Anyone who has driven across Colorado on I-70 can see first-hand the remarkably varied geography of the state. Whether cruising through the golden plains of eastern Colorado or excitedly climbing Vail Pass for a weekend skiing in the mountains, the topography of Colorado is striking and awe-inspiring. As much as I adore the excitement and wonder of the natural beauty that surrounds residents of this state, I often fail to consider how the land we love uniquely shapes the people who live there.
As the Regional Partnerships intern, one of the highlights of my job is the unique opportunity I have to engage with leaders on regional councils across the state. These councils are comprised of local nonprofit, government and business leaders that El Pomar utilizes to provide funding to address issues specific to each of the 11 regions across the state. In my first three weeks, while still trying to learn the culture and inner workings of El Pomar, I had the opportunity to attend three Regional Council meetings with Councils from the Northeast, High Country and North Regions.
As a military kid who has never lived anywhere longer than a few years, in each of the three regional council meetings I was astounded by how intimately council members were engaged with their communities. When the council members spoke of the challenges facing the poor in their communities, they spoke of the challenges facing their neighbors. When they spoke of the barriers and problems affecting their towns, they spoke of their own schools and land. And when they spoke of the community champions who are fighting to improve lives in their neighborhoods, they spoke of their friends.
Beyond this, these local leaders also spoke of their lives and the challenges unique to each region of the state. When the Northeast Regional Council came to Penrose House, I heard stories about driving an hour and a half to buy groceries to feed the droves of boys who come to help with cattle branding each spring. In the High Country region, towns separated by 20 miles can be hours by car before mountain passes open in May, resulting in isolation from the very mountains that provide endless recreation. Meanwhile, the North Regional Council faces the challenge of addressing urban homelessness and rural resource scarcity alongside communities that revolve around large universities.
This summer, I’ve been lucky to learn about the diversity of Colorado, in every sense of the word, through the insights of the regional council members. Whether someone finds his or her joy climbing 14ers or managing a 20,000 acre cattle ranch, that person can still be a leader who is changing lives in their community. I am extremely proud to work for a foundation that empowers each of these community champions to impact their own region of the state in powerful ways.