Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Month 21/22 of 48: VOTE!

“How do we truly affect change” is the headline looping the Times Square electronic billboard of my mind.  Each month when Jacki or I sit down to write this, there’s a theme of “oh boy the headlines just get worse” and “we are reeling from the news” and “this can’t be real.”

Well it is getting worse, we are definitely reeling, and it is more real than ever.

As I stare at the computer screen in the Philadelphia airport, after 3 hours of sleep on a red eye flight, CNN and FoxNews blare from the TVs, travelers are short-tempered, weary, and so am I.  There’s a woman sitting too close to me on this bench (I hope she reads this and scoots over).  She is inexplicably sighing, slurping coffee and blowing her nose all while she acts supremely annoyed for God knows what reason. I know that the sleep deprivation is playing tricks on my brain a little, but the oppressive feeling in this airport and throughout America is real.  Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford is about to testify, and it feels like everything that matters to so many of us hangs in the balance.  

So back to that opening question.  Change.  How do individuals participate in the political process that has powered the engine that brought us to this unthinkable destination of chaos?  

Dr. Lori Poloni-Staudinger, Associate Dean of the College of Social & Behavioral Sciences and Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Northern Arizona University, shared this with us:

 Voting is your greatest responsibility as a citizen in a democracy. In order for democracies to function, they by definition require the active participation of their citizens.  Some citizens may think their votes or their voices doesn’t matter. Every vote matters. There are ample cases where politicians have been elected with less than one percent of the vote. Your participation matters in other ways as well. Steady pressure from Arizona activists is credited with helping to save the Affordable Care Act in 2017and impacting Flake’s 11th hour call for a one week pause on the Kavanaugh vote.  As Churchill explained ‘Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all others.’  It is our responsibility to engage in this democracy if we want it to continue.”


EDUCATION.  Take the time to read and learn about the issues and the candidates.  Obviously, you want to be making the choices that fit your values and priorities.  You also want to be able to talk intelligently to those around you, especially individuals who WON’T do the reading.  This is an opportunity to change hearts and minds with the information that you learn.  Combat ignorance with facts.  There are still people out there who will hear you.  

Be sure that your news sources are legitimate (see image below courtesy of MediaBiasChart.Com 2018).  Whether it is left- or right-leaning there is an immense amount of inflammatory and false material on the Internet. Consider yourself a Woodward or Bernstein and verify your source before you take a piece of information as gospel and re-post it.

ACTIVISM:  Find your local activist group. These organizations exist under many banners throughout the United States (Together We Will, Indivisible, etc).  In Flagstaff, check out Together We Will, Northern Arizona  (note, Dr. Poloni-Staudinger is also the President of this organization).  TWWNAZ stands for equality and against sexism, racism, xenophobia, homophobia and environmental destruction. This group works to advance these goals through an intersectional approach toward activism, fundraising, dialogue and community. Participation can be as low commitment as joining a Facebook group and reading what is posted.  There are also usually rallies, specific daily/weekly actions (writing letters, making phone calls, ResistBot, etc) and other targeted to-dos that will help you find ways to get involved.  One really important thing that our local TWW is doing is creating score cards for all candidates on our ballots (see below).  Most activist groups are going through this exercise.  If you want to see the other candidates’ score cards that we will be voting on in N. Arizona, join the TWWNAZ Facebook group.  Not in Flagstaff?  Find your activist group (see above).

SCORECARD EXAMPLES (Tom O’Halleran, incumbent Democratic candidate for Arizona’s First Congressional District, and Republican challenger Wendy Rogers).



Jacki and I chatted with Ann Heitland, the Communications Chair for the Coconino County Democratic party back in August.  The overarching message from Ann and this organization is, you guessed it, get out the vote. The deadline to register to vote for the midterm elections is October 9.  Ann also suggested phone banking, canvassing, and making donations.  If you don’t relish the idea of knocking on doors or making cold calls, there are opportunities to send emails and texts as well.   For more information on opportunities with our local Democratic party visit

There is nothing more important than exercising your most basic right as a citizen of a Democracy, than casting your vote in every election that comes your way.  Our good friends at Pod Save America have provided us with a great resource: Thirty seconds and you can make sure you are registered.  Share this on your Facebook page, send it to your friends, and make sure that everyone knows their vote counts.  

According to the Pew Research Center, “A record 137.5 million Americans voted in the 2016 presidential election, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Overall voter turnout – defined as the share of adult U.S. citizens who cast ballots – was 61.4% in 2016, a share similar to 2012 but below the 63.6% who say they voted in 2008.”  In the 2014 midterm elections, “… only 38.6% of eligible voters cast a ballot… the lowest percentage in a midterm election since World War II” (  Y’all that’s a lot of people who did not vote.  We have to do better.

In addition to researching candidates, make sure you read all the mailers about ballot initiatives in your State and community.  Sometimes these may have the biggest impact on your daily lives. It’s important to educate yourself on the facts.  In Flagstaff, visit

During my three hours in the Philadelphia airport, I’ve gazed upon a giant display for the Eagles, heard the Rocky theme song, and reflected on “Brotherly Love” and the implications of that particular moniker on a day like today.  I’m now on the plane to Charlottesville to spend a few days in the American south.  It’s always an adventure and privilege to visit different parts of our beautiful country and appreciate the diversity. I think it’s important to bear witness and try and understand how we got to where we are. I am still working on opening my mind and heart to truly hear what others have to say and seek the common ground.  I vacillate between that perspective and just wanting to burn it all to the ground in a Beyonce-style feminist blaze of glory.  It’s a big topic and there’s more to come this month. 

Footnote: It’s now 6 days later, and I am back in Flagstaff.  A lot has happened with the Kavanaugh hearings and the buzz continues to get louder.. and louder… and louder.  

… to be continued.


Saturday, August 11, 2018

Month 20 of 48: BACK TO SCHOOL

Last year for Month 8, we highlighted almost every school in Flagstaff with a guest post.  You can go back on the blog and revisit this if you need some bedtime reading or are curious.  This year, we are going to keep it simple.  If you have kids, you have zero time to read a lengthy blog post. If you don’t have kids, you probably have someone in your life who won’t shut up about back to school shopping. Whoever you are, the future of our society depends on the next generation, and we all have an obligation to invest in education and care for the people we have entrusted with our future.  

We present to you….


1. BRING THE SUPPLIES.  We definitely spent a large share of our paychecks at Target and Staples this week. The lists may sound crazy and sometimes it feels like you are trying to hunt down the blood of a unicorn, but we guarantee that if it’s on there, there’s a purpose. If you don’t bring it in, the teacher may have to go without or buy out of his or her own pocket. If you simply can’t afford the supplies, don’t worry.  A kind teacher or administrator will make sure your child has what he or she needs. If you’re able, throw in a few extra vials of unicorn blood for someone who may be in need.  

2. ARIZONA PUBLIC SCHOOL TAX CREDIT.  Go ahead and make your 2018 donation, or  figure out a way to fit it into your budget for this year.  Information on this win-win program that the State of Arizona actually gets right is here.

3. VOLUNTEER. Here’s one immediate opportunity to help with the Teacher Supply Drive which benefits every school in Flagstaff. Sign up and get more information here.  Otherwise watch your school’s website and email for opportunities to share your talents and resources.

4. APPRECIATE THE SCHOOL FACULTY AND STAFF.  Bring in some coffee, bagels, chocolate, a note of gratitude, or really anything that YOU might like to receive as a thank you at your job. It is not very hard to make someone feel special and appreciated.  Find one small way to do that for the folks who care for and educate your children on a daily basis.  

5. BE A CHEERLEADER.  Listen, no school is perfect.  The first few weeks of school can be hard on kids, parents, and teachers.  Don’t get sucked into a negative vortex about the new teacher who moved to town and doesn’t seem to “get” the vibe at your kid’s school. When you’re at the back-to-school picnic or the first kid birthday party of the year, if you hear parents complaining, don’t engage. Be positive, and if you’re brave enough remind everyone that it’s early days and everyone deserves a fair shake. There are always two or three or four sides to a story, so take the gossip with a huge grain of salt.  The same goes for your kid who may hate her math teacher after two days or is hysterical about not having study hall with his best friend. This positivity may be the most important thing you can do to support your child’s school. 

6. FOR GOD’S SAKE DON’T LET YOUR KID STAY UP ALL NIGHT EATING CRAP FOOD AND PLAYING FORTNIGHT.  That’s really it.  Force some protein and maybe a banana into their bodies and take away their electronics at a reasonable hour.  Zombie kids who can’t focus or wake up in the morning make the classroom a really unpleasant place for everyone.  Remember: children from infancy to adolescents are basically terrorists.  You are going need to look yourself in the mirror and remind yourself that you are good enough, strong enough AND YOU ARE THE PARENT AND IT’S OK TO SAY NO AND ENFORCE RULES.

7. GO AHEAD AND GO BACK TO TARGET AND BRING IN MORE SUPPLIES.  For real, you will make everyone’s day if you bring in a few reams of paper, some paper towels, a pack of pencils, dry erase markers, post-it notes, etc. Really anything you’re willing to throw in your shopping cart a school can put to use.  Also before you take things to Goodwill ask around if the school can use items.  Teachers and administrators also love gift cards to Target, Amazon, pet stores, Staples, bookstores, and so on.   

8. BE KIND to the teachers, administrators, support staff, carpool lady, crossing guard, the other parents, your child (even when they are being horrible), the other children (who may seem MORE horrible than yours), your spouse (even if he/she bought the wrong binder on the 10pm Target run), your best friend (who may be on a different school schedule, who may not have kids, but she still has the wine), the checkout lady at Target, your therapist, your mailman, the bartender, and all the people who might cross your path during what can be a ridiculously stressful time. Most of all.. be kind to yourself.  Often times back to school is a complete set up to feel like a loser of a parent when your kid doesn’t have the right color folder, didn’t have time to get a haircut, or their lunch consists of a box of raisins and $5 for the vending machine.  Yes.  Be kind to yourself.

9. REALLY REALLY TRY TO BE PATIENT.  It’s hard, really hard to be patient with alllll the people that are part of this kid puzzle. Starting with your child who may take 10 minutes to put on his shoes and then may get in the car only to have to go back inside 47 times for forgotten items (only to get to school with unbrushed teeth and missing the homework).  Be patient with the school teachers and staff.  Many of them have their own children they are getting back to school, have been working 15 hours a day to prepare, and are operating on fumes as they head into day one, two, and ten.  Be patient with the parent who is driving the wrong way in the carpool line (no need to channel Mr. Mom and yell out "YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG") or who is blocking the doorway or who can’t stop posting on Facebook about the level of genius of their 5 year old (ok a private eye roll is acceptable, but don't post any snark). Practice patience in your daily life and see how it can lead you to a more peaceful state.  (Also this is probably my biggest challenge so I’m going to try and take my own advice). 

10. VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE.  Get in those primary ballots.  Register to vote.  Do your due diligence, read up, and be ready to vote out those who don’t care about children and education.  Find a way to get involved in the process. If you live in Flagstaff, be ready to support the FUSD budget override.  It’s time to say good-bye to Doug Ducey, Bob Thorpe, Sylvia Allen and all of our state elected officials who have put Arizona’s children last for so many years. Turn your attention to federal elections so we can swing the Washington pendulum back in favor of funding and supporting education in the United States.  Find your local activist group, your teacher union, your local democrats and get involved. If nothing else you need to make sure you vote.  

IN SUMMARY… bring the things, play nice with others, say “please” and ‘thank you” and take every opportunity to learn.  

Happy Back to School week!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Month 19: Plastic is the Devil

Fair warning: This post is not going to be filled with any solid scientific information. Unless you’re the President of the United States, we feel like it’s pretty universally accepted that our planetis drowning in single use plastic. You can Google the terrifying and terrible facts, or you can just decide that there are probably MANY things you can do to reduce your own plastic use. 

I think I came to this conclusion right around the time Justice Kennedy retired. Is there a lot I can do to change the fate of the Supreme Court? Probably not. So why not focus on something where I can actually make a difference. In Month 19, we’re here to bring you some armchair expert (as in, we’re not actually experts and you guys are probably far smarter than us on this topic, so please weigh in!) advice on how you can control your Supreme Court rage by getting your plastic use under control. 

One quick fact before we delve into the opinions. Plastic recycling in Flagstaff (and many other communities around the US) recently took a huge hit, because apparently China doesn’t want our crap any more ( How dare they? Similar to the Supreme Court, I probably can’t convince one of the world’s largest economies to once again take our plastic, so I decided to step up and do what I could in my own house: 

Think Ahead: This is an oldie but a goodie….put reusable bags in your car. It’s really difficult to refuse the dearth of plastic bags you’re offered on a daily basis when your reusable bags are sitting in your garage. Listen, I have dogs who poop. A lot. And sometimes I get the plastic bags to deal with that, but my dog’s poop can’t compete with the abundance of my grocery shopping (note to self: do a post on food waste), and one simply does not need that many plastic bags in their life. Your local school or daycare can also use your excess bags (if you're a parent there's no greater joy than picking up the dreaded poop bag from school).  Cristy will accept them at Haven Montessori any day of the week for the gang of potty-trainers.

Reuse: Sometimes we have to use plastic, but there’s no reason it has to be single use. I’m working on it, but I do love a Ziploc bag. My kitchen has become a giant Ziploc bag drying rack for all of the bags I wash and reuse. Those things are remarkably resilient and there’s no reason to toss them after one use.  Another idea - Cristy and I went to the Flagstaff Community Market together yesterday (listen, we do more than just drink wine together, ok?) and saw people dropping off their plastic "clam" containers (think: strawberry containers) with the various vendors.  So now that's going to be a thing too!

Refuse: I bought two books at a store today, and the clerk asked me if I wanted a bag. First, kudos to her for asking and not assuming. If you work in retail, please make this a policy at your business. Second, I was pretty tired from a rough day at the pool, but I still had the ability to carry two books without the assistance of a plastic bag. Sometimes we just say “yes” because it’s a force of habit, but learn to say no. 

Invest: When I decided to take my plastic reduction to the next level, I turned to my BFF Amazon. For $47.01 I was able to up my plastic elimination game. My favorite purchase thus far has been the mesh produce bags). I busted these out at the Flagstaff Community Market today and felt like I was single-handedly saving the planet, one zucchini at a time. This Bee’s Wrap Paper  is the bee’s knees (get it??). Use it wherever you’d normally use plastic wrap, and pat yourself on the back. Also, if you live in FLG, I recently discovered they sell it at Seasoned Kitchen, so keep that shit local. Have you heard that plastic straws are basically to the planet today what AquaNet was to the ozone layer in the 80’s? Did you know it’s possible to have a drink without a straw? If this sounds like something out of your wheelhouse (or you have kids who can’t fathom not having a straw), stock your purse or car with these stainless steel straws . I’m still figuring out the full potential of this purchase, but these reusable silicone bags have definitely saved some Ziploc bags from dying an unnecessary death in our household. 

Badger: I was so excited when Ahipoki Bowl opened in Flagstaff. Chipotle meets poke was my dream come true, until I realized they serve everything (to-go and eat-in orders) in non-recyclable plastic containers. Whomp whomp. I started low key with emails and Facebook messages. On a visit there (hey, I’m not made of steel), I asked if I could bring in my own container. Negative. But, the manager was there, and I asked him about the plastic use. I’m guessing I wasn’t the first person, but he also had no idea their containers weren’t recyclable. I don’t know if our conversation had any impact, but sometimes it pays to be the squeaky wheel. And it will break my poke-loving heart, but I’ll definitely think twice before I go there, knowing that a plastic container is my only option. 

Be Weird: We had an employee BBQ last week and I was horrified with the plastic situation. Sam’s Club size hot dog buns, in plastic bags, paired with more buns, and put in another plastic bag. So. Much. Plastic. I was the resident BBQ weirdo that gathered all of the bags and saved them for the aforementioned dog feces. Embrace your weird. 

Am I the model of plastic perfection? Absolutely not. Until someone far smarter than me invents a sustainable alternative to plastic (has this already been done??), it’s part of our everyday lives. And plastic is convenient AF. But, if we can pay attention to our usage, we can each make a small impact, and that adds up to a large impact.



Thursday, June 7, 2018

Month 18: Sun Sounds

Maybe one day on the blog Cristy and I will share the story about the time a group of friends decided to ride our bikes from my house to the Made in the Shade Beer Tasting Festival. It's only two miles. What could go wrong? Turns out, SO MUCH could go wrong. But, biking debacles aside, it doesn't change our love for this event (and you can ride the Mountain Line bus for free to the event, so leave the bikes at home). While it seems like it's just a fun day out in the sun tasting some amazing beers, many people probably don't know much about the non-profit behind this event, which we have chosen to highlight for MONTH 18. Gina Byars with Sun Sounds of Arizona is the driving force behind Made in the Shade (and now she's also in on another Cristy/Jacki favorite - Flagstaff Hullabaloo), and even though she just had one week between these two events, she took the time to share some great information Sun Sounds' important work:

{48Months}: What is the mission/purpose of Sun Sounds of Arizona? How long has it been around and how many people does it impact?

{Gina}:  Mission: Sun Sounds of Arizona provides audio access to information to people who cannot read print because they have a disability.

Vision:  Sun Sounds of Arizona will make creative use of technology and talent to ensure that every disabled person has the opportunity to access the current and local information necessary to a self-directed, productive life. As a result, the inability to read print will no longer be considered a disabling condition. Sun Sounds of Arizona will continue to be a leader in the field of information access services and a willing partner to organizations with like goals.  Sun Sounds of Arizona is innovative, committed to quality and to customer satisfaction.

Sun Sounds of Arizona has 3 affiliates: Tempe, Tucson, and Flagstaff. It began in Tempe in October 1979. It opened another affiliate in Tucson in 1985. Then, the Flagstaff affiliate opened in 1995. 

Sun Sounds reaches about 49,000 people statewide. About 3% of the population have visual disabilities. In Arizona, that means over 150,000 people could use the services of Sun Sounds. When the number of people with other disabilities that keeps them from being able to access current print material, the number easily triples.

We are always working to reach more people! 

{48Months}: What services does Sun Sounds offer?

{Gina}:  Sun Sounds of Arizona reads current print media for people with print disabilities (not just visual). We air that via special FM signal and online.
{48Months}:  Tell us about the Made in the Shade Beer Festival. How many years has it been going on? Is it your main fundraiser? How integral is it to your operations?

{Gina}: This year is the 26th annual Made in the Shade Beer Festival! This is the major fundraiser for the Flagstaff affiliate and raises almost half of the budget for the Flagstaff affiliate.
{48Months}:  We always like to tell people how they can donate time, money, or goods to an organization. If someone cannot attend Made in the Shade, how else can they get involved?

{Gina}: People can volunteer as readers/broadcasters or as board operators (on the production side of the station). To listen to what that sounds like, our signal streams online at We have volunteer opportunities with our outreach team. (We speak to various service groups, organizations, service providers to share the services we provide.) We are always looking for volunteers to help plan and organize the Festival! It's a great way to learn about event organizing on a big scale!

A few other ideas...

* Go like their Facebook page!
* Volunteer at the Beer Festival (just saw this on Facebook via Gina... "Volunteers needed! We need more people to help serve beer samples this Saturday! Go to this link to register:
Please share! (Must be 21 or over)."
*Buy your Beer Festival tickets at this link!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Month 17: LAUNCH Flagstaff

The theme of this time of year, for all school personnel and parents, is "the best of intentions."

As a school administrator, I imagine myself writing a note to every child in the school (172 of them) about how proud I am of their progress and their glorious, unique and fantastic selves. The reality is that tomorrow is the last day of school, and at this point a high five is probably the best I can muster as they skip out of the school.

As a parent? I fantasize that I am the mom that sends a handwritten note on special stationary to each of my children's teachers and administrators (I think that would be about 18 people in sum).  Attached to each lovingly and individually crafted note would be a gift card specific to the teacher's specialty.  The reality? Maybe a "Buy 6 get the 7th Free Coffee" punch card that I found in the glove box that is at the 5th punch.  True story.

Best of intentions.

My point?  It's 24 days into Month 17 and despite my best intentions of getting this up much earlier, here we are.  

If you live in Arizona, you are well-aware of how education has dominated our headlines this month. Following the lead of other states, the #RedForEd movement resulted in Arizona teachers walking out for 6 days.  The group sought not only increased pay for teachers and support staff, but also generalized increase in education funding. The movement is in response to repeated cuts to education in Arizona in 2008 that have resulted in the State ranking at the very bottom of the entire United States. The results of the walkout are mixed, but the consensus among the movement is that change has begun and will continue into the November elections.  

Education reform is a gigantic and complicated issue that warrants a 48months manifesto. Please reference "best of intentions above."

Since Jacki and I are parents, and one of us is a school administrator and Month 17 is approaching the end, the manifesto will have to wait.  However... we are happy to introduce you to an organization in Flagstaff that is deeply committed to improving the education landscape in our community:  LAUNCH Flagstaff.

We had the opportunity to exchange emails with Paul Kulpinski, the Partnership Director of the organization.  Please take the opportunity to read the below Q and A to learn more:

{48months} What is the most important thing for our community to understand about the work that LAUNCH is doing?  

{Paul} LAUNCH Flagstaff is a partnership of existing Flagstaff organizations, community leaders and interested citizens who offer established programs and services in the sectors of education, business, government, non-profit, faith-based and service organizations.  We seek to collectively advance a communitywide culture of world-class education for every child in Flagstaff from cradle through career.  Preparing our children for life-long success does not fall entirely on our teachers and education system.  We accept our responsibility as community members to support our schools in providing equitable access to a world-class education and improve outcomes for every child.

{48months} Can community members who don't work in a school get involved? How would they volunteer their time and talents?

{Paul} Yes. The scope of work for the LAUNCH Flagstaff partnership is not just K-12 or even preschool through graduate school, but from cradle through career.  At this scale, everyone has a role to play in creating a community-wide culture of world-class education.   The areas where people can focus their passion include: early childhood and school readiness, reading and literacy, mathematics, secondary education, career training, communication and advocacy, data gathering and evaluation.

The name LAUNCH is an acronym that describes how community members can get involved: Learn, Advocate, Unite, Network, Contribute, Help.  

Learn by joining our mailing list and staying informed. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to receive updates about events, meetings and critical information on issues impacting our education system.

Advocate by taking action in your circles with the information you learn. Many small changes over time will have a big impact.

Unite by sharing the mission of LAUNCH Flagstaff with your neighbors, friends and colleagues and encourage them to get involved in our work.

Network by inviting a representative of LAUNCH Flagstaff to speak with your community group about how Flagstaff can be known as a place of world-class education for every child.

Contribute your voice and perspective at one of our Community Action Network (CAN) meetings

Help ensure our sustainability by donating or volunteering your time, expertise or resources.

You can learn more at

{48months} How is LAUNCH funded?  If people were to make financial donations how would they be utilized?

{Paul} LAUNCH Flagstaff is funded through the generous support of the Arizona Community Foundation of Flagstaff, the United Way of Northern Arizona, and the Wharton Foundation.  Individual donations to LAUNCH Flagstaff may be made through the United Way of Northern Arizona with a designation for LAUNCH Flagstaff.

{48months} How do the efforts of LAUNCH support the #RedForEd movement and increases in education funding in AZ?

{Paul} World-class teachers are fundamental to a system of world-class education, therefore LAUNCH Flagstaff supports community reinvestment in our teachers and our schools.  Through seeking a permanent statewide educational funding solution, we can ensure our education system is capable of achieving world-class status.  We desire that all community sectors engage in this conversation and find the common ground that will produce the educational results we all want.

{48months}What has LAUNCH accomplished since it's inception? What do you hope to see happening during the next school year and long-term (say 5 years from now) as a result of the work LAUNCH is doing?

{Paul} Initial conversations on what is now LAUNCH Flagstaff were first held in December 2013 after the release of the Coconino County Education Report conducted by the Coconino County Superintendent of Schools and the United Way of Northern Arizona.  About two years ago the group identified five educational outcomes as focal points for our work in the greater Flagstaff area:  kindergarten readiness; 3rd grade reading proficiency; 8th grade math proficiency; high school graduation; enrollment in post-secondary education and training.  Community Action Networks (CANs) were formed of subject-matter experts on the areas of kindergarten readiness and post-secondary education which began looking at what practices were proven to improve outcomes for kids in those areas. Shortly thereafter, the partnership with initial funding from the Arizona Community Foundation of Flagstaff and the United Way of Northern Arizona hired a full-time Partnership Director to serve as a neutral facilitator of the work on behalf of the partners.

Since then we have:
  • Released our first annual Community Education Report in February 2018
  • Convened nearly 100 community members in a town hall which generated a report of finding related to Funding PreK-12 Education in Flagstaff and Arizona
  • Expanded awareness of the issues facing our educators and students through an educational documentary film series and numerous community conversations in Flagstaff and around Arizona
  • Facilitated the organization and production of a Screen-Time Symposium on the impacts of hand-held technology and social media on students
  • Created a multi-LEA (Local Education Agency) partnership of district and charter schools to collaborate on the implementation of the state Kindergarten Development Inventory
  • Increased awareness and participation in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process
  • Increased the number of Flagstaff area high-schools that offer dual-enrollment courses so students can earn college credit for free while still in high-school
  • Facilitated improved coordination between local businesses and schools to increase the opportunity for high-school students to participate in an internship
  • Expanded our collective impact to now over 50 cross-sector partner organizations
  • Developed a plan for expanding our capacity to collect and analyze local educational data to inform and support the continuous improvement of our efforts within our partner organizations

Looking forward, we intend to further build out our infrastructure capacity by hiring a Data Manager to improve our ability to produce deeper analysis of shared information from our partners and get a clearer picture of the strategies that will produce results for our kids.  We will also work to strengthen our capacity to share data across community sectors.  By doing this the Flagstaff community can be better prepared to align existing resources in ways that cultivate a communitywide system of world-class education for every child.

What this could look like 5-years from now is best described in a story.

Nicolas is a third grader this year in a Flagstaff elementary school.  Last night, his father Luis was rushed to the emergency room of the Flagstaff Medical Center with symptoms of a heart attack.  Luis’s doctors kept him overnight at the hospital for monitoring to see if surgery might be necessary.  Today at school, Nicolas had trouble concentrating on his class work and performed poorly on a quiz. Later he got into a fight with a school-yard bully. It wasn’t until he was in the principal’s office crying, that any caring adult outside of his family knew of the trauma Nicolas had been experiencing for the past 24 hours.  As adults, we can do better for the children of Flagstaff. 

Now, imagine that over time through cross-sector collaborative efforts, coordination between major organizations across community sectors has improved. New channels of communication are established between key organizations. Local data is shared with confidence and trust prompting community leaders to ask: “what if?” 

With these types of systemic improvements, today’s outcome for Nicolas and his family could be vastly improved. Because both Nicolas and his baby sister Carla were born at Flagstaff Medical Center, hospital staff there knew that Luis was their father. A hospital case worker was immediately assigned to contact Nicolas’ school to inform his teachers of the family emergency. As a result, when Nicolas arrived at school this morning, full of fears about his dad, he was greeted with the understanding smile of his teacher. She helped reassure Nicolas that she would do everything she could to make the day go smoothly. She gave Nicolas an alternate way to demonstrate his knowledge measured by the quiz, which he passed. This boosted Nicolas’ confidence so when on the playground, he was able to walk away from the bully, avoiding the trap of a fight. Later the school principal came to check-in on Nicolas. His friendly smile and reassuring hand on Nicolas’ shoulder helped Nicolas know that he and his family were not alone. On his way home from school Nicolas, still thinking about his father, was able to share a laugh with his friends and feel a little less afraid.  This is one example of what success through the collective impact facilitated by LAUNCH Flagstaff can look like. 

{48months} What else would you like for our readers to know?   

{Paul} I encourages people to read the Baseline Education report to see some of the data and the strategies we are working on.  It is available on our website at  I also invite people to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.  I also hold a monthly introductory presentation called LAUNCH 101 every third Tuesday at 4:30 to help interested people learn more and find their place in the work.  Information and registration is available at  People may also contact me directly at or 928.773.9813."

PARENTS, TEACHERS AND SCHOOL PERSONNEL:  We see you and know you are limping to the finish line.  Your best intentions are absolutely good enough.  Enjoy your summer and get ready to fight the good fight in November!


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Month 16: Flagstaff Shelter Services

You may recognize our Month 16 organization as a repeat of Month 5. The first rule of 48 months is that we make up the rules as we go, so Cristy and I had a very important meeting and decided that Flagstaff Shelter Services (FSS) is near and dear to both of our hearts, so we’re bringing it to you again!

I have volunteered for FSS’ annual fundraising event, Feast for Flagstaff, for the past four years. It has been such a rewarding and amazing experience to see the community come together to support one of our most important nonprofit organizations. Late last year I took my volunteering to a new level and proudly joined the FSS Board. What an amazing, dynamic group of individuals representing all facets of our community!

I’m slowly learning about the shelter’s day-to-day operations, and Cristy gave you a lot of the nuts and bolts in her Month 5 post. I recently had the opportunity to attend a thank you breakfast for the local churches that participate in the FSS Winter Overflow Shelter Program. Did you know that Flagstaff did not see ONE SINGLE exposure death in 2017? That incredible accomplishment is due in large part to the hard work of Executive Director Ross Altenbaugh and her team at FSS, but also to the kind hearts and open doors of our local faith community that provide overflow services at their churches.

FSS is a year-round facility and funding and donations are always necessary. Cristy wrote in the Month 5 post about how to donate time, money, and goods, and we always encourage you to make that happen. Since we are THREE DAYS away from Feast for Flagstaff, I’m going to make a pitch for this important event. A small group of volunteers (shout out to my Feast partners in crime Ross, Cristy, Tara, Helen, and Katie….and our event planning guru who makes everything beautiful, KimDuncan Design, worked tirelessly to put together a memorable and poignant evening, filled with incredible food, drinks, and music.

Feast for Flagstaff is on Friday, April 6 at 6 p.m. at Warner’s Nursery & Landscape Co. We are so grateful to our partners at Warner’s for letting us use their beautiful space. Tickets are $75 and can be purchased at

What’s a feast without food? We have an amazing lineup of local restaurants ready to serve up delicious cuisine. Bigfoot BBQ & Catering has been with us since the beginning and we are so grateful for their generosity. You know them for their BBQ, but if you haven’t had a chance to experience their catering, you’re in for a treat. Shift is a new partner this year and we could not be more excited to have them on board. I recently ate at their Chef’s Counter, and watching the owners Joe and Dara work their magic in the small kitchen is like watching a choreographed dance. I can’t wait to see what they are serving at Feast. Also new this year is Criollo Latin Kitchen, a longtime Flagstaff favorite. They take tacos to a new level and I know our Feast attendees will love this addition. New Flagstaff Pan-Asian favorite Lotus Lounge joins the fun also!  They are the newcomer in town, but we already love them and their participation in Feast makes us love them even more!  Last but not least is Mozelle’s Downtown Bakery. My work is renting space in the adjacent Click Co-Work and the smell that comes from Mozelle’s is intoxicating. I think you’ll be tempted to have dessert first.

We want everyone at Feast to have a great time, but we also want them to remember why we’re all gathered together. This year’s artistic installation is actually a live music performance by four local bands. Tiny Bird, Jasper Komassa & Donivan Berube, The Canaries, and The Tow’rs all donated their time to visit the shelter and meet with the clients. Each musician/group then developed an original song and they will perform it live at Feast!

Raffle and Silent Auction
Fifty-yard line seats to any home Chicago Bears game this season. Two seats on an 8-day Grand Canyon River trip. Tickets to the Late Late Show with James Cordon. A Sedona getaway including a stay at the Amara Resort & Spa, a Pink Jeep Tour, and a private tour at Javelina Leap Winery. This is merely a taste of the amazing raffle and Silent Auction prizes for the night. Can’t attend? Well, you’re missing out on a great event, but you don’t have to miss out on the raffle. FSS is teasing the prizes on their Facebook page, and giving everyone the opportunity to purchase raffle tickets and place silent auction bids ahead of time.

But I can’t come…
We’ll be sad to miss you, but you can still help! We need some last minute odds and ends for raffle gift baskets – wine, water bottles, to-go coffee cups, coffee gift cards, gas gift cards, any gift card from a Flagstaff business. If you want to donate something, please email Jacki at and I’ll arrange pick up!

For more information on FSS, visit