During a PechaKucha chitchat, you are asked to make it personal. Talk about you. It’s why it’s nerve-racking…unless you talk about cheese, which is what I did when I spoke. I love me some cheese.
But putting the focus on the things that matter to you…? That’s super personal. It’s a requisite when giving a PechaKucha, but it also happens to be the premise behind SA2020.
In 2010, we started with a question: “In the year 2020, what is the San Antonio YOU would like to see?” And then, we showed how the things that matter to you could also help our entire community. Not just economic prosperity for some, or educational opportunity for a few, but how a world-class San Antonio would benefit all?
SA2020 just celebrated its fifth birthday, and a lot can happen in five years. In 2010:
- Our teen pregnancy rates were the worst in the country.
- We were in every paper’s fattest city lists.
- Our high school graduation rates were below 80%.
- Our sprawling community was seeing fewer developments in its inner core.
And, I was in a style rut. My apologies to everyone for 2010 Me.
Today, five years in, our high school graduation rates have increased; teen pregnancy, obesity rates, and diabetes rates have been on a steady decline; more people have access to healthcare; and development is cropping up everywhere. The list goes on. We truly have many things to be excited about – to celebrate.
There are challenges, too. We’re only producing one person for every ten IT jobs available. The economic disparities, as well as challenges with transportation, connectivity, and accessibility, are complex issues that will take years to dent. We continue to allow ourselves to get stuck in “either/or” conversations – either public safety or transportation choice; either downtown or neighborhoods past 1604; either recruit new talent or develop our homegrown workforce – rather than having “yes, and” conversations that allow us to find the real solutions.
But here’s what I know for fact: people, when given the opportunity, do awesome things. That’s reality. I see it every single day. On the daily, I work with people who create solutions; who are ready to help. We look for gaps, challenges, issues, and try to solve for them in a thoughtful, collaborative way. And we are, together, creating change every single day.
During PechaKucha Volume 20, eight people who are working to make our city even greater spoke. They talked about the things that are important to them, but that also happen to help our entire community.
- Doug Melnick, the Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of San Antonio, waxed poetic about climate change, bringing levity to a difficult discussion.
- Laurie Ann Guerrero, San Antonio’s Poet Laureate, proved exactly why she was appointed with a poignant and inspiring talk about carrying “our history on our backs.”
- Jody Bailey Newman, Chief Friend of The Friendly Spot and Hills & Dales, dropped nuggets of wisdom about not judging a book by its cover – “Funny looking people are doing amazing things in San Antonio” – and the need for friendliness – “You can advance a city through being friendly.”
- Kylie Helterbrand, 8th grader & Class of 2020, kept it simple. She asked the room full of adults to start improving the world now, so it was better when she graduated. Simply, she said, “Fix it.” She also truly brought the house down.
- Mayor Ivy Taylor went super personal and shared her favorite things: breakfast, books, and buildings. She asked us all to search for opportunity and explore our city.
- David Heard, co-founder of TechBloc, gave a sobering and eye-opening talk about the need for talent in STEM-related jobs.
- Tony Leverett, the Director of Eastside Promise Neighborhood, connected his work to the big picture – “A child’s success should not be determined by their zip code.”
- Chef Steve McHugh of Cured at Pearl shared his influences and closed out the night by sharing his passion for good service: “We do it because it makes us happy.”
Because PechaKucha happened on #GivingTuesday, I was feeling super sappy, so in that spirit, I want to make sure to offer some heartfelt thanks:
- To the sponsors and donors, we couldn’t do this without you;
- To Las Casas Foundation who is an all-around amazing partner – shoutout:
- To Randy Beamer – yep, the guy from News 4 WOAI – for his ridiculousness, yes…but more importantly, for bringing a genuine curiosity for all speakers;
- To Cruz Ortiz and Snake Hawk Press for providing art and onsite awesomeness;
- To JJ Lopez with KRTU for rocking all the jams; and finally…
- To Vicki, Leigh, Chris, Michele, Mariah, Libby, and Nicolette. These people have full-time jobs and use their “freetime” to put on PechaKucha in our city, showcasing passionate people who make our San Antonio more enjoyable. And during Volume 20, they agreed to donate proceeds to SA2020 because it was #GivingTuesday, and because they’re amazing people who just want to help.
Mr. Rogers once said in relation to challenges and catastrophes that rather than focus solely on the bad things happening, that you should look for the helpers because “If you look for helpers, you’ll know that there’s hope.”
In 2010, we envisioned an even better San Antonio by the year 2020, and we are the ones who can help get ourselves there.
My hope is that you figure out the ways in which you can help. Find the thing that matters most to you and then do something within that to impact your community. Volunteer more. Give more. Vote more. Wait…scratch that. Vote once – that’s the law – but actually go out and do it. Just be helpful.
San Antonio is only as great as the people who live here. And in my humble opinion, we are people on the rise.