Leadership Santa Maria Valley Unveils Mobile Observatory

Leadership Santa Maria Valley Class of 2020 recently celebrated the completion of their Legacy Project, a Mobile Observatory, with an unveiling ceremony at Allan Hancock College.

"We chose the Mobile Observatory because space and stargazing can open so many doors," explained Leadership class member Emily Kitts. "It's such a fascinating subject to study, and the Observatory can be a way to make that real-life connection for kids who may be interested in STEM, or astronomy. Even if it's not a subject you're inclined to study, space is just so fascinating and surreal. Looking up at the stars, moon and planets offers so much perspective, curiosity and a sense of wonder to kids and adults alike."

The observatory was made in collaboration with the City of Santa Maria's Recreation and Parks Department. Kitts says the partnership was fortuitous and the timing worked out perfectly.

"The city was in the process of acquiring a trailer for their new Ranch to River mobile nature center. They loved the idea of a mobile observatory, so they generously let us modify the back portion of their nature center trailer for this use," Kitts explained. "They have been so great to work with and so helpful and supportive."

"Our partnership with the leadership class has been a great one," said Rudy Gutierrez, Recreation Supervisor for the City of Santa Maria Rec. and Parks Department. "We have really enjoyed the collaboration on creating a one of a kind outdoor educational opportunity for the community to experience and enjoy for many years!"

The mobile observatory will be used at City events and Los Flores Ranch Park.

"The Observatory will definitely be used for the public Stargazing events at Los Flores Ranch Park, and other public events, like downtown Fridays or festivals," Kitts explained. "We were even able to purchase a solar telescope, so if the Nature Center travels to a school for a field trip, you can use the Observatory during the day to view the sun!"

Kitts said the Leadership Santa Maria Valley Program was educational, and the Legacy Project gave their class a firsthand look on leadership and teamwork.

"I think several of us found ourselves taking on roles that we never would have previously guessed, and if offered a lot of insight about how to work effectively in groups," Kitts explained. "The program taught us all a great deal about our city and it's history, a lot about ourselves, and that the saying is true: teamwork really does make the dream work!"

Leadership Santa Maria Valley is run by the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce. The 2021 class has already begun, but if you would like to learn more about the program or how to apply for the class of 2022, contact Leadership Santa Maria Valley Program Administrator Terri Oneschuck at terrio@santamaria.com.