Water Matters: A family affair

Water has been a common thread throughout Shari Carlet’s professional career and personal journey. “I grew up in the Philippines around water, I have always felt a connection to water and it has become a passion that has evolved,” Shari says. Joining the Water 101 Academy and becoming a water ambassador was a natural bridge between her vast technical background in the water sector and her desire to make a positive impact in the community. In May of 2019, Shari completed the academy and the Valley Water Board of Directors inducted her as a Water Ambassador.

The Water 101 Academy is a free Valley Water leadership program offered to Santa Clara County residents. It provides community members with the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the various water issues and challenges we face in Santa Clara County and throughout California. Participants get an inside look at Valley Water and the infrastructure needed to continuously provide safe, clean water, flood protection and environmental stewardship. To participate, residents can apply during the open application period and are then screened and selected by the board member representing their district. Board members select three participants in each district to participate in the academy each year.

“What clicked for me during the Water 101 Academy was learning about the projects and how they directly impact my community. They became personal, it wasn’t just about the environment anymore but about protecting loved ones; protecting my community,” she shared.

Shari is no stranger to community service. Before joining the academy, she helped advance several initiatives involving water conservation, stormwater harvesting programs, and green engineering projects, among others. However, she feels the Water 101 Academy provided her a platform to advance her efforts and access to resources that she can share with the community. “Some people might be intimidated by the perceived technical aspect, but if you want to support the community and you have the passion and the will, you can learn the rest,” she said.

Young Matthew Walsh keeping creeks litter-free.
Young Matthew Walsh keeping creeks litter-free.

Shari’s hard work to advance community awareness of water issues and environmental stewardship have not been a solo endeavor. “My son Matthew was four years old when he joined me for his first creek cleanup. We have been out to every National River Cleanup and Coastal Cleanup event since, as well as other efforts along trails and parks. He also came along for many of my Saturday stormwater harvesting and green engineering projects. It’s a family affair for us. It’s our bonding time but also a teaching moment,” she reflects.

Matthew Walsh is now a high school student following in his mother’s footsteps. This August, he too joined the Valley Water family as a Youth Commissioner representing District 3. “He was excited about it. He’s been doing all the fieldwork already. This is just a great opportunity to help him understand the policies, processes, and regulations around water and environmental stewardship. I think it will be a great leadership development opportunity for him as well,” Shari says.

As Shari reflects on her experience so far and the work still ahead, she believes one of the most valuable contributions water ambassadors make is the continuous engagement with the community. “Tell a family member or a friend, it starts with that and then it will trickle,” she affirms as she speaks about the ripple effect she has witnessed in her own family. They are also sharing and encouraging friends to participate and get involved. She has noticed the younger members of her family watching Matthew’s example and striving to follow in his footsteps.

“It starts at home. You do this as a family.” – Shari Carlet

Valley Water 101 Academy
You too can become a water ambassador. Applications for the next Water 101 Academy will be available in October 6, 2020. To learn more, please visit: https://www.valleywater.org/water101academy

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