JADE retreat empowers Pima students


Nearly 40 Pima Community College students and employees attended a weekend retreat Nov. 14-16 to discuss social justice issues based on race, gender and socioeconomic status.

The JADE retreat, which stands for justice, advocacy, dialogue and empowerment, is held at YMCA’s Triangle Y Ranch in Oracle and run through Pima’s Student Life offices.

JADE is part of Pima’s Leadership Institute, a series of programs that help students examine perspectives and develop leadership skills.

Daisy Rodriguez Pitel and Jennifer Wellborn are two of the Student Life program coordinators who develop curriculum.

“I really believe that a college experience should be all encompassing,” Rodriguez Pitel said.

“When students leave Pima, I would hope that they leave with a better understanding of social justice, how to foster and develop intercultural relationships, and have a greater sense of their role in improving society,” she added.

The retreat focuses on justice, advocacy, dialogue and empowerment, with a goal of creating a forum in which people can discuss social issues and possible actions to address the issues.

“Social justice is an important part of being a leader,” Wellborn said. “As people and as leaders, we are faced with all sorts of different issues and so thinking critically about social justice is a big part of life.”

Rodriguez Pitel said leaders must understand that everyone has different struggles, and work to remedy the struggles or injustices.

“Leaders shouldn’t be self-serving,” she said. “They should be thinking broadly and globally about how they can impact positive change and really improve policy, practices, structures that better serve all people and not just one small group of people.”

Students spent time in a series of discussions and activities that highlighted cultural discrepancies such as income inequality, gender bias and racism.

The retreat consisted of about 30 students and nine facilitators. Shawn Graham, a Student Life program coordinator, has attended five social justice retreats since 2009 and acted as a facilitator at this year’s retreat.

“I always learn, even though I’m a facilitator, and I’m always learning from the students as well,” he said.


Participants were asked to identify with various social groups, to bring attention to the problems different types of people face every day.

Part of the retreat involved presentations to educate others about an identity that the presenters felt is underrepresented and misunderstood.

“Hopefully, everyone that participates is getting something out of it, even if it’s just a little nugget of something that might change the way they view things or view other people,” Graham said. “That’s all I hope for, is for everyone to take a little piece away.”

Many of this year’s participants were Bécalos exchange students who contributed a unique perspective by informing others about the positives and negatives of Mexican culture.

“I would like to help more in my community when I go back to Mexico,” said Sergio Sandoval, a student from Aguascalientes. “I hope I can take whatever I learn from here to apply it there.”

Pima Leadership Institute has existed in various iterations for roughly a decade.

“We don’t keep it the same; we don’t let it get stale,” Wellborn said. “As things change in the world, we try to keep adding on to it. We constantly look at it and go, ‘OK, what went well, what do we want to improve, what do we want to add or take away from it?’”

Other elements include the Emerging Leaders program, which allows students to foster skills for success, academics and their career, and the Aztec Gold program, in which students implement experience gained from previous programs to institute social change.

The JADE retreat is offered every fall semester.

Student Life will post fliers early next semester for the Emerging Leaders program. It usually takes place over the course of one or two days, and is free to attend.

“We try to keep things to either free or very low cost,” Wellborn said. “Most of our programs we just ask students to sign up in advance.”

Aztec Gold spans several weeks. It will accept applications for the spring semester.

“This past JADE I thought was particularly significant because we had so many different facilitators that represented different areas of the college,” Rodriguez Pitel said. “It’s a testament and a reflection that social justice and diversity is valued throughout the college.”

For more info, visit pima.edu/current-students/get-involved/pima-leadership-institute.


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