Growing up in Southeast Colorado Springs the game of basketball kept me out of trouble. Year round I spent a lot of time at Hillside Community Center, Memorial Park, Tutt Boys & Girls Club, and the Southeast YMCA working relentlessly on my craft. My goal was to one day play in the NBA for the Denver Nuggets.
In most cases, athletes go through life being defined by sports and thinking it makes them who they are. I felt this as well, but after being cut from the Montana State University’s basketball team prior to my senior season, I quickly realized it was time for me to develop a different set of skills. I took a leap of faith and applied for El Pomar’s Fellowship Program with hopes of showing the kids in my community that there are multiple avenues to success.
The Fellowship experience changed the trajectory of my life. Being exposed to the world of philanthropy allowed me to cultivate relationships with leaders in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Serving as a Program Director for the Karl E. Eitel Fund, Denver Broncos Salute to Fans Tour, Southeast Colorado Springs Project and coordinating Pikes Peak Regional Council activities allowed me to develop a new approach to leadership and develop a diverse professional skillset, but most importantly gave me an opportunity to serve the people of Colorado.
Best of all, the Fellowship experience gave me the tools and confidence to help young kids and families in the neighborhood I grew up in. As a result of interacting with the Fellowship’s network of leaders and gaining direct management experience, I decided to create a youth development program to fulfill my passion for serving kids through sport. In March 2016, I created Hillside Connection to leverage the game of basketball to create pathways to opportunity for elementary school boys in southern Colorado Springs. The gift of serving others is priceless and while being an athlete will always be a part of who I am, the Fellowship helped me gain the skills to channel that same drive to define my life through leadership and service.