Although her education and her career have allowed her to live in some beautiful places, Devanie Helman said it would be tough to beat having an office in Spencer and Julie Penrose’s house.
That’s where Helman, who was recently named director of the El Pomar Fellowship, now works.
Helman became an El Pomar fellow in 2012 after graduating from the University of Denver, but her connection to El Pomar began when she was growing up in Gunnison and was involved with two El Pomar projects in the state’s southwest area.
A master’s degree program in policy, organization and leadership studies took her to Palo Alto, Calif., to study at Stanford University. This year, Helman returned to Colorado Springs and is among the highly sought after young professionals who help the community thrive economically and culturally.
Helman said she discovered during her third year at DU she most enjoyed working with people in their late teens and early 20s. Leading classes of El Pomar fellows gives her the opportunity to help young professionals develop leadership skills and learn how communities work.
“The El Pomar Fellowship is a leadership laboratory,” Helman said. “There are serious work opportunities with real world impact. It attracts young professionals to the nonprofit world. Going away really made me realize what a great community this is and made me want to come home.”
She came back, not only for the opportunity at El Pomar, but because Colorado Springs is home to her best friends and community connections she treasures.
“There are a lot of hidden cultural gems,” Helman said. “I was recently at an event at the Fine Arts Center and was pleased to see so many young people there. If I were to give advice to young professionals in this city, it would be to not give up on this community. Get involved in different groups.”
One of Helman’s suggestions is to discover the Pikes Peak Heritage Series, which recently hosted an event titled “Mountains Matter to Millennials.”
The keynote speaker was Luis Benitez, director of the Colorado Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry and a respected professional guide and leadership development consultant.
The El Pomar Fellowship has existed for 25 years. Recently elected El Pomar Trustee Matt Carpenter also served as an El Pomar fellow after his graduation from the Air Force Academy and his military commitment. He is among 241 fellowship alums. “The alums are a very tightknit group,” Helman said. “There are a group of fellowship alums in Denver who get together often. There is also a group in the San Francisco Bay area. The alumni pool is amazing and supportive. There is a real desire to help fellows develop.”
Helman said five of the eight fellows in her 2012 class are still in Colorado Springs and connected to the community in a variety of capacities.
Fellowships are two-year commitments, and those selected are paid and receive benefits. There are more than 100 applicants annually, and 8-10 are accepted each year. The first year is dedicated to skill building, nonprofit education and theories of leadership. Second-year fellows coordinate regional activities and become involved in specific local organizations.
The application process begins in January, and May graduates are eligible to apply. Applicants must have a fouryear degree. Anyone who applies should have a Colorado connection (resident, student/ graduate from a Colorado college or university, immediate family) and/or an interest in serving the communities of Colorado. More information about the Fellowship is available here.