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Mila Besich-Lira (Center) with fellow graduates

Promoting Leadership in the Copper Corridor

By Guest Author

For some time, Mila Besich-Lira had heard wonderful feedback about the Hispanic Leadership Institute program offered by Valle del Sol in Phoenix.

Although Besich-Lira, who lives in Superior, was interested in attending the 10-week leadership institute, which helps individuals to develop their leadership skills in order to take a more active role in their community, she said the idea of driving once a week to the Valley or even Coolidge was a deterrent.

Thanks to the launch of the Hispanic Leadership Institute-Copper Corridor in 2015, Besich-Lira and other people who live in the region were able to take part in the program, whose mission is to promote individual development for increased participation in leadership roles at both the local level and beyond. Mila graduated from HLI-Copper Corridor in last spring.

“There is a distinct difference between leadership development in urban and rural settings, so it was great to get this program in this area,” she said.

Although she enjoyed all aspects of the program, Besich-Lira said the section on boards and commissions was an outstanding refresher course, and the discussions about the importance of self-care were especially helpful. “Taking enough time for downtime, prioritizing our time and preserving our energy really hit home for me,” she said.

David Herrera of Kearny also attended the inaugural HLI-Copper Corridor program. Although he had been politically active for years, Herrera said he had fallen away from politics. Attending the leadership institute inspired him to become more involved in his local community, as well as in Superior, where he owns property.

“HLI was a great way to learn about issues that other people have, and it gave me the chance to meet like-minded people,” he said.

Like Besich-Lira, Maria Muñoz of Hayden had heard about Valle del Sol’s solid reputation and the benefits of HLI. She too was delighted when the program came to the Copper Corridor.

“One of the reasons it is good to have HLI here is because we have such limited resources in our side of the county. I found that HLI actually helped to refocus who we are as individuals, and it gave us a better understanding of ourselves and the direction that we want to go,” she said, adding that being part of HLI-Copper Corridor helped her in both her personal and professional life.

“A lot of the people who attended were very passionate about helping in their community.”

For Mike Montiel, of Superior, attending HLI-Copper Corridor has not only helped inspire him to be more involved in his local community, the program also gave him the confidence to do so. “It is essential for residents of rural communities to have dialogues with each other; we are sometimes separated by geological features like lakes and mountains, but if we can pool our knowledge we can really make a difference,” he said.

“Now I have the confidence to speak about issues intelligently and I have ideas on how to fix them and the confidence to make the changes.”

In addition to helping to enhance his leadership skills, Montiel said another major benefit of the course was the close relationships he formed with the other people who attended.

“There are a lot of good people in small towns but we don’t always have time to get to know them. HLI was really an eye-opening experience that helped me learn what is going on in other communities.”

Herrera also enjoyed getting to know the other attendees. “I personally made some very good friends and bonded with the other people. We have all made a commitment to keep in touch,” he said.

Partners for HLI-Copper Corridor are the Copper Corridor Economic Development Coalition, Central Arizona College, and Valle del Sol.

“HLI-Copper Corridor trains individuals, fosters civic engagement, and assists participants to realize their fullest potential as community leaders,” said Carlos Galindo-Elvira, Chief Development Officer for Valle del Sol. “The practical information and hands-on experiences from HLI has been beneficial to me in being an active change maker and advocate.” Carlos graduated from the program in 2000 and formerly served as Mayor of Hayden.

Recruitment for HLI-Copper Corridor 2016 is underway with a deadline on March 21 to apply online at valledelsol.com/hlicoppercorridor.

HLI-Copper Corridor is a competitive application process open to individuals of all diverse backgrounds. The cost of tuition for HLI-Copper Corridor is $200. Sessions will begin on March 29.



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