It is hard to see the value of a place when you are young, and if I had been told a few years or even months ago that I would return to the region I grew up in, I would have sincerely wondered how. Admittedly, the best part about the southwest corner is my family but there is also something that I cannot quite put my finger on. Something still makes me feel like I am walking on solid ground every time I go to Cortez, to my home. Truly, I often ache to go back to feel the wholeness and simplicity that I frequently brush to the side in my life now.
The past eight years have afforded me limited opportunity for civic engagement or community impact in my hometown but I am truly honored to say that El Pomar Foundation has opened the doorway for making real change in a place that I feel my heart belongs. It is incredible to be a member of a Foundation that focuses a significant portion of its impact on the rural regions of our great state. More incredibly, through the Regional Partnerships program, I am able to be visit my home and to meet the “movers and shakers” that care so deeply about their community.
I have often reflected on the beauty of southwest Colorado: geographic features, mountain views, and historical sites, certainly, but this beauty is also in its people. Their passion for making life better for their community is paramount. While every community has its strengths and its shortcomings, it does take a village to make lasting change. In addressing what transformations need to happen, it is now easier to say that, “it hits close to home.” I can more easily converse with my family about my work and discuss matters of the heart with citizens who can do something to change the status quo. I am more equipped than ever to promote the well-being of the place I call home.
Growing up in a rural community familiarizes you with a very unique way of life. Particularly in southwest Colorado, the community is close-knit and isolated, separated from the fast pace of the “big cities” like Denver or Colorado Springs. The isolation and small-town feel are frequently attributes that inspire high-school graduates to leave town and deter young professionals from seeking out the rural lifestyle. However, El Pomar’s Regional Partnerships Program provides the opportunity for young, aspiring leaders to work in the small communities that some of us once called home.
As a team working in the Southwest Region, Ginni and I understand the regional issues more personally. With family members still living, working and playing in the region, we are invested in the community’s improvement and work hard to enable the Regional Council to make the most significant and sustainable impact possible. Returning to Durango on behalf of El Pomar Foundation instills a sense of pride. In addition to having the opportunity to work with and contribute to the impactful efforts of the amazing community members, I have learned enormously. The exposure has opened my eyes to the vast passion, and incredible need, present in my beautiful hometown. In this new working experience, I have learned much about the complexities of the community that I oversimplified growing up, and I am inspired to continue learning about and contributing to my home region. Though I once thought I couldn’t leave town fast enough, my gratitude for my connection to the region continues to grow.