On October 10, I attended the Solutions to Actions: Dive into Discovery event in DeSoto County. The event was a follow-up to 15 in-person community conversations conducted by The Patterson Foundation's Aspirations to Actions team with 427 residents. Following the conversations, TPF synthesized the listening into eight emerging themes.

The purpose of Solutions to Actions: Dive into Discovery was to update the community on the listening results, further connect residents with each other, showcase community organizations and resources, deepen learning about the eight themes, and organize interest around working on specific themes.

The eight themes are:

  1. Beautification of Arcadia (DeSoto County)
  2. A safe and peaceful Arcadia and DeSoto County
  3. Nonprofit, business, resident, and economic opportunities to support DeSoto County
  4. Technology/digital access for all
  5. Fun, family-friendly events with sustainability
  6. Preserve the historical essence of the community and grow with thoughtful, engaged planning
  7. Support advanced focus on education enhancement
  8. Reconnect with students, parents, teachers, and administration for educational support

While at the event, one of my roles was staffing the registration table. This was a fantastic opportunity to meet many of the 350 attendees and representatives from 50 community organizations as they entered the event.

It was also a terrific opportunity to get to know a DeSoto County High School senior volunteering at the registration table. I was so impressed with this student – the fact that they were choosing to volunteer, the calmness and confidence with which they approached their role at the registration table, and as I got to know them, their thoughtfulness around their experience at DeSoto County High School and intentionality about their next steps post-graduation. I learned about how, through a dual-enrollment program, they’ll be graduating from high school with an associate degree, looking at multiple Florida-based university options to pursue a nursing degree, and, at the same time, planning to earn their real estate license.

I wasn’t surprised by how impressed I was with this student. Indeed, as a former teacher and former program director for a youth leadership organization, I know firsthand how thoughtful and skilled young people are. What struck me about the conversation is how much of an asset this student is to their community and how so many existing assets within the community have nourished them on their academic and professional journey thus far.

This struck me as an important reminder about the philosophy behind our Aspirations to Actions work in DeSoto. Rooted in training from The Harwood Institute, the philosophy is that by beginning with shared aspirations instead of shared challenges, we cultivate positivity, increase clarity about what we’re trying to accomplish, and inspire hope. At the core of this philosophy is an asset-based approach that compels us to identify and invest in existing assets. As we move forward with the work in DeSoto, I look forward to learning from and partnering with incredible community assets like the high school senior I got to know at the registration table. I can’t wait to see what we can all accomplish together.


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