You never know which phone calls will be easily forgotten, and which will change your life. As a senior at the University of Denver in 2012, I had a lot of ambition to change the world but very little direction around how I could make it happen. When Gary Butterworth called to tell me that I had been offered a position in El Pomar Foundation’s Fellowship program, I was ecstatic to be able to tell my parents I had found employment, but in hindsight, I had no idea the significance of the call.
From day one I wholeheartedly loved the Fellowship. I loved the opportunity to work with a cohort of motivated and diverse peers, and I appreciated the chance to learn a wide variety of skills through both observation and action. My understanding of Colorado not only shifted because of my exposure to diverse communities across the state, but I began to envision where I fit in the world and how I could do the greatest amount of good. It was the combination of the intentional professional development Fellows receive, and my interactions with a vast number of organizations across the state, that helped me see where my strengths and passions intersect. As a 3rd year Fellow, my work with the 1st Year class solidified something in my mind: I wanted to be in the business of helping people reach their full potential. As such, while it was difficult to leave the community I had come to call home, last summer I headed west to pursue my Master’s in Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership Studies at Stanford University.
While at Stanford, I focused primarily on the cultivation of young people as citizens and as I moved through courses and internships, I began to realize just how important the work of the El Pomar Fellowship is. Engaging young people in challenging, meaningful work is critical. The world today is facing complex, multi-sector problems and the next generation of leaders has to think strategically and work collaboratively to create positive change. The Trustees of El Pomar recognized that fact 25 years ago when they made an intentional and significant investment in Colorado’s future leaders. I am often in awe of the Foundation’s willingness to involve Fellows in the important community work they do both inside and outside of the Foundation. It takes courage to send a 22-year-old on a site visit with a grantee or to put them on a board with the title “El Pomar Foundation Program Associate” on their nametag. Because of this commitment to young leaders, the Fellowship has created a network of 244 people who believe in the importance of being good community members and are confident in their ability to be change makers.
Fellows also develop a strong connection to one another, staff, and community leaders during their time at El Pomar, and those relationships withstand the test of time and distance. The Fellowship brings together a diverse group of individuals bound by a love of Colorado, a responsibility to give back, and a desire to maximize their own potential. Just as El Pomar has a way of connecting Fellows to the history and character of Colorado, the Fellowship gives entrée into a community of invested future leaders that care deeply for their communities and for one another.
My year on the west coast gave me so much – I came back with new ideas and new perspectives, but perhaps most importantly, I came back with a renewed belief that something special is happening in the El Pomar Fellowship. I look forward to the coming years as we continue to improve the program to better serve the Foundation and the communities of Colorado. Most importantly, I’m excited to prepare young people to effectively answer the leadership call and change our world for the better.