Pembroke College, University of Oxford
The goal of El Pomar Foundation’s Trans-Atlantic Junior Fellowship is to offer three Europeans: me, a Swedish PhD student at the University of Oxford; Juha Roppola, a Finnish journalist; and Arkadiusz Marchewka, a Polish politician, a chance to view the United States through the lens of its highly developed nonprofit sector. To that end, the first two weeks have proved an excellent introduction to the unique position of nonprofit organizations in US society and, more specifically, to the far-reaching role that El Pomar plays both locally and across the state of Colorado. These initial weeks have also served as an introduction to our upcoming trip to Washington, D.C., where I look forward to applying my recently acquired knowledge on a federal level.
To illustrate the vital position of nonprofit organizations in U.S. society, our first- and second-week meetings were intentionally arranged to highlight the deep impact of nonprofits on life in Colorado. We met with several members of El Pomar Foundation’s Board of Trustees, including CEO Bill Hybl, as well as with many key members of the El Pomar team. We also met representatives from a range of important local institutions, including the United States Olympic Committee, the Broadmoor Hotel, the First Presbyterian Church, Citizens Project, Urban Peak, the Catamount Institute, two charter schools and the Air Force Academy, the Independent and Colorado Springs Business Journal newspapers, and the University of Colorado/Colorado Springs (UCCS).
Together, these meetings provided us with a hands-on tutorial of how Colorado Springs is, to use Spencer Penrose’s phrase, “building for tomorrow.” Personally, I found most striking the self-confident and optimistic approach shared by the people we met.
This infectious positive enthusiasm was equally apparent among younger citizens, most notably when we were lucky enough to experience first-hand the UCCS Chancellor’s Leadership Class (CLC), a selective undergraduate program designed specifically to develop effective leaders. It was both refreshing and inspiring to hear the CLC students, some of them only in their first moments at university, express infinitely challenging career goals, like working for NASA or entering federal politics, with such eloquence and cheerful confidence.
The goal-directed professionalism displayed by the CLC is similarly evident among the El Pomar fellows, a group of college graduates who spend two years at the Foundation to gain practical nonprofit sector experience. At our very first weekly group meeting, something they call “locker room,” I was struck by the fellows’ wide range of interests and personal backgrounds. I was also immediately impressed by their drive to achieve meaningful nonprofit careers—a sector so easily overlooked by young professionals tempted away by financially lucrative for-profit work. As with El Pomar Foundation itself, as well as with many of the companies and entrepreneurs we met, I was impressed to learn that the fellows are trained to use financial literacy as a means of breaking away from traditional career paths, learning to successfully invest capital to free up time and resources for philanthropy.
The El Pomar fellows have also been our welcoming and generous hosts for the past two weeks. We have lived, learned, and laughed together with them, and we particularly admire their ability to maintain balanced and healthy lives in spite of their impressive professional dedication. In spite of their busy schedules, they have gone out of their way to ensure we experienced the full gamut of Colorado Springs leisure activities, including: minor league baseball, the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo, cozy coffee shops, and even the odd night out in cowboy-themed bars. We are sorry to have to leave them so soon, though we hope to one day return the favor.
With or without the cowboys.