Delta Leadership Program Graduates a New Class of Leaders

Participants Share Their ‘Ah Ha!’ Moments

A montage of images: a group photo in front of a vineyard, three people smiling for the camera, a man speaking to an audience

Top image, L-R: the 2024 Class of the Delta Leadership Program – MacKenzie Owens, Krystal Moreno, Cintia Cortez, Malissa Tayaba, Katie Wiley, Matthew Brown, Nancy Young, Alice LLano, Min Park, Tim Cook (not shown: Priti Agarwal, Ahmad Majid, Samar Salma, Jacylyn Stokes, Pat Tirone). Bottom left image, L-R: Three alumni of the Delta Leadership Program – Chuck Winn, Anna Swenson, and Emily Pappalardo. Bottom right: Erik Vink, Coordinator of the Delta Leadership Program, a joint project of the Delta Protection Commission and the Delta Leadership Foundation

CLARKSBURG, Calif. (April 19, 2024) – The 2024 class of the Delta Leadership Program graduated Friday, and celebrated at a reception hosted by Bogle Family Vineyards in Clarksburg.

The graduates were welcomed there by existing Delta leaders, many of whom are also alumni of the program, including Delta Protection Advisory Committee Chair Anna Swenson, former San Joaquin County Supervisor Chuck Winn, and Delta NHA Advisory Committee Member Douglas Hsia.

The program, a joint project of the Delta Protection Commission and the Delta Leadership Foundation, is designed to build and support leadership within the Delta community.

The group visited locations around the Delta where it heard about diverse issues and perspectives on myriad challenges facing the region. Members also worked on group projects, which they will present to the Delta Protection Commission on May 16.

Some of the graduates reflected Friday on their “ah ha!” moments and key takeaways, including:

Krystal Moreno, Traditional Ecological Knowledge Program Manager for the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians: “Hearing from a panelist talking about rice farming conversion and its connection to salmon habitat, which was new to me. As an indigenous person, we have been fighting to restore salmon in our watershed. (This is) work we can connect to.”

Min Park, hospitality industry and Bethel Island community volunteer:  “The fact that most of our water comes from the Delta, and my friends in Los Angeles have no idea about this. We need to protect this place – it’s special.”

Alice LLano, pear farmer: “We have to start teaching our children more about the Delta. Our kids live here, and we need to be teaching them about how fragile it is, what the issues are, so when they grow up, they can be Delta advocates.”

A woman pours water into a concrete map that shows the flow of water in a delta

Min Park pours water into a to-scale map of the Delta at Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley.

Pat Tirone, Founder of Delta Sculling Center in Stockton: “It was standing on the map at Big Break, seeing everyone having fun pouring the water in, really seeing why water gathers in one place, and how much you need the water to flow from another place, and how all of it impacts each other.”

Jacylyn Stokes, fourth-generation farmer: “Being able to interact with the tribal community. I got to have conversations with my colleagues Malissa and Krystal, and hearing their perspective on how ownership and land have affected them, in comparison to my story, really changed the way I view things.”

Malissa Tayaba, Vice Chair of Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians: “I learned so much from other perspectives that were really important because there are so many different communities in the Delta. … (Also) the thought of building coalitions and relationships that make movement in the Delta. I think that’s how things move faster, when you get together with people with common goals and make things happen.”

Tim Cook, co-owner of Meyer and Cook Insurance Co.: “One thing that stood out to me the most was the part of it I’d never really thought about before – the interests of the California Delta from indigenous people’s perspective. I didn’t really understand why Shingle Springs had an interest in the Delta. Going through the program, I learned the history.”

A woman gazing out a window

Cintia Cortez during an exercise in Rio Vista about leveraging strengths and weaknesses

Cintia Cortez, policy analyst for Restore the Delta: “There was an exercise where we had to talk about our strengths and weaknesses and how to leverage those. We had to be vulnerable and share what we struggle with the most. One of my classmates, Min, she told me she really looked up to me and in those spaces she started to expect me to show up in a certain way. When I walked into that training, I felt like a closed rosebud, and after that, I felt like I bloomed, through the training and with a compliment from a classmate.”

Nancy Young, Mayor of Tracy: “I joined this group just to learn more about water, and my eyes have been opened. I see water everywhere: I see the reservoirs, I see the aqueducts, I see the Delta, I see the flow of life around me. I’m excited to have learned so much from individuals, from the Miwok tribe, understanding how it’s part of their land.”