Communities are at the heart of change in every issue that we face. Who better to lead the charge than those who are most impacted by said issues? This is a sentiment that comes to the forefront of my thoughts whenever I engage in community work due to the individuals and experiences that have impacted my life.
In my leadership journey, I have had the pleasure of working with and learning from mentors who have helped shape my personal and professional trajectory. However, the person who first inspired me to become involved in community work was my mother. From an early age, my mom brought me to her community meetings and the places she volunteered, showing me how to navigate new processes. This was a notable feat, as my parents emigrated from Mexico and had to learn a completely different language and cultural system. They both wanted me to successfully navigate these systems and utilize the skills I had learned to advocate for my community.
Because of those key early experiences, I became interested in continuing to explore nonprofit and advocacy work while working to tear down the barriers my community faced. I believe everyone should have equitable access to the tools and skills needed to achieve their own success, regardless of the neighborhood they live in, their socioeconomic status, their age or the language they speak. To this end, the local nonprofits I got involved with worked to improve the quality of life by addressing the social determinates of health impacting our community.
One of those organizations was Lake County Build a Generation in my hometown of Leadville, where I first was a volunteer, then an intern, and ultimately became a full-time employee. I continued to explore my interest in the nonprofit world and further expanded my knowledge of community work at this organization. I worked to change the ways our community approached different issues by meaningfully prioritizing the people tangibly affected by the work rather than an abstract end goal. More recently, I became more involved in the philanthropic world through my appointment to the committee for Colorado Parks and Wildlife Outdoor Grant Equity Program. This newly created program seeks to award grants to applicants that work to reduce barriers for youth and their families to access the Colorado outdoors. These two experiences have strengthened my belief that people in our communities are not deliverables that need to be met in order to receive funding, but rather catalysts to create a more sustainable impact. Encouraging local involvement in projects of any scale is crucial for success and viability.
I believe El Pomar shares this value. Sustainable, long-term impact is possible when those affected by an issue are involved in addressing it. For more than 85 years, El Pomar has been committed to the current and future well-being of the people of Colorado ensuring that our successes are not short-lived. The Fellowship and Internship provide a unique opportunity for young professionals to develop the skills needed to work in the Colorado non-profit and philanthropic sector. By providing statewide grant funding, the Foundation supports Colorado communities in solving the issues they face. El Pomar recognizes the power and potential of people enacting change in their own community. Through community stewardship programs, such as Regional Partnerships, the Foundation seeks to work with community leaders across the state rather than doing work for them.
It is the strength and commitment of each individual in our communities that push us to success.