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Learning and Working Together: Civic Engagement at the 2016 Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Summit
On Saturday, September 24th, Rev. Sam Brannon attended the 4th Annual RGV Equal Voice Regional Summit in Harlingen, Texas. The event was sponsored by the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) Equal Voice Network, a network of ten community based organizations committed to bringing the Rio Grande Valley's families' voices to the decision making table.
The summit was modeled on the World Café Model, which allows a large group the opportunity to network and learn from one another. Community leaders from across the RGV sat at each of the thirty-something tables to facilitate lively discussions on a variety of relevant topics. The participants discussed subjects related to community health, civic engagement, immigration, education, housing, jobs, and LGBTQ concerns.
The objectives of the summit were fourfold:
- Review the successes of the last four years;
- Highlight challenges they faced since the previous summit;
- Focus on seven critical areas of concern & the community priorities in these; and
- Encourage participants to commit to civic engagement and get out the vote.
Participants numbered in the hundreds and filled Texas State Technical College’s Cultural Arts Center in Harlingen. Attendees ranged in ages from sixteen to senior citizens. There were significantly more women participants than men. Some organizations came wearing nametags and there were entire groups in matching t-shirts.
The event was a spectacular gathering of engaged residents who wanted to find real solutions to their community’s needs. Summit organizers “convened their members and partners to equally affirm their values and commitment to the wellbeing of all of families and communities in the Rio Grande Valley.”
While this area of our state faces many challenges, the lasting impression was one of perseverance, civic engagement, and hope. Together, people can work together to make a real difference in their communities; the RGV Equal Voices Network is just one inspiring Texas example.