by Ann Fenley
I have lived in Colorado for well over four years, but it has never felt more like home than in the last six months. I attribute that feeling to joining the El Pomar family. I first moved to Colorado to attend Colorado College, where I indulged in intellectual exploration, briefly dabbled in Division III athletics, and, much to my chagrin, discovered a deeply subconscious (or repressed) love of country music. I am grateful to have had those four years at Colorado College to begin to answer to some of life’s more daunting questions. What do I care about? What should I pursue? Should I actually consider a career in stand-up comedy? (Probably not. Public speaking is my nemesis.) While I never doubted my sense of home at Colorado College, it’s only now that the state of Colorado feels like home. Maybe it was as simple as fully unpacking my belongings in my “adult” apartment rather than hoarding books, out of season clothes and childhood photos in boxes, anticipating the next move to a new dorm room. I suspect, however, I now feel at home in Colorado because I spend my days working at El Pomar Foundation.
Through the Fellowship at El Pomar, I have found a sense of connectedness to Colorado that rivals my feelings toward Kansas City, my hometown. In seven short months, I have traveled to Colorado communities I had never visited, learned about the exceptional work of nonprofits across the state, and experienced personal growth alongside a cohort of outstanding individuals. My first regional trip was to Lamar, a town with a population of 7,600, tucked into the rural southeast corner of the Colorado. During that trip a 2nd Year Fellow and I met with the executive director of the HOPE Center and visited some of the Southeast Regional Council members, local leaders who spoke passionately about finding creative ways to improve their communities. It was my first taste of El Pomar’s regional work, and, needless to say, I was enthralled. Since then, I have engaged with local leaders and nonprofits – and not to mention indulged in the regional foods – all the way from Trinidad to Glenwood Springs. Indeed, Colorado feels like home now because of my newfound connections to communities, and the people in them, across the state.
But home doesn’t feel like home without a close network of people to share it with. Each day, I get to work with other Fellows who are equally as excited to be here. There is a certain sense of camaraderie in the Fellowship that is comparable to what I have found on teams in my former life as a gymnast and a diver, and what I imagine you’d find if you were one of twenty siblings... Like any team or family, there are inevitable challenges to overcome. Ultimately, my strengthened sense of home at El Pomar and in Colorado has allowed me to hone in on my answers to those perennial questions. What do I care about? What should I pursue? By connecting more to Colorado in every facet, I have been able to translate what I value into what I do. My desire to work in the nonprofit sector long-term remains, and I am now interested in learning more about careers in the foundation world to continue supporting the work of nonprofits. These new prospects make letting go of my long-lost dream, standup comedy, much easier to digest.