From Fed to Local: Planning for a Better Future

When Cherise Orange took a job as a Planner with Santa Clara County’s Parks and Recreation Department in 2016, she knew that she would be working with vastly different populations from those she was used to in her previous life as a military planner.

“Transitioning to the County … I had a huge learning curve to overcome,” Cherise says. As she adjusted to her new role, she learned a lot about county politics and community engagement. Yet, “I felt like I was constantly struggling to understand ‘the County way.’”

Then she learned about the Green Foothills Leadership Program through her coworker (and Green Foothills Advisory Board member) Melissa Hippard. Cherise applied to join the program’s 2019 cohort. “I can absolutely say it was one of the best decisions I ever made,” she says.

During her time in the Leadership Program, Cherise was working on the County’s Coyote Canyon Interim Master Plan and Natural Resources Management Plan which, at the time, faced some pushback from county residents. Cherise turned to Leadership Program facilitators and fellow participants for help with community engagement and was not disappointed. “The entire group helped me strategize on how to engage with stakeholders and remain transparent during the planning process. Ultimately, this assistance from my fellows helped me get the project approved and change critical processes within the Parks and Recreation Department’s planning structure.”

Since her graduation from the Leadership Program, Cherise has fully embraced her potential and has remained closely involved with Green Foothills. She now sits on the Green Foothills Advisory Board and the Leadership Program Advisory Board, chairs the Marketing Committee, and has launched her own marketing company, You Just Got Oranged.

“I’ve gotten so much out of attending the Leadership Program: friends for life, more knowledge about environmental advocacy in California, and most importantly, how to be an effective advocate,” says Cherise. When asked what she would say to anyone interested in joining the program, she says, “Do not let fear stop you from moving forward and applying… The program has so much to offer. Whether you are already an advocate or looking for a cause to join, this is a great place to start.”

Thank you for continuing to champion Green Foothills and the Leadership Program, Cherise!

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