Vail Daily column: Council helps improve Leadville community | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Council helps improve Leadville community

Zoe Goodman
My View

Given the fact that I grew up in Boulder, I am sort of a let-down when it comes to most outdoor sports. I am a day-hiker at best, and my bike serves only as transportation from Point A to Point B. It is not something I do for fun. Really, in most ways, you wouldn’t know I spent most of my childhood in Colorado.

Until I hit the ski slopes.

I spent every weekend of my childhood during the winter skiing the bowls, rails, moguls and smooth, groomed trails of mountains all around Colorado. But as soon as the skiing day was over, I got on the bus and headed back to Boulder. I spent a negligible amount of time in the mountains during the other three seasons of the year, and none getting to know the incredible mountain communities we have in Colorado.

El Pomar Foundation

The El Pomar Foundation changed that. The foundation has a regional partnerships program, which links staff at El Pomar with community leaders, nonprofits and other local organizations to different regions of the state. When I arrived at El Pomar as a first-year fellow, I asked for the high country region so that I could finally learn about a part of Colorado that had given me so much wintertime enjoyment. The relationships I have built with people in the five High Country counties in which I work are some of the strongest I have in Colorado and will be enduring even after I leave the foundation.

In college, I studied social policy with a focus on education. During the last several years, our High Country Council of five local leaders has chosen to focus primarily on youth development, and I have had the opportunity to connect what I studied in college with the community development projects that the council funds in the high country. I have worked closely with state legislators, county commissioners, newspaper publishers, local nonprofits and businesspeople, and I have learned an immense amount about the people who make up the mountain towns of Colorado. I conduct research, connect with the people on the ground doing the hard work of sustaining a community and help provide funding recommendations to the council.

I admire council members’ dedication to their communities and in the high country, I am impressed with the time and money that council members from Eagle, Pitkin, Summit and Lake counties have dedicated to Leadville, the seat of Lake County. State Rep. Millie Hamner, for example, is on the council and has dedicated time to work with people in Leadville to establish a pre-collegiate program because she had been so successful with the one she founded in Summit County.

Youth Master Plan

The council’s largest commitment, to Lake County Build a Generation’s Youth Master Plan, is one of the most exciting projects I have ever been a part of. The council has pledged more than $375,000 over the next three years to making Leadville a better place to live. The Youth Master Plan addresses everything from family economics to drug and alcohol use to domestic violence to restorative justice to education. And I get to participate in the process! I have been especially gratified to work alongside the strong women who are leading the charge in Leadville at Lake County Build a Generation. They aren’t just good people — they’re who I want to be when I grow up.

Coming Full Circle

I have the privilege to serve as a bridge between El Pomar Foundation and the staff at Lake County Build a Generation. I have made a half dozen trips to Leadville, participated in community trainings, visited with the directors of local nonprofits such as Full Circle and Advocates of Lake County and played a part in connecting the work in Leadville to potential partners across the region and the state. In some ways, this experience has allowed me to come full circle (no pun intended). Many of the people who keep the economy moving in all of the places I grew up skiing live in Leadville, and I now have the chance to give something back to a community that’s given so much to me.

Zoe Goodman is in her second year of the El Pomar Foundation Fellowship program. The fellowship is a two-year leadership and professional development program for recent college graduates, based in Colorado Springs. Goodman, a Boulder and Chicago native, plans to move to Nashville, Tenn., and pursue teaching middle or high school as the next step on her journey. For more information on the application process, to set up an informational interview, and to submit an application to the El Pomar Fellowship, visit http://fellowship.elpomar.org. Applications are due Jan. 20.