Tim Valencia is the youth and education program manager for the City of Phoenix. Before participating in a panel on why Arizona is holding back third graders, he confessed to listening to Kelly Clarkson, explained how he came to eat grass-fed meat before it was trendy, and talked about the teacher who changed his life in the Zócalo green room.
What are you keeping in your garage that you should have thrown out already?
Right now there are two old leather couches that I need to give to Goodwill and an old washer because recently we got some new furniture. And a box of college books I need to get rid of that are probably 20 years old, but I’ve kept thinking I may need this somewhere, sometime—but they’re in a box.
You used to supervise the Phoenix after-school program. What was your favorite after-school snack as a kid?
I was not fortunate enough to attend an after-school program, but my favorite snack going to my Nana’s house after school would probably be a butter tortilla.
What year, past or future, would you time-travel to if you could?
The ’60s of the civil rights era and even the Kennedy era—1960 to 1963-ish.
Where do you go to be alone?
A bookstore or a Starbucks—somewhere with Wi-Fi that I can just sit down in, collect my thoughts, and read.
What are you reading right now?
I’m actually reading a new report from Kids Count about where we’re at for students K-8, nationwide, where it comes to insuring that they have the skills to read and move forward.
What teacher or professor, if any, changed your life?
A seventh grade English teacher. She really engaged her students and took me under her wing and my best friend as well, and really challenged us to think differently. I’m from a small mining town in Arizona, and we tend to be isolated, and she really inspired us to do something different, be someone, and the importance of studying and going to college.
How do you react when you’re embarrassed?
I tend to smile a lot and fumble on my words, which I’m not doing right now.
What’s something that very few people would expect about you?
That I was raised with horses and cattle, so I can saddle up a horse and ride. My dad had a small ranch, and we grew up—before it was “in”—eating grass-fed pigs and cows.
What’s your favorite thing about Phoenix?
I think most importantly we’re diverse—diverse in a way that’s different from the East Coast. We have a voice—and I’m talking people of color—and we’re trying to make change and do things, and I have aspired to be one of those mentors to individuals: a person of color who can make change and influence others.
What music have you listened to today?
The last song I think I listened to was—I’m kind of embarrassed to say—Kelly Clarkson, the newest one.