As he finishes a Ph.D. in social ecology, Thomas Wicke wastes no time in applying that knowledge. Wicke organized a festival for The Villages of Eastridge, his neighborhood at Crismon and Baseline roads in Mesa, with one goal in mind.
"Right now, I feel we’re a bunch of houses that live together,’’ he said. "I would love for the community to come out with a better sense of cohesion.’’
Social events like this build trust among neighbors, he said, and may serve as a springboard for residents to get active in their community. The idea is to build "social capital,’’ which Wicke likens to a business building financial capital.
"A neighborhood watch is a great example,’’ he said.
He designed Saturday’s festival featuring community "stakeholders" such as nearby schools, churches, businesses, philanthropic clubs and Boy Scout troops. The Mesa fire and police departments will also have a presence.
Wicke defines a stakeholder as anyone with an interest — whether economic or social — in the well-being of a community.
Villages resident Kimball Richins lauds Wicke’s effort to get people connected.
"Neighbors knowing neighbors creates more safety in a community,’’ said Richins, who will man a booth for his insurance agency at the event. "Any community could use some type of social gathering like this.’’
As for what he plans to accomplish, Wicke simply hopes the event becomes a
catalyst for residents to take ownership of their community.
"It’s not going to happen after one event,’’ he said, "but it definitely won’t happen without any event.’’
The festival will run 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Desert Ridge High School, 10045 E. Madero in Mesa. Admission is free, and the event will feature a car show, fundraising, food and giveaways. Information: (480) 794-1199 or visit
Caps and gowns
Cheri DeLeo will attend two college graduation ceremonies in December.
One is for her son, Nicolas. The other is for herself.
At 44, the east Mesa resident has achieved a goal she once considered unreachable because she had a family that came first.
After four years of classes through a Northern Arizona State University program in Apache Junction, and experience as an instructional assistant in the Mesa school district, she will finally don a cap and gown.
DeLeo is wrapping up student teaching requirements at Gold Canyon Elementary School, where she teaches reading to fifth-graders.
She plans to hunt for jobs at local elementary schools.
Ideally, she’d like to teach students in grades two through four because "they still are just so eager to learn.’’
Nicolas, 22, will receive a degree in business administration finance from NAU’s main campus in Flagstaff.
"Out of our family, we are the first to graduate college,’’ she said.
The next stop on her career train? A master’s degree.
"As I saw that I could get the grades and do well, I just kept pushing forward,’’ she said, owing part of her success to faith. "I really appreciated when I got those A’s. It didn’t come easy.’’