Community Engagement Starts with Listening
By Claire Girardeau
During high school and the start of college, I had a limited understanding of terms such as service, community engagement and philanthropy. Each appeared frequently in classroom conversations and honor society meetings along with the suggestion that my peers and I should use such buzzwords in university applications. Though I volunteered during this period of my life, I did not fully comprehend what it meant to be engaged with a group or organization in a way that built relationships and provided meaningful support. Experiences during college internships and even the first few days of the Fellowship deepened my comprehension of service to and involvement in a community.
I have learned impactful work can only occur after taking the time to listen. Whereas my high school projects consisted of tasks to fill volunteer hours, later work helped me recognize that these efforts fail to be meaningful if they are not informed by community input. Stakeholder involvement helps direct resources to where they are most needed. Even people with the best intentions and financial resources cannot make a difference without first hearing from those directly affected by the issues at hand. With this lesson in mind, I am especially excited to support the Regional Partnerships program through my work as a Fellow at El Pomar. The Foundation is better able to engage with Colorado’s communities when given direct insight from regional leaders.
One of my most recent answers when questioned about my future aspirations has been to have a positive impact on my community. I aim to work with passionate people and share the stories of others who may be overlooked by society. Dedication to service is one of the main reasons I applied to the Fellowship. My experiences as a Fellow will help me form a more nuanced perspective on effective community engagement and philanthropy so I can better channel my time and resources to well-informed endeavors that address community need. Beyond this, the Fellowship will support me to reach my goals with integrity, build my network and become a stronger, more confident person and professional. In the Fellowship I can grow as an individual while giving back to my Colorado home and listening along the way.
Claire Girardeau joined El Pomar Foundation as a member of the 2019 Fellowship class. As a Fellow, Claire works on American Council of Young Political Leaders, Pikes Peak Heritage Series, Empty Stocking Fund, the Julie Penrose Award, and Communications. In addition, Claire supports the Southwest region. Read more about Claire here.