June Boards & Commissions News

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On the Docket: Moving Forward and Affinity Groups

June marks the final month of learning for our fellows. It’s an opportunity to review what we’ve covered, to send our fellows out to apply for local leadership with confidence. We reviewed the public application process and how to get one’s application to the top of the stack. Our Fellows had the opportunity to hear from the CVI Executive Director, Rialin Flores, about her journey to leadership. Additionally, we welcomed Senior Manager of Candidate and Recruitment from League of Conservation Voters (LCV), Shanthi Gonzalez, to share about how our Fellowship program started, as well as other trainings sponsored exclusively by LCV.  

**Did you know Idaho was the first LCV affiliate to begin the Boards and Commissions program?  Since 2020, the program has expanded to North Carolina (2022) and South Carolina (2023)! **

The final on-line learning on June 11th introduced the concept of affinity groups. An affinity group is “a group of people linked by a common interest or purpose.” The facilitators introduced themselves to the fellows, and encouraged them to self-select the breakout room based on what they wanted to learn from each group and facilitator. For example if a fellow identified as “Latina/Latinx/Latino/Chicano” they would have selected the group facilitated by Lisa Sanchez. 

Why end the learning with affinity groups? Because our fellows possess a multitude of identities that may or may not have had access to public decision making spaces. It is imperative for each person to feel prepared for what’s in store for them once they reach those spaces. The affinity group space helps acknowledge the importance of showing as each of them identifies by providing them with real examples from leaders who have similar life experiences. Diversity of thought is important in decision making. The 2022 class of fellows have a wealth of diversity in thought and experience to share so they need encouragement to say the hard and unpopular things. Affinity groups are one tool they can use to gain the courage to speak up. 

Meet the Presenters:

Toni Belknap-Brinegar, CVI
As the Boards & Commissions Coordinator, I work to advance CVI’s leadership development program. I recruit participants, speakers and trainers, tailor the curriculum, and facilitate the placement and ongoing support of fellows to serve on key boards and commissions.

Shanthi Gonzalez, Senior Manager of Candidate Recruitment & Training, League of Conservation Voters
Shanthi works with state affiliates of LCV (including CVI) to identify, recruit and train environmental champions to run for elected office, and build the skills and capacity of leaders to advance strong environmental policies in their communities.

Rialin Flores, Executive Director, CVI/CVIEF
As CVI’s Executive Director, Rialin sets the strategic direction of our organization. She develops and implements CVI’s vision, empowering our members, board and staff to bring about positive local and statewide conservation political change.

Affinity Group Leaders: 
Trish Walker, Idaho Black Community Alliance 
Lisa Sanchez, Boise City Council 
Maria Quitugua, Pacific Islander and state employee
Crispin Gravatt, Chair of Boise Public Works 
Ryan McGoldrick, CVI


It is with great pride that I announce that 22 of our fellows successfully completed the Fellowship program! The 2022 fellows graduated with a celebration at the Linen Building on June 18th. The event had a great turnout, though we missed the handful of fellows who were unable to attend. It was clear from everyone’s excitement that this accomplishment means a lot to our fellows and their families. 

Current Caldwell School District Trustee, Marisela Pesina, gave the keynote address, speaking from her heart as a Latina farmworker from Notus, Idaho. In her speech, she encouraged the fellows to claim their heritage and be themselves whatever the space they are in. Also in attendance were several 2022 mentors supporting their mentee and the program. 

Thank you to everyone who attended our graduation ceremony! And a huge thank you to the CVI staff members who worked behind the scenes to create an amazing event! We are so grateful to have offered this celebration for all of the fellows who volunteered their time to learn throughout the past six months!

On the Road: Recruitment

After a brief hiatus (so I can catch my breath!) I’ll be reaching out to ask for your support for the 2023 class. I will be traveling to the Wood River Valley and rural areas in Eastern Idaho, as well as North Idaho, to meet those who are ready to serve their community. If you have thoughts or ideas of individuals in your area who may be a good candidate for the 2023 class, please email or call me: toni@cvidaho.org; 208-703-3063.

Quote of the month: 

“If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” 

 ~ Marisela Pesina, Caldwell School Board Chair, our graduation keynote speaker