Throughout the pandemic, the 2020 Sherwood Trust Community Leadership Program cohort came together and met online with more than 30 community members from throughout Washington’s Walla Walla Valley. As part of the leadership program, cohort members created a community collaboration project to bolster community conversations surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Seeds planted from this broad goal grew into individual projects including community distribution of books for and about communities of color to little free libraries, public offices, and other rural locations; diversity, equity, and inclusion trainings for class members; diversity, equity, and inclusion workshop with local library system staff; and a DEI book group.
Prior to graduation, an outdoor dinner gathering was held to provide an opportunity for in-person social time and connection. The class culminated in an in-person graduation celebration, with a virtual option, so cohort members, Sherwood Trust staff, and RDI trainers could come together to summarize and process their nine months of learning.
Among many other valuable skills and tools, cohort members gained knowledge of their community, made personal connections, understood that change is possible, and learned ways to get involved to benefit the community.
As one participant articulated, “My cohort members and I had the opportunity to have difficult conversations, make mistakes and grow together. This experience brought to my attention how important DEI work is in rural communities and although the program is over, my personal DEI work is only beginning.”
Since 2004, RDI has been working with Sherwood Trust to gather and lead a diverse cohort of people from across the Walla Walla Valley to learn how to build individual and community leadership skills. Cohorts of established and emerging leaders come together to practice skills and work to improve life in the valley. Hundreds of community members from Dayton, Washington, to Milton-Freewater, Oregon, have participated in the Sherwood Trust Community Leadership Program.
Click here to learn more about Rural Community Leadership.