by Tonia Bartlett
Growing up middle-class in an inconspicuous farm town in Missouri, money wasn’t a big theme in my life, nor did I have much meaningful exposure to an excess of wealth.
That all changed when I attended a private institution for college. At school, I encountered peers who had never considered or needed to work a part time job, which was difficult to reconcile because having a job has always been a necessary part of my life. While the need for extra income is a driving factor in many of my decisions, for some of my fellow students, it is an element they’ve never had to consider.
As I’ve pursued my degree in international development at the University of Denver, money is a concept with which I’ve had to grapple. I’m left now with one question: how do we bridge the gap between the vast wealth of the private sector and the necessity for meaningful social change in the world of philanthropy and development?
For a long time, I held the idea of a spectrum where corporate = bad and nonprofit = good. However earlier this year when I stumbled upon El Pomar Foundation, I was surprised to find an organization that seemed to do exactly what I had been looking for – the use of practical business principles of investment and wealth accumulation to make a tremendously positive social impact.
In my time at El Pomar, I saw Fellowship alumni working in the private sector, but also serving on three or four nonprofit boards to give back to their community. I encountered partnerships between profit-driven and philanthropy-driven efforts across El Paso County. Ultimately I’ve come to understand that the black and white simplification of money I originally found so easy to reconcile in my mind is far more complex than I originally believe.
I could not be more thrilled to have worked for El Pomar Foundation last summer. Its vision for Colorado is a driving force in the philanthropic sector. It was a summer of challenging my beliefs, expanding my outlook and vision for my own future, and being a part of truly incredible work to give back to this state I love so dearly.