As I count down the days to the end of my Fellowship experience and the beginning of a new adventure with a move to the Pacific Northwest, I think about what El Pomar has meant to me, what legacy I will leave, and how I will stay connected to my home.
Spencer and Julie Penrose made Colorado their home. They poured their hopes, dreams, passions, and treasure into this state. By the time he died, Spencer created a legacy and a Foundation for Colorado. Julie fostered the Penrose vision, leading El Pomar to continue to serve the people of Colorado for decades to come. Their vision for the Foundation and its role in Colorado motivated me to pour my own blood, sweat, and tears into El Pomar’s programs for the past year. I have committed to the Penrose vision, the Penrose work, and the Penrose home: Colorado.
My entire upbringing has been Southeast Colorado. I grew up on small business values and home-cooked meals, picking tomatoes for canning in the fall, fishing the creeks in the summer, and admiring the picturesque sunsets over the distant mountains and the rolling tumbleweeds coming and going with the wind. These are my roots. Little did I know Colorado is actually so much more. Through my work in the Fellowship and El Pomar’s Regional Partnerships program, I see the impact of philanthropy and service through the lens of Coloradans across the state. Colorado is the Hippodrome Arts Centre, in Julesburg, serving as a community convener and beacon of hope for small town communities facing depopulation. It is Grand Junction High School helping students to become college-ready and reach their full potential. It is the Project HOPE Center in Lamar serving as a true testament to the power of an individual with a vision for youth development. It is also Silver Key Senior Services in Colorado Springs, creating purpose and advocacy for individuals at a vulnerable stage in their lives. Colorado's character shows the resiliency of the people and the bonds they share through community. This is my home.
As I leave the Foundation, and Colorado, to begin a new adventure, I am nervous. I am sad to leave my home, and I am scared I might not discover the same purpose I found in myself through my work at El Pomar Foundation and in Colorado’s many communities. As a typical high achieving, determined, and plan-oriented Fellow, I feel I am jumping out of a plane without a parachute. For the first time in my life, I do not have a plan. I am vulnerable. However, I know the Fellowship has prepared me for anything I decide to take on next. I have come to trust my vulnerabilities, and remember Sigmund Freud’s words: “out of your vulnerabilities will come your strength.” This is my time to break away from everything I know, find a new purpose, and dig deep for the strength.
Spencer and Julie Penrose may not be with us anymore, but their memory and legacy live on through the work we do every day. Colorado and its values represent their home, and home is never too far away.
It is with great sorrow that I walk away from the Fellowship and my home in Colorado, but how blessed I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard. My feet may leave, but never my heart.