It’s a wrap: Leadership Fellows class of 2020 celebrates diversity, fosters confidence

Since 2009, Leadership Fellows Boulder County – a joint leadership development and networking program of the Community Foundation and the Boulder Chamber – has been anticipating and responding to shifting demographics and increasing cultural diversity in our community by offering emerging leaders a broad-based overview of Boulder County’s economic, civic, and cultural drivers.
This week, the most recent cohort of Fellows graduated from the 11-month program that brings together participants from across sectors, building networks and advancing inclusivity countywide.
“I’m thrilled to see another amazing group of leaders graduate from the program,” says the Community Foundation’s Elvira Ramos, who co-directs Leadership Fellows with Boulder Chamber Vice President Karen Kruse. “Our Fellows adapted to transitioning from face-to-face to virtual gatherings – and our conversations, too, were influenced by the impacts of COVID-19, reflecting not only Boulder County concerns, but national concerns. From dealing with a pandemic to challenging conversations about racism in our country.
“I’m extremely grateful as well to the many community leaders who joined in with us each month, helping our Fellows understand the workings of Boulder County and how they can lead. This has been an exceptional year, and I’m proud to have had the opportunity to work with these exceptional people!”
Agrees Karen, “As with everything in the current COVID-19 environment, Leadership Fellows had to adjust to a more remote experience in the middle of our annual program. But, as an indication of the leaders they will be for our community, this year’s graduating Leadership Fellows class didn’t miss a beat, addressing issues at the core of our community’s most pressing economic and social challenges.
“Given the strong tradition of our program’s focus on inclusive leadership – and the experience of working to address equity concerns that many of our Fellows brought to the table – it was particularly heartening that this Leadership Fellows class was prepared to give heightened focus to creating a more inclusive, just, and equitable society in the wake of local and national attention in these areas.”
Reflecting on her experience as a Fellow, recent graduate Julie Schoenfeld puts it this way: “Leadership Fellows opened my eyes to many ways that I can make positive changes in my community, and fostered the confidence to make those changes right now.
“I was so inspired by the former Fellows who came to speak to our class that I applied to join the Racial Equity Engagement Working Group of the City of Boulder. Soon after, I was appointed to serve as a Commissioner with Boulder Housing Partners.”
Indeed, some 80% of Leadership Fellows to date have joined a nonprofit board or a commission, or worked on a campaign.
Adds the former real estate lawyer, “My Leadership Fellows class is comprised of leaders who are now friends. I’ve formed deep connections which are grounded in the common goal of creating a more just and inclusive world. I am proud to have been a part of the 2019-2020 class, and I’m eager to stay involved as an alumna in the years to come.”
Ana Arias, another recent Leadership Fellows alumna who directs community and Latino engagement for Coal Creek Meals on Wheels, shares this perspective: “For me, the three most impactful takeaways from participating in the program are related to the quality of the programming offered, the caliber of the cohort, and the opportunity to engage in left- and right-brain thinking.
“On the programming side, our class heard from a wide range of leaders in private, public, and artistic fields. Their presentations offered pragmatic context for the challenges and opportunities they encounter daily. And their willingness to listen and offer thoughtful responses to no-nonsense questions was encouraging.
“As for the class itself, I was so pleased with the diversity of individuals who participated. Diversity of cultural backgrounds, identities, professions, and perspectives. You wrap all those characteristics with caring hearts and curious intellects, and you have yourself a courageous group, willing to engage, question, and lend a hand.”
Continues Ana, “I think inclusive leaders become more compassionate humans and more creative problem solvers when they're exposed to learning environments rich in liner and non-linear thinking. Leadership Fellows Boulder County offered that opportunity. I'm grateful to the Community Foundation, the Boulder Chamber, and every member of the stellar 2019-2020 cohort.”
Concludes Karen, “We look forward to continuing our tradition of preparing the next generation of Boulder County’s business, nonprofit, and civic leaders to constructively tackle difficult community issues.
“We’re currently assessing the timeline for the 2020-2021 Leadership Fellows program, given the constraints associated with the COVID-19 response, but we urge those who are interested in participating to let us know of your interest…and we’ll make sure to keep you updated.
“COVID-19 is reshaping the local and global landscape, and we’re excited about the critical role our Leadership Fellows will play in making sure our economy and community thrive through this transition.”
Leadership Fellows program directors are evaluating the most conducive path forward, given COVID-19 restrictions. Once a plan is finalized, information and application materials for the 2020-2021 Leadership Fellows cohort will be posted on the Community Foundation website.