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Finding my Niche

By Noelle Paiement

Growing up, my family had a close connection with one of the former executive directors of the American Heart Association in Colorado Springs. We volunteered our time every year and watched the annual Heart Walk event grow. The executive director would walk around, clipboard in hand, orchestrating a philanthropic masterpiece. As the bossy little girl I was, I knew immediately that I wanted a clipboard someday.

Fast forward 10 years, I made my way to Grand Junction to continue my education. Through my business program at Colorado Mesa University (CMU), I landed an internship at Grand Valley Equine Assisted Learning Center (GVEALC), thanks to a connection made by El Pomar Fellowship Alum and CMU professor, Kristen McGee. GVEALC is a nonprofit that provides an array of horse-based therapy for children and adults, specifically veterans and public servants. I worked as the event coordinator for a benefit concert which raised money to buy a new farm. Rather than being a philanthropic masterpiece, we barely broke even, an outcome I was not prepared to face. Since then, I better understand the challenge of asking for money in support of a mission, and the grace and kindness that needs to be carried in supporting these requests.

My work with GVEALC challenged me in ways I had never imagined. I stuck out like a sore thumb, wearing cowgirl boots that had never seen dirt, but I grew to truly love and appreciate the lifestyle. GVEALC opened my eyes to the rural world around me and making a difference in smaller communities became a passion and commitment of mine.

This internship experience was a key factor in leading me to further understand my passion for nonprofit work. Throughout the Fellowship, my hope is to broaden my experiences with various nonprofits and their leadership techniques. I know my future involves public service work, and the Fellowship marks the next steps of my journey in finding my niche.

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