Family Leadership Training Institute celebrates 14 new graduates
Each graduate from the program is spearheading a unique community project
The Family Leadership Training Institute of Eagle County recently graduated its class of 2021-22. Fourteen community members completed 20 weeks of diverse leadership training, designed to empower residents to create a better world for the children in our county.
In total, the program has graduated 144 people since county commissioner Jeanne McQueeney brought the training institute to Eagle County in 2013. Over the course of the 120-hour program, participants learn from dozens of community leaders in a wide variety of fields, from state and county government officials, to nonprofit and health organizations, to members of the media.
From October through April, each of the participants worked on individual community projects that represent a service they want to provide, or a change they want to see, in the community. At each weekly session, the participants acquired a different skill set that would help them make their community project a reality, such as public speaking, becoming familiar with community structure and governance, analyzing statistical trends affecting families and more.
“I thought that to be a leader you must be at the political level or work for an organization, but at FLTI, since session one, I was able to internalize and feel more comfortable saying that I am a family leader in this community, and my project will have an impact on the families and the future of our young creative minds,” said graduate Dani Rodriquez.
Now at the end of the program, Eagle County has gained 14 trained leaders, each with a distinct vision for improving the county and the tools to implement it. Site coordinator Glenda Wentworth has been leading the program in Eagle County since 2016, and said that the real gratification comes from seeing the impact that graduates have in the community after leaving the institute.
Support Local Journalism
“I’m just really proud of their accomplishments and their drive for their community projects that they’re so passionate about, and where it might take them on their journey,” Wentworth said. “It’s fun to see them years later on their journey as a leader, and the positive impact on who we are as a community as a whole.”
2021-22 community project highlights
Sandy Schroeder: You Have the I.D.E.A.
Graduate Sandy Schroeder is working to design a series of 12 workshops that will allow parents of children with disabilities to connect, while also teaching them how to make an education plan for their child that is informed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
“I have a child with Down syndrome, and we moved to the valley almost 12 years ago,” Schroeder said. “Across that time, I have met many parents who have angst, frustration and personal celebrations for their own children with different abilities. These are best understood by others in a similar situation. These parents, I have found, also would benefit from a better understanding of what IDEA holds and how the process works.”
Schroeder plans to launch the program this August, and said that anyone who wants to get involved or learn more about the project can contact her at email@example.com.
Tsvetelina Fuentes: The Stories We Tell
Graduate Tsvetelina Fuentes, a mobilizer and manager at Mountain Youth, is creating a video series that highlights the stories and experiences of different community members in order to promote diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Fuentes herself speaks multiple languages and is from an Eastern European background, and said her intent for the series is to use it as both an education and training tool for promoting DEI principles in the valley.
“I have always been an advocate for diversity and the enrichment it provides to personal and professional development,” Fuentes said. “This project is about hearing from our own community members and relating to their personal stories in order to let our common humanity shine through. Our local organizations are encouraged to include this resource in their training opportunities because it is local, authentic and based on the oral tradition. It also provides a framework of practicing and exploring the DEI concepts with staff members.”
Fuentes released the first video of the series — the story of Dani, an Eagle County community member from Chile — on May 5. The video can be viewed on highfivemedia.org under the series name “The Stories We Tell.” She plans to produce more videos in the coming months and encourages anyone interested in the storytelling project or learning more about DEI practices to contact her at FuentesLearning@gmail.com.
Lenka Sage: Turtle Straw
Graduate Lenka Sage is the owner of Lenka’s Place art studio in Eagle. In her project, Sage plans to use her artistic skills to help educate the valley’s youth about the dangers of single-use plastics by building a turtle sculpture out of plastic straws with elementary school students.
“It will be a visible reminder of what plastic is doing to our planet,” Sage said. “The children will be sharing their knowledge with family and friends, and I believe with this ripple effect we can change one little habit, one human at a time.”
Sage said she plans to start her project with students at Eagle Valley Elementary School next year.
Dani Rodriguez: Free Your Reading
Graduate Dani Rodriguez’s goal is to open up new and innovative ways for parents to engage in reading with their children.
“As an ECE (Early Childhood Education) Teacher’s Assistant, I observed that parents did not read to their children — not because they did not want to, but sometimes because the materials were in English so they saw language as an obstacle,” Rodriguez said. “One day I told a mom, ‘What if you forget about the words that are on the page and just describe the colors and the drawings?’ I saw a sense of relief in her eyes that I will never forget.”
Through her “Free Your Reading” project, Rodriguez wants to give parents who may be hesitant to read to their children the freedom to be creative with their storytelling, helping them overcome the frustration of a language barrier while giving space to incorporate their own narratives and values into the experience.
“I want to give caregivers the opportunity to practice how to tell a story: describing images, creating a new version if they want, and focusing on the goal that is planting the seed to foster the interest in reading,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez is connecting with the Parents Mentor Program & Early Childhood Partners at YouthPower365 to help get her program into the community. Those interested in the project can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Miguel Angel Aguirre: Healthy Parenting
“My goal is to re-educate parents in order to break the cycle of old patterns and beliefs in order to raise resilient children.”
Jisela Crus: Connect Eagle
“My inspiration came from when I moved here to Eagle County from the San Luis Valley a year ago, and what it takes to adapt and connect. My idea is to create a Facebook group where the community can come together to post, promote, share and connect with each other and work together/collaborate and feel more connected and involved in their community.”
Cameron Dole: Youth Leadership Training Institute
“My goal is to increase the opportunity for youth to learn leadership skills and thrive in a group of their peers while using these learned post-secondary skills to increase their community involvement and real-life situations.”
Delia Felis: TEENS (Todos Estamos Estudiando Nuestra Salud mental)
“My project focuses on young adults’ mental health. With T.E.E.N.S. young adults will be able to express themselves through drawing and/or writing.”
Jenny Hetei: Let’s be Upfront
“My goal is to educate eighth graders going into high school about the dangers of marijuana. Marijuana is a hallucinogenic drug and can trigger certain mental health disorders, particularly among youth who are genetically predisposed to schizophrenia and/or bipolar disorder.”
Rene Martinez: Empowering Families through Computer Learning
“My project aims to empower families through computer learning in a family interaction environment.”
Kaitlyn McGovern: Stress Management for Success
“This workshop will explore the impacts of chronic stress on the whole health of a person. Simple tools and practices will be offered to support individuals and families in learning how to positively cope and manage their life stressors.”
Grace Meinberg: Kindness Corner
“A simple act of kindness can have a significant impact, and together, we can make Eagle County a happier and healthier place to live. Volunteers from our community will be stationed on the corner or the entrance of frequently visited locations to share and spread kindness to our locals and visitors.”
Luz Alejandra Pedroza Parra: Getting an Opportunity
“My primary goal is to create a support group where professionals from other countries can share the difficulties they have encountered to obtain jobs related to their professions and find solutions together.”
Claudia Quintana: Empowering Bilingual Young Minds
“My project is finding and/or creating opportunities to publish my bilingual students’ work in Eagle County. My mission is to empower students to use their bilingual identity and to raise community awareness of the importance of being bilingual in the 20th century.”
For more information on the Family Leadership Training Institute of Eagle County, contact Glenda Wentworth at email@example.com and follow the organization’s Facebook page.