By Eddie Campos
The month of January has shaped up to be unlike any month I have experienced while growing up in the Eagle River Valley since the late 90s. This past month I have seen first-hand one of the valley’s most influential organizations show enormous displays of courage. Our team at Mountain Recreation embarked on a mission of belonging. In doing so, I witnessed over twenty of our full-time staff place their trust, invest their time, and be vulnerable with one another – all in the best interest of every member of our community.
This is an act of courage that I applaud, and I believe merits recognition. Stick with me and I’ll share the awesome project we have in the works that will ultimately affect our valley for decades to come.
Belonging, it is what we all subconsciously hope for each day. At work, with our friends, with our neighbors, and in new spaces. Some days requiring more effort than others and somedays ignored, until we face situations where we are made to feel unwelcome, different, and uncomfortable. Some are better at adapting than others, but for many, we immediately start to shut down, become anxious, and are unable to succeed or enjoy the moment.
Without belonging, there is no trust, without trust there is no relationship, and without a strong relationship with our community we cannot succeed in our mission. We believe that everyone deserves to live healthy and happy lives – and we will do everything in our power to see it through.
So how does a government recreation district with massive indoor and outdoor facilities, five recreation departments, and over two hundred staff achieve belonging? Through not so simple acts of courage to be vulnerable, recognize where our blind spots may be, and work together to be better than yesterday.
As you may have heard, last October Mountain Rec was awarded a three-year six figure grant. These funds are being used to focus on a few areas identified by the District as some of the biggest barriers for our community to feel a sense of belonging at Mountain Rec: language, staff training, financial support, and community input.
The area I would like to highlight today is staff training, more specifically to address diversity, equity, and inclusion. But before we move on any further or jump to conclusions, we must first agree on what these terms mean and certainly what they do not.
Broadly speaking, diversity, equity, and inclusion (“DEI”) is a foundational understanding that considers who we all are, recognizes our different walks of life, and how we can ensure that everyone is included. What it is not: judging or shaming others, favoring one group over another, and if this effort ever becomes a reason for further division of communities – it has lost its true purpose.
Though the science may evolve, I certainly enjoyed this mindset and rough formula into how we can achieve our goal.
“Diversity is a fact, equity is a choice, inclusion is an action, belonging is an outcome,”
– Arthur Chan
This work naturally opens the floor to difficult conversations, new concepts, sharing of decision making, and even mistakes along the way – but when we remind ourselves of our mutual goal of community and unity above all else, you can be sure everybody in that room is there to support one another.
To ensure that Mountain Rec fully understands our diverse community, we hired Erin and Angelo Fernandez of Ina Consulting, a local organization focused on belonging and inclusion.
“We help organizations grow equitable futures by building strong foundations to engage in equity work. To do so, we create a strong sense of belonging and inclusive environments by focusing on identity. We are thrilled to be working with a community-minded organization like Mountain Rec and look forward to supporting them on their journey,” Erin said.
Erin and Angelo will lead the Mountain Rec staff in a three-phased approach throughout 2021, focused on awareness, belonging, and inclusion. The curriculum is progressive in nature, allows time to fully address each step of the process, and recognizes we are all at different steps of this journey to achieve our goal of belonging.
I am grateful for the first step in a long journey our staff has taken in exploring new frontiers through this training. I applaud their courage, and I know our community will soon see their growing commitment to everyone’s health and happiness.
Want to learn more regarding the specifics? We invite you to learn more below about our Forward Together initiative. See for yourself why this work is important to Mountain Recreation, view our pledge, and our commitments to action.
Eddie Campos is the Marketing & Communications Manager of Mountain Recreation.
Contact Eddie at ECampos@MountainRec.org.