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Wowed by the San Juans

November 23rd, 2015

Garrett Mayberry

The six county San Juan Region is a place where the spirit of Colorado not only lives, but thrives. It is a place of coal mines and cowboys, of hiking and hemp. It is inhabited by people who are proud, resilient, and welcoming. And it is this vastness and diversity that make succinctly answering the question, “What makes the San Juan region unique?” such a difficult task. Difficult, but not impossible.

This October marked the first time I visited the San Juan region of Colorado. As a first year Fellow at El Pomar Foundation, the westward journey was a rite of passage—an opportunity to immerse myself in the region, deliver merit grants on behalf of the Foundation, and meet the community leaders I will be working with over the next two years through the Regional Partnerships program. Traveling from Gunnison to Paonia, Montrose to Ouray, Ridgway to Telluride, I encountered a Colorado I never knew, yet spoke to me like an old friend. Winding along the road was a journey with a diverse landscape and people exuding the unbridled spirit of Colorado. Read the rest of this entry »

One Night Out

November 19th, 2015

Hannah Staller

I think it’s about 4 am. Someone’s footsteps, crunching through frozen grass, catch my attention. It sounds as though they are standing right over my frost-covered sleeping bag. Until now, only my nose poked out of my sleeping bag so I can breathe the brisk 23 degree air. The rest of me is swathed in winter clothes, mittens, and two sleeping bags, all piled on top of a flattened card board box. I stick my head out to see what the crunching feet want, but their owner has disappeared. Even though I’m sleeping outside with 49 other people, I feel unsettled. All night cars zoom past the grass plot I’m temporarily calling my bed for the night. Pedestrians leaving bars wander past, and I wonder if they see us. I tell myself there’s no reason to feel afraid. Read the rest of this entry »

Reflections from Statewide

November 16th, 2015

Mari Tanabe

As we the El Pomar Fellows anxiously prepared for the annual Statewide meeting—our heads buried in details of meeting agendas, speaking points, and schedules—the director of Regional Partnerships, Cathy Robbins, helped us see the bigger picture. “There’s a moment when I stand on the stage and I look at the Regional Council Members, the statewide funders, and the El Pomar staff members all sitting in one room,” she said, “and it takes my breath away.”

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The Nuts and Bolts of Building Community

November 6th, 2015

Charlie Andrews

Habitat for Humanity of Eagle County brings people together to build homes, communities, and hope through construction of simple, decent, affordable homes. In Eagle County, the average cost of home ownership is $450,000 compared to the state average of $236,000. The area’s high cost of living is a significant challenge for the majority of Eagle County residents, especially those working in the service sector. Currently, 31% of Eagle County residents spend more than half of their monthly income on housing.

Habitat for Humanity of Eagle County does an extraordinary job leveraging local resources to drive down the cost of the homes. For example, not far away from many of Habitat’s constructed homes in Gypsum is the local drywall plant, a main producer of drywall for much of the United States. Habitat has built a relationship with the  plant to claim drywall that could not be sold to the general public. As a result, Habitat has built the majority of their homes without having to purchase drywall, freeing up resources for additional projects.

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Hope is a Possibility

October 29th, 2015

TeRay Esquibel

Born and raised in Colorado, Nicole married her high school boyfriend at age 16. Shortly after, she and her husband had two children, leading Nicole to drop out of high school after her sophomore year. Nicole’s relationship with her husband was abusive from the beginning. Like many women in abusive relationships, Nicole felt afraid to leave her partner, as she did not feel that she could effectively support herself or her children on her own. Eventually the abuse became unbearable. Nicole fled her abuser and was admitted to Bright Future’s shelter. Read the rest of this entry »

Rocky Mountain PBS: Lifelong Learning for All

October 23rd, 2015

Garrett Mayberry


A journey into outer space. A front row concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. A lesson in empathy taught by a giant, yellow bird. These opportunities are not only unique and transformative, but accessible for all Coloradans due to the efforts of Rocky Mountain PBS.

For nearly sixty years, Rocky Mountain PBS has provided Colorado with quality public television programming and a connection to the world bigger than themselves—a source for current events, entertainment, culture, and travel. Given that children spend an average of 30 hours per week in front of a screen, PBS is also one of the most influential learning tools for children in Colorado. Without Rocky Mountain PBS, how else would Colorado kids know having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card? The positive impact of educational television on our state’s future generations is significant, and thanks to Rocky Mountain PBS, over 900,000 Coloradans are able to access quality programming every week. Read the rest of this entry »

Highlighting the Proby Cultural Heritage Room’s Hispanic Inductees

October 15th, 2015

Mari Tanabe

Frames line the walls of the Milton E. Proby Cultural heritage room; they hold within them the pictures and stories of individuals who shaped their communities in Southern Colorado through leadership, advocacy, vision, insight, and hard work. Today, in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we recognize the three Hispanic Inductees: Senator Casimiro Barela, Eva Raigoza Baca, and LTC Thomas H. Martinez, who were inducted into the room with photograph and frame in 2006, 2010, and 2014, respectively. As a politician, an educator, and a military officer, the work they did toward the goals they set for their communities differed greatly. Nonetheless, all three were outstanding leaders who made significant contributions to their communities and to the state of Colorado.

Senator Casimiro Barela’s political career began it 1869 when, at the age of 22, he was elected Justice of the Peace in Trinidad, Colorado. It continued with Barela’s service as County Assessor, Territory Representative, and County Sheriff for Las Animas. Barela is known for his contributions to the Colorado Constitution: he insisted it be published in English, Spanish, and German. While serving as a Colorado State Senator, Barela continued to advocate for equality. He fought to have laws published in both English and Spanish and ran two Spanish-language newspapers on the side. In addition to a plaque in the Milton E. Proby Cultural Heritage Room, Barela’s image can be seen in the State Capitol in Denver. In 1900, he was one of sixteen individuals honored with a stained glass portrait in the rotunda.

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Lost in Translation

September 30th, 2015

Imagine beginning school in a classroom where the language spoken is different than your own. Imagine having to learn math, history, and science–subjects that are difficult enough without the added burden of a new language. This is the plight many students in the Denver area face. Through a dual language K-5 program, Escuela de Guadalupe is beginning to level the playing field for both native Spanish and native English speaking students. All native English speakers are required to learn Spanish, and all native Spanish speakers, English. Students achieve bi-lingual fluency through a unique model in which the language of instruction in each class changes every few weeks, so at any given time, half of classes are taught in English and half in Spanish. This way, no student is marginalized due to their native language. Escuela de Guadalupe boasts a high school graduation rate of 87.5%, roughly 30% higher than its Denver Public School peers. Read the rest of this entry »

I wish I was from Colorado

September 15th, 2015

Arsene Tungali

As part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders program, I have been fortunate to work at El Pomar, a “Foundation for Colorado,” as it is proudly called here.

My background is in the nonprofit world. I have worked with local, national, international organizations, and the United Nations. In that world, I raise money from individual donors, other organizations, and corporations in order to fulfill our mission to improve the lives of the people in my community.

Through one of my initiatives, the Mabingwa Forum [], I intend to offer a platform to emerging leaders to connect, inspire, and challenge each other through constructive conversations. This initiative, three years ago, was only targeting emerging leaders from my country, the Democratic Republic of Congo. Today, we are extending to those from the whole of Africa, especially those from the Great Lakes Region of Africa. Read the rest of this entry »

What Do You Want Most?

August 31st, 2015

Taylor Voss, Summer Intern 2015

Thousands of years ago, a great warrior sent his armies against a powerful foe whose men vastly outnumbered his own. The chances of success looked slim but the warrior loaded his soldiers into boats and sailed to the enemy’s country. After everyone disembarked,   he gave the order to burn the ships, the soldiers’ only escape from the island. Addressing his men before the first battle, the warrior said, “You see the boats going up in smoke. We cannot leave these shores alive unless we win! We now have no choice; we win or we perish!” The army went on to win the battle. Read the rest of this entry »