meetings about the Coyote Creek Flood Protection Project.
Both Jenny and Kristin had the opportunity to serve as workshop facilitators for the Coyote Creek Flood Protection Project public meetings this past summer. They shared a common goal of giving back to their communities, as Jenny had previously served as a facilitator within her own work. The role allowed her to engage with her neighbors as an extension of Valley Water, and reminded her of a sense of commitment to her community.
Kristin was curious to gather feedback and firsthand knowledge on how the projects were received by the community. She reiterated how transparency and information are essential for community projects, and how this experience highlighted Valley Water’s dedication to public outreach, but also its challenging realities. Both ambassadors urged for others to get involved as volunteers, because volunteering is an opportunity to not only give back, but to also gain insight into the community.
The completion of the academy left the ambassadors with newfound knowledge of how Valley Water works as a system, from its budgeting to ongoing projects and water issues. The program introduced volunteer opportunities and both Jenny and Kristin were grateful for the experience.
If you would like to be a part of this exciting experience and share the same opportunities, we encourage you to apply to be a part of our next cohort. The application period has launched and will close on Oct. 25, 2019. More information, including the application form, can be found at valleywater.org/water101academy.
Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us at (408) 630-2333 if you have any questions about the program or application process. Don’t miss out on this chance to be a water champion in your community!