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Igniting Rural Empowerment: A Journey Through the National Rural Summit, A Blog by Mwape Trunell



The air buzzed with anticipation as the National Rural Summit began, a grand call to arms that echoed through the hearts and minds of everyone present: “Activating Rural STEM.” This summit was more than just a gathering; it was a movement, a shared vision of unleashing the potential hidden within rural communities through the power of STEM education.

The Power of Connection

The summit opened with a riveting panel moderated by Julie Euber, CEO of the Southern Arizona Research, Science, and Engineering Foundation (SARSEF). The stage was graced by the insightful voices of Beth Nickel from the Arizona Science Center, Jeremy Babendure of SciTech Institute, and Kal Mannis, also from the Arizona Science Center. Their message was simple yet profound: building relationships is the key to rural empowerment. It was a theme that resonated like a heartbeat throughout the summit.

Seeds of Hope: Visions for Rural STEM

As the panelists shared their visions, it was clear that hope was more than a mere aspiration; it was a tangible goal. They spoke passionately about:

  • Collaboration: The magic begins when people meet and connect. Collaboration is the spark that ignites progress.
  • Respect for Rural Choices: Rural life is a choice, not a mark of ignorance. It’s a lifestyle rich in values and community spirit.
  • Resource Accessibility: Providing resources builds capacity, not dependence. Be the bridge that brings opportunities.
  • Youth Empowerment: Today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders. Let’s pave the way for their success.
  • Educator Support: Our educators are the backbone. Equip them with the tools they need to shape the future.

This spirit of empowerment was infectious, spreading through the audience like wildfire. At TIES, we are proud to be part of this movement, working hand in hand with the Rural Ecosphere in Arizona to nurture intentional network growth and collective action.

Stories of Success: Highlighting Rural Initiatives

The summit was a vibrant tapestry of stories and initiatives. The Arizona Commerce Authority stood out with their work in rural areas like Navajo County. Here, they conduct educational workshops, connect small businesses with K-12 education, and leverage strategic partnerships to tackle local needs. One standout initiative is their early integration of semi-conductor education into school curriculums, recognizing the region’s potential to fill this niche.

Diving Into Rural Challenges and Innovations

The summit wasn’t just about ideas; it was about action. Key topics included:

  • Water Conservation: Addressing the critical need for sustainable water use.
  • Mining Career Pathways: Opening new doors to careers in mining.
  • STEM Careers: Connecting students with meaningful STEM opportunities.
  • Leadership Insights: A keynote address by Mayor Mila Besich of Superior.
  • Federal Support: Engaging with USGAO representatives on federally funded STEM programs.

A Visionary’s Voice: Reetika Dhawan

One of the most compelling voices was Reetika Dhawan, CEO of Entrepreneurial College and Vice President of Workforce and Healthcare at Arizona Western College. As an immigrant and educator in a community plagued by brain drain, her story was one of resilience and innovation. She spoke passionately about the role of AI in education, sharing how it has become her ally, helping her overcome language barriers and reach a wider audience. Dhawan emphasized that educators must lead the charge in integrating AI, ensuring it enhances rather than replaces human interaction.

A Call to Action: Tell Your Story

As the summit drew to a close, a powerful quote lingered in the air: “Did you get what you wanted out of this life, even so?” It was a reminder that everyone seeks belonging and purpose. The summit’s overwhelming refrain was clear: Tell Your Story.

The Journey Continues

The National Rural Summit was not an end but a beginning. It showcased the boundless potential of rural communities and the vital importance of relationships, resources, and innovation. As we move forward, we carry with us the spirit of collaboration and empowerment. Together, we can bridge gaps, amplify voices, and create a brighter future for all.

Thank you to all who participated and shared their wisdom. Your contributions are the foundation upon which we will build the next chapter of this incredible journey. Let’s keep the momentum going and continue to tell our stories.