A group of volunteers pose after completing a tree planting event in Phoenix, AZ.
UHLA tree planting © Ivan Martinez


Application Open for the Fourth Cohort of Urban Heat Leadership Academy

Media Contacts

The Urban Heat Leadership Academy (UHLA) is accepting applications through May 22nd for its fourth cohort. Developed by The Nature Conservancy in Arizona (TNC Arizona), Phoenix Revitalization Corporation (PRC) and other partners, the Academy aims to build the capacity of Maricopa County residents so they have the knowledge, resources and skills to advocate for greener, healthier and cooler communities. The Academy is offered in Spanish and English, is free of charge and open to Maricopa County residents.

The Academy kicks off Saturday, June 8 and takes place across eight Saturdays, concluding in October 2024. It is in a hybrid format, with self-paced online lessons, live Zoom sessions and an in-person kick-off and graduation.

Sign up for the Academy today! (1:54) TNC Arizona and Phoenix Revitalization Corporation invite Maricopa County residents to enroll in the 4th cohort of the Urban Heat Leadership Academy.

In Greater Phoenix, urban heat is impacting health, safety, comfort and economic development, and this is projected to worsen over time. Not only are the number of days above 110°F expected to more than double by 2060, on some days, there can be a 13°F difference in Phoenix neighborhoods just two miles apart. With 60% of Arizona’s population concentrated around Phoenix, heat constitutes a major public health concern.

Academy sessions will be led by subject matter experts from Arizona State University, South Mountain Community College, City of Phoenix, Maricopa County Air Quality Department, Trees Matter, Watershed Management Group, Maricopa County Department of Public Health and Instituto, and will cover challenges related to urban heat, air quality and water with a lens of environmental justice and equity. Sessions will also cover nature-based and built environment solutions to urban heat as well as behavioral changes to stay safe in the heat. It will also build skills related to advocacy, storytelling and community engagement and provide resources to take action.

Participants who complete the 5-month program will also have an opportunity to apply for a grant to implement a heat mitigation project in their community. Past projects have included community greenings at private residences, Grant Park Community Garden and Capitol Elementary School; neighborhood plant giveaways; and the opening of a cooling center in Phoenix to combat the effects of urban heat.

Since its Arizona launch in 2021, more than 100 Maricopa County residents have graduated from the Urban Heat Leadership Academy. And what truly sets this program apart is the personal connection that the graduates have to the program. As Silverio Ontiveros, one of the Academy’s graduates expressed, “One of the things that I learned was that we can have an impact, even though we might not be part of a government agency, or large corporation. As individuals, as residents, we can have an impact.”

Silverio’s experience personifies the Academy’s mission of empowering residents to advocate for cooler and healthier communities through the use of heat-reducing nature-based solutions. Through their knowledge and commitment, graduates are not just combatting urban heat—they’re implementing change, one neighborhood at a time.

To learn more about Arizona’s Healthy Cities program and the Urban Heat Leadership Academy, please visit nature.org/healthycitiesaz. You can also hear from partners and graduates at the Arizona Urban Heat Leadership Acadmey YouTube collection.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. The Nature Conservancy is working to make a lasting difference around the world in 77 countries and territories (41 by direct conservation impact and 36 through partners) through a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit nature.org or follow @nature_press on X.