Summit County nonprofit finishes first leadership training program | SummitDaily.com

Summit County nonprofit finishes first leadership training program

Twelve Summit County residents will graduate from the Family Leadership Training Institute on Monday, a course aimed at creating a stronger community through involvement.

The program has been in Colorado for the past 17 years, but only recently came to Summit County after Natalia Ruiz, the parenting education coordinator at the Family Intercultural Resource Center, took the class a year ago in Edwards.

The Parent Leadership Training Academy started in Connecticut. The 20-week program focuses on creating community leaders that will become involved in the civic process for the long run. Ruiz said that Colorado changed the name from parent to family in order to be more inclusive of people who may not have children.

Ruiz has spent the last four years at FIRC looking for a way to create a cultural class, hoping to bring all communities in Summit together. She decided to start small, by bringing the leadership course here.

Class participants met on Mondays from 5-9 p.m., sharing meals before the class. It was free for participants, who went through an application process before being accepted. Ruiz said that the funding came from the Family Resource Center Association, and that it costs about $2,500 per person to run the class.

She added that they will continue offering the class and that she hopes the next round will start in June.

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Kate Hudnut, a former board member with FIRC, said that the course has helped her break down her own assumptions and learn about what different members of the Summit Community really need. The first half of classes focuses on the members of the program, helping them get to know each other, as well as what resources the community has available.

"You make such a strong bond with the people in your class," Hudnut said.

The second half of the course teaches participants how to become more involved in their communities. Participants in the leadership program across the state were required to make a field trip to Denver in January to visit the state Capitol to see a legislative session.

The course also brought in guest speakers from the county so students could learn about county budgets and how the different departments work together.

"These leaders come to us and tell us 'We need you,' it's amazing," said Milena Quiros.

One of the final pieces of the course is to create a project that will have lasting impact on the community. Quiros created the Summit County Growing Together Association, which she hopes will inspire parents to become more involved with their childrens' education, particularly in the Spanish-speaking community.

"The Spanish community is really disconnected with activities," she said. "The schools need us as parents. Education starts at home."

The 12 participants worked to create projects that filled a need in Summit or expanded on programing already in existence. Hudnut became a consultant for FIRC's Adopt an Angel program, which the organization took over in 2016. For the 2017 holiday season she hopes to make the program more efficient and to find out what kinds of gifts families in Summit need.

Leti Diaz participated in the program with her daughter Yaritza Urias. Diaz created a Zumba program that started with seven students. Since then she has had to move locations to accommodate the amount of people coming to her classes. She teaches four days a week with more than 30 people in a class. She created the program to give people a chance to exercise and bond through dance.

Urias is a special needs student in Summit, and Diaz said that the course has boosted her daughter's confidence and allowed her to find her own voice as an advocate for others with disabilities in the county.

"She's a leader, I can tell she's ready to go," Diaz said.

Isabel Rodriguez is working to expand a folkloric dance program she started for students in Summit in 2013. For her, the program has been about bringing the different cultures within Summit together and inspiring more people to become involved.

"My goal is to get people to understand that they have something to give," she said. "This is the place that we can make things happen."

Both Rodriguez and Quiros said that the program was important to help bring the immigrant communities together in Summit, and to help them learn how to be involved. The program helped to teach them to use their voices to get things done.

"This is part of me, it doesn't matter that I'm an immigrant," Quiros said. "I'm not born here but this is my place."