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Two women with strong ties to the Maryvale community in northwest Phoenix will serve as "community champions," working with faculty, staff and students of Arizona State University’s Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions on improving the lives of those residing there.
The college’s appointment of Karolina Arredondo and Rosie Espinoza as liaisons to and from Maryvale is part of a long-range plan to enhance the area’s quality of life, managed by a partnership of the college and local residents and institutions. The effort is funded by a portion of the $30 million gift to the college in 2018 from Mike and Cindy Watts, who grew up in Maryvale and for whom the college is named.
Maryvale residents confront many challenges, including lower education levels and academic test scores as well as decreased household income. The One Square Mile Initiative seeks to organize and apply the community’s many assets to help improve local life and give residents more chances to succeed.
Arredondo and Espinoza will each represent a separate square-mile area of the community.
Arredondo is the community champion for an area called the Isaac One Square Mile, named for the Isaac Elementary School District in which it is located.
Arredondo is a preschool teacher at Bret Tarver Isaac Preschool. She is experienced in coordinated outreach to the community in early childhood education, voter registration and family engagement. She has supported community outreach for Early Head Start, One Arizona, Neighborhood Ministries and the Isaac district. Arredondo also has acted as a direct liaison to the Maryvale and Isaac community, families, schools and children, which gives her deep knowledge about local education issues and culturally appropriate strategies for successful community outreach.
Espinoza is the community champion for the Cartwright One Square Mile. She is the wellness administrator for the Cartwright School District.
Espinoza is experienced in coordinated outreach to the community in wellness, health and family engagement. She grew up in Maryvale and still lives and works in the community. Her work developing, recruiting and facilitating community events in health, nutrition and physical fitness provides key expertise for the initiative. Espinoza is also a graduate student at Watts College, working toward a master’s degree in nonprofit leadership and management.
“The community champions are members of the Maryvale community through their work and life activities,” said Erik Cole, director of the Watts College’s Design Studio for Community Solutions, which is spearheading the Maryvale initiatives. “Both Karolina and Rosie have a deep passion for supporting their neighbors, and we are excited about the powerful link they provide between the Design Studio and residents and local stakeholders in each One Square Mile geography.”
Allison Mullady, the Design Studio’s program manager, agrees.
“The champions will be cultural advisers,” she said “They will be building trusted relationships with residents, faith-based groups, local businesses and schools to document the aspirations of the residents of Maryvale.”
Arredondo said she knows many young people in Maryvale and is happy to be in a position to acquaint them with university resources to help them apply for postsecondary education.
“When I was younger, we had good opportunities. Now we need the right resources to help kids today. A lot of people don’t know (the resources) are there,” she said. “I have co-workers who live in the neighborhood. One had no knowledge of what was next once her kids left high school. To have ASU have people share that knowledge with parents, it gives more students the chance to be able to go to college.”
Arredondo said the university is working with area entities such as churches, as residents might more easily reach out to their local leaders with questions or requests for information.
Espinoza said her having lived in Maryvale so long allows her to approach her new duties with a sense of pride.
“I’m very passionate about Maryvale,” she said. “I know Maryvale like the back of my hand. I feel very proud that I also get to work there. I like to think my position is a fun position.”
For Espinoza, success will come from engaging residents to build more of a connection with other like-minded individuals, as well as from encouraging conversations about things they would like to see change for the better.
“There is a lot of beautiful and positive in Maryvale. But there are other issues that, growing up and being part of the community now, I would like to see improved,” Espinoza said. “The first step is voicing those concerns and figuring out how to move forward, learning how to get something changed in your neighborhood, then asking, 'What are the next steps?'”
Espinoza said she sees the role of community champion as a great opportunity to represent both the university and community, to build trust and relationships.
“I want to let (residents) know they will actually be heard and their conversations will actually be relayed back to the university,” she said.