There was a time when African-Americans striving to become leaders often had to climb the ladder alone. Today, a number of programs are designed to groom promising people of color into tomorrow's decision-makers. Together, they envision a future for Colorado Springs where minorities lead nonprofits, hold seats on City Council and the Board of County Commissioners, help tailor the education of our children, and guide the city toward greater economic development.
Budding leaders wanted.
El Pomar Foundation hopes to bring more voices to the typical board meeting through the Emerging Leaders Development Program. The program is open to all, but one of its main goals is to draw ethnic minorities. The program offers skills training that has students build a civic rsum, accumulate civic-engagement experience and even learn about the challenges of running for office. "It's a broad-based opportunity," says vice president Theophilus Gregory. The nonprofit offers scholarships. Contact: 577-7081, elpomar.org/emergingleaders.
The Urban League of the Pikes Peak Region offers groups that focus on leadership and social and economic development. The Urban League Guild brings together older leaders, particularly African-Americans, who serve as ambassadors for the organization, conducting fundraising and working to close the equality gap. The League recently formed another group geared toward youth. "The Urban League Young Professionals [is] a group that's just getting started and is focused on social and economic empowerment," says president and CEO Denise Wisdom. Scholarships are available for fee programs. Contact: 634-1525, springsurbanleague.org.
Toastmasters International provides training for public speaking, both formal and off the cuff. Most clubs are open to all interested parties, though District 26 Lt. Gov. of Marketing Julia Davis notes, "We really encourage non-English speaking people to join so we can help them to better communicate with friends, co-workers and become better leaders." Members usually are expected to make a weekly commitment, and can participate in contests and conferences and train for leadership roles. First-time members pay a one-time $20 membership fee for instructional manuals, and a twice-per-year membership fee of $27. Contact: Niki Moore, division governor for Southern Colorado Springs, at 210-1553 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit d26toastmasters.org to find various clubs in the region.
The African-American Youth Leadership Conference focuses on African-American civic responsibility and solving social problems. The conference, held annually at Colorado College, also sheds a light on the ongoing impacts of black oppression. An average of 400 students, grades 6 to 12, attend each year. The conference teaches various ethnic groups about civic responsibility and leadership, and features essay competitions, activities and motivational lectures. The annual one-day conference is free. Contact: aaylc-co.org.
The Colorado Springs Black Leadership Forum addresses myriad topics, from youth development to economic development. The nonprofit, non-partisan forum encourages change through political action. Forum organizers believe that by working together, blacks can achieve justice, influence community decisions and emphasize the importance of minority influence. Contact: 329-7848, csblf.org.
Leadership Pikes Peak founded its Signature Program in 1979, to give a boost to established leaders in the community. More than 1,000 Colorado Springs residents have completed this program, in addition to others the nonprofit offers. Leadership NOW teaches ambitious 22- to 32-year-olds about leadership and community issues. The Women's Community Leadership Initiative is geared toward women from low-income backgrounds. The women's program is free, and scholarship assistance is available for the others. Contact: 632-2618, leadershippikespeak.org.
The Center for Creative Leadership is headquartered in Greensboro, N.C., but has had a site in Colorado Springs since 1983. The center offers courses, most of them business-oriented, geared toward mid- and high-level managers. A few courses reach beyond the office. "We offer some community programs to address different levels of leadership in the community and [giving] back to the community," site manager Cecilia Jacobs says. Scholarships are available. Contact: 633-3891, ccl.org.