A dedicated group of residents, business owners, professionals, non profits and school districts have joined ranks and created the San Tan Valley area’s first ‘Think Tank.’ Approximately 30 like-minded residents have been gathering together to discuss, think about and take action on local, state and national issues that impact the community.
The San Tan Valley Think Tank was the brain child of Jack Malpass, founder, president, business owner and business coach in the San Tan Valley area. According to Malpass, the “Think Tank” was created in 2009 because of the challenges that the San Tan Valley area faces but also because there was a need to bring community leaders together in a positive setting so that action could be taken in a unified voice to benefit the community and bridge the perceived gap between education and real life preparedness.
Think Tanks have risen in popularity across the country, with many coming to form on the East Coast. Most are politically-based and used to promote and set policy. Groups such as this one are a rarity, but a necessity, especially when challenges outnumber the answers.
San Tan Valley has seen tremendous growth over the last few years and is now Pinal County’s largest metropolitan area with a population of about 84,000. San Tan Valley is larger than Casa Grande and has a diverse population, half of which commute out of the area to work in other regions, mostly Maricopa County. San Tan Valley lies in the unincorporated areas of Pinal County and is not recognized as an incorporated town.
Many challenges face San Tan Valley, including transportation, education in quality schools, life and work readiness for students, employment, transportation and infrastructure. While the population of San Tan Valley is often used to bolster and attract services in nearby municipalities such as Queen Creek, Florence and Apache Junction, San Tan Valley itself is at a disadvantage because it is not incorporated.
Although incorporation is important, it is not the only reason Malpass created the group. Malpass stated, “The San Tan Valley Think Tank is a collection of many voices from the community that truly care about our area and the issues facing us everyday. Members of the group know that their involvement and input is voluntary, yet critical to our community as a whole. The Think Tank is focused on bringing education to the forefront of discussion and action. We are a non-governmental group that has the ability to think and take action without the restricting confines and red tape of government.”
Other issues the Think Tank is working on include educating young people in the area. The group recently held their 3rd Essay Contest which drew about 200 entries from schools in the San Tan Valley, Florence and Coolidge areas. Students had to write an essay which answered the question, “What is the importance of the science of archeology to Pinal County?” Winning essays were chosen by a panel of 15 judges and students were recognized during a ceremony in April 24 at Eduprize Charter School located at 4567 W Roberts Road in San Tan Valley.
In addition, the Think Tank recently supplied 3D Printers to three local high schools. The kits are a way to get students exposed to technology and see real world applications. The 3D Printer kits will be built and used by student teams from each high school and will also serve as an introduction to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math career possibilities and tie in with STEM classes in each of the schools.
Perhaps one of the most encompassing issues the Think Tank has tackled is the safety of children in schools. After the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, the group decided that it was imperative to ask the question “How do we keep our children safe in school?” What resulted was a discussion, a study and a white paper that included input from local law enforcement, school districts, parents, business professionals, mental health experts, non profits and community volunteers.
The group decided to focus on preventative measures -- with the knowledge that the carnage at Sandy Hook took less than five minutes from start to finish, and that arming teachers was not the answer, the group decided to address how to prevent such tragedies from occurring in the first place. If a threat is on school grounds or in the school, in many instances it is already too late.
The group decided that the question wasn’t really about gun control, or about arming teachers, and decided to focus on two main areas and agreements:
1) What is done in the first 30 seconds of a violent threat is of critical importance
2) Rather than focus on a response to a threat in the school building - the group preferred to consider how to keep a threat from gaining entrance to the building in the first place.
Conclusions of the white paper include three main sections – threat identification, threat deterrence, threat response – and recommended actions for each category:
The details of the white paper have been released, and the conclusion of the paper states that the growing problem in this country is a mental health issue, not a gun control issue.
One member of the Think Tank stated, “We need to take better mental care of our children and our families. In reality, America is failing miserably in that area.”
For now, the group will continue to tackle difficult issues facing San Tan Valley, our state and the nation, but they also hope other communities will join them.
For more information, visit www.santanvalleythinktank.org or call 480-655-5760.
Bridgette Crosby lives with her husband and two youngest children in San Tan Valley. Her oldest son and daughter in law both serve in the Army. She enjoys writing, gardening, hiking and traveling. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.