C2C Leadership Council Highlight: Manuel Valenzuela

Jan 4, 2023 | Cradle to Career Team, Leadership Council, News

Each month we are highlighting members of our Leadership Council and showcasing their dedication to our mission of preparing every child for success in school and life, ensuring the economic vitality of our community. This month we are highlighting Leadership Council member Manuel Valenzuela, Ed.D., the Superintendent of Sahuarita Unified School District.

How did you first become involved with the Cradle to Career Partnership (C2C)?

Throughout my superintendency, I’ve developed a strong belief in the power of finding common ground and developing strong cross-sector partnerships. Truly, I believe that we can achieve more by working together, with intentionality, than any of us can do by working alone. And, when we all work together, we all win together. We developed a cross sector partnership called Sahuarita WINS!. When I heard about C2C, I was struck by the apparent similarities in focus, and intrigued about the collective impact work that it was based on, and the possibility and promise of advancing such an effort across our entire region.

Why are community partnerships important?

By finding common ground, we advance a unified front, in terms of education, workforce development, and economic development. We leverage the points of view, needs, expertise, and skill sets of leaders and organizations from different sectors in the community. The outcome is a congruent and aligned direction plan that is intentional and mutually beneficial to each entity. And, it enriches the greater good and quality of life for the entire region. 

How has Sahuarita Unified School District (SUSD) made partnerships with the business community?

In Sahuarita, we began with a few questions. What if we could regularly convene a meeting of cross-sector leaders from education, private industry, public municipality, faith community, and nonprofit groups? What if we could intentionally share about our respective goals, work, challenges and needs? What if we could find what we have in common and work to develop and plan to share our resources, time, and talent in those areas where we find common ground? This was the birth of Sahuarita WINS! Even ten (10) years or so later, we still meet, ask these questions, and work together to advance goals that make all of us better.

Can you share a story about how community partnerships have helped SUSD?

Over the years, one neat success story has been the launch of the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI). I had a conversation about STEM education and the value of further developing academic programs with a member of our Sahuarita WINS! team from Freeport McMoran. Our discussions then expanded and yielded a shared theme about the need and value of increasing the number of Advanced Placement (AP) program offerings, and supporting student success in these college level programs. We worked together to raise the funds for launching the comprehensive program. Furthermore, we shared our collective efforts to support the program development, professional development, and comprehensive management of this effort. It was a total team effort by the Sahuarita WINS! group. We raised $1,000,000 to launch the three year program, and have continued to sustain the program goals, even several years later. In fact, we now offer about twenty-two AP courses and saw an increase of over 100% in the number of students taking and succeeding in these rigorous college level programs. 

This same spirit of finding common ground has more recently helped increase the number of dual enrollment offerings, through our efforts with Pima Community College. Furthermore, these combined efforts have helped align our program development work with the current and future needs of economic sectors that define our region and are emerging in the future. In summary, the underpinning of C2C that we can all do more by finding shared purposes, and working together to make progress, continues to drive our organizational and community culture and that is why, after many years, we remain committed to C2C and its original goals.