Interview with Gina Godbehere and Dr. Lily Matos DeBlieux
Nijah: Thanks so much for allowing the Alliance to interview you Mrs. Godbehere and Dr. DeBlieux about an amazing program that is impacting the lives of youth and inspiring Maricopa County as a whole to get involved—the title of the youth conference is called “Care Enough to Get In the Way.” Can you share with me the background of how the conference got started?
Gina: Sure thing Nijah, we’re glad to have the chance to share our story with you! In 2017, the Care Enough to Get in the Way Student Conference was held at Arizona State University West. It was one of the largest conferences for youth in the history of our state, with fifty schools and over eight-hundred attendees from all over the West Valley. The idea for the conference came after a Public Safety Issue Day conversation between a group of Leadership West Alumni and several local police chiefs. While discussing the tragic murder-suicide that occurred at Independence High School, it was noted that in this incident, like many other tragedies facing our local schools, there were warning signs on social media but no one took the threat seriously and no student wanted to get their friend in trouble. We discussed the need to empower our youth to not take any chances and report concerning posts to law enforcement or school representatives, and to help spread the message that it is okay to care enough to get in the way—to Speak Up Stand Up and Save a Life.
The team responsible for organizing the “Care Enough” movement consisted of myself, as a representative of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, Dr. Lily Matos DeBlieux, the Superintendent of Pendergast Elementary School District, and Jennifer Rogers, who is in charge of strategic development for G-Con General Contractors. Our team partnered with Youth4Youth, a local non-profit and obtained grant funding from the Maricopa County Attorney’s office.
Nijah: Thanks so much for the background of the program Gina. You mentioned the suicide incident that occurred in a local high school and students not blowing the whistle when they saw warning signs. Can you talk about how the “Care Enough” movement is addressing this issue?
Gina: We all felt the conference was taking place at a perfect time, given what was happening, not only in our community but across the Country, and it presented an ideal opportunity to help bridge the gap between our local community and government, and law enforcement in a positive way. We hoped to inspire student leaders to come up with their own ideas and solutions to make safer environments by helping us solve current issues, such as bullying, cyber-bullying, drug addiction, depression, and ongoing threats against others. We also included a follow-up parent component to provide much needed resources to families, a factor we knew would help ensure the success of the program overall.
Students were charged to take back with them suggestions and ideas on why their peers were not speaking up and ideas about what to do it. The students participated in a train the trainer activity where they created new initiatives to help students speak up. A few examples of the ideas generated included a texting system for anonymous reporting, implementing school announcements to list tips on what signs students should look for and report, and creating a student group to go from class to class as advocates.
Nijah: Describe why the program or policy innovation is innovative?
Lily: As Gina mentioned the program has both the student to parent and teacher component in addition to extensive community support. We were fortunate to have the support from Bill Montgomery, the Maricopa County Attorney, and every West Valley Police Chief attended the conference with their School Resource Officers. Additionally, every West Valley Mayor, and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors all signed a proclamation declaring the month of January as the “Get in the Way Month” for their Cities. Not to mention the support we also received from local businesses and non for profits all coming together in an attempt to tackle real issues facing our schools. The reviews from our first inaugural conference have been incredible, and we are already making plans for a valley-wide 2018 conference!
Nijah: How have you determined its success? What measurements have you used?
Lily: We are now gathering feedback which will be available June of 2017. We will look forward to seeing what initiatives students created and how they are impacting their schools and the level of empowerment each student realizes after having taken part in the conference.
Nijah: I see the program was very successful, were there any challenges along the way?
Gina: Over 40 schools participated in the conference and rolling out each initiative was the primary challenge. For the future of the program we look to garner more help and fine tune this piece.
Nijah: What advice would you give to other local government organizations seeking to implement a similar movement?
Lily: It is critical to obtain buy in from the top down including, schools superintendents, police, and parents. To make long-lasting change everyone needs to share the vision—the local government’s role is primarily to uphold and support that vision. Businesses also played a critical role as they helped with financing for the event itself. Overall my advice would be to not do this alone. To obtain buy in we were very active in our personal communication to every partner and continuously pushed information out.
Nijah: What does the future of the program hold?
Lily: It is our goal that the 2018conference will grow to have between 3,000 and 5,000 student ambassadors attending who will each be asked to spread our “Care Enough” message valley-wide. We are proud of the conference’s ability to join government, education, non-profits and private business together and we hope to spark a movement for students to care enough and have the courage to speak up, stand up and hopefully help save a life. We also look forward to partnering with the faith community and creating more of a strong focus on including parents for the roll out of the initiatives the students create. We will also utilize a new partner that is the Pendergrass Elementary Foundation.
Nijah: Ladies, I appreciate your time today, in giving us a taste of the ‘Care Enough” movement. I understand that folks can learn more about the program by visiting www.speakupstandupsavealife.com and also that you are looking for more partners in the valley.
Gina: Correct, for those interested in the program they may contact me directly at GODBEHER@mcao.maricopa.gov.
Interviewer and Interviewees
Nijah Fudge, West Regional Director, Alliance for Innovation
Gina Godbehere is the Bureau Chief of the Northwest Valley Bureau in the Community Based Prosecution Division of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. She has over two decades of experience both as a trial attorney and in assignments with a wide variety of bureaus, including Pretrial, Juvenile, Gang, and the Repeat Offender Unit, during which she has tried every type of felony case including first degree premeditated murder. Throughout her twenty years of service with MCAO, Gina has played an integral role in developing the first Juvenile Drug Court, in implementing the Juvenile Transfer Offender Program, and is the Co-Author and Creator of the Ultimate Trial Research Notebook used by prosecution agencies throughout Arizona. Gina is Maricopa County’s designated Bias Crimes Prosecutor, and she actively trains prosecutors and law enforcement officers throughout the state. Gina was born, raised, and currently resides in the west valley. She graduated from Cactus High School, before receiving a Bachelor of Science in Justice Studies and a Juris Doctorate degree from Arizona State College of Law in 1995.
Dr. Lily Matos DeBlieux was born in New York, N.Y. where she attended elementary school and two years of high school. Her family then moved to Isabela, Puerto Rico where she completed high school and college. Lily’s educational preparation includes degrees in Elementary Education (BA), Educational Leadership and Supervision (MA and PHD), all from the University of Southern Mississippi and a BA in Business Administration from the University of Puerto Rico. Her experiences are varied and include serving as a teacher, elementary principal, middle school dean of students, assistant superintendent, adjunct university professor, English as a Second Language Instructor, director of religious education at a military base, business owner, and community volunteer. Lily owned a technology company for six years before returning to her true love: education. Dr. DeBlieux was appointed as the first bi-lingual, Latina Superintendent of the Pendergast Elementary School District in May 2014. Dr. DeBlieux is involved in community organizations including: The Hispanic Leadership Institute, Glendale West Rotary, Leadership West Class XX11, City of Phoenix Youth and Education Commission, Glendale Chamber of Commerce, and others. Lily is sought after as a motivational speaker, and in 2015 she founded the organization Si No Yo, Quien? LLC, to provide training to empower women to reach new heights in their personal and professional lives. She is married to Earl, a retired chaplain who served 30 years in the United States Air Force. She has two children; Joel, a Network Engineer and business owner living in Fort Myers, Florida and Dr. Linda, a Pharmacist living in Tucson, AZ. She is also the proud grandmother of Evangeline.
Information obtained from www.speakupstandupsavealife.com.