Over 30 Fort Collins residents met for the first time Sept. 10 at Colorado State University’s Mountain Campus to improve their leadership skills and to help better the community.
These 35 community leaders will continue to meet in different locations once per month for the next nine months as a part of Leadership Fort Collins. This program helps Fort Collins residents broaden their leadership skills and use those skills to find areas in the community that need improving, according to Ann Hutchison, executive vice president of the Fort Collins Chamber of Commerce and the Leadership Fort Collins program director.
Mark Culloton, general manager of Austin’s American Grill on Harmony Road, participated in Leadership Fort Collins three years ago and has been on the steering committee for the program since his graduation.
Culloton said he had done some volunteer work before the program and he wanted to continue to give back to the community he loved and lived in for 13 years after he finished the program.
“I wanted to help continue the program and help other people have the same experience I had,” Culloton said.
The program started in 1981 and participants are required to go through an application and interview process in order to be selected.
Nalo Johnson, a grant developer for the City of Fort Collins, is a current Leadership Fort Collins participant. New to the community, Johnson said she decided to participate to get to know Fort Collins better.
“I have been enthused by the breadth of experience that people bring to the program,” Johnson wrote in an e-mail to the Collegian. “People are from public entities, nonprofits and the private sector as well as participate in a varied amount of volunteer programs.”
For the first session of this year’s program, the group went to CSU’s Mountain Campus to work on team-building.
“It was a great opportunity to break the ice with people and get to have one-on-one conversations with a number of the program participants,” Johnson wrote. “Being vulnerable on your first day is a sure way to build team bonds.”
Every year, participants break into small gro
ups to do projects for the community. Culloton said that each group is tasked with finding a need in the community and filling that need.
“I believe LFC is a valuable tool to create and sustain networks of people invested in doing good in the community and helping the community thrive,” Johnson wrote.
Culloton said that, during the small group projects, participants have the opportunity to work with people that would not have otherwise met and they get to help the community.
Previous projects have included work with Irish Elementary School in providing books to children, work with Men for Change and Crossroads Safehouse in raising awareness for domestic violence and coordinating the project to build a community garden for Respite Care Inc., according to Fort Collins Chamber of Commerce Program Coordinator Audrey Fraijo.
Culloton said that the participants do similar activities every year, including visiting the Food Bank of Larimer County and the State Capital building. The group also does a poverty simulation, they have an emergency services day where they visit the fire department and complete a simulation there, and a day where they do a city council meeting simulation to learn about local politics.
According to Hutchison, these sessions are aimed at increasing participant knowledge of community growth, environment and community planning, local government, public safety and community assistance, economic development. Small business assistance, health care, history, diversity and community betterment, education and leadership development are also goals of the leadership sessions.
“We hope they find something bigger than themselves to be passionate about,” Culloton said.
Culloton said that participants are able to explore every aspect of Fort Collins during the program, which helps people find their passion.
“(Participants) get the perfect snapshot of what Fort Collins is,” Culloton said. “People become passionate about something that they learned in the program.”
Culloton said that, when he participated in the program, he met a street cleaner that worked for Fort Collins. The street cleaner he met was very passionate about his work, which inspired Culloton.
“We have people that are prideful of what they do (in Fort Collins),” Culloton said. “I wanted to be someone who helps continue to make Fort Collins great.”
Collegian Assistant News Editor Sady Swanson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @sadyswan.