Rising Stars and young professionals … UNITE!

Unite to help make our city a better place to live, work and play! This is our moment to shine. Everyone is talking about how “we need more young professionals” for the workforce, for economic development, for a vibrant community. We need to be a region that welcomes young professionals and gives them something to do … so here is our chance.

Get involved and make a difference.

Want a park or trail to walk your dog in your neighborhood? Participate with Trails and Open Space and build it.

Want to work for a creative and innovative company? Volunteer with the Regional Business Alliance and help bring one here. Better yet, go to Colorado Springs StartUp and launch one yourself.

Want to live downtown but don’t see enough affordable housing choices? Help with downtown development and make it happen.

We have so much to celebrate and to be proud of in our community, including the 27 young professionals featured on these pages. The CSBJ is delighted to honor our young professionals who are making things happen not only in their companies and industries like education, sports, health, nonprofits, banking and business, but also in our community. We have so many opportunities, boards and committees to get involved in and make a difference in Colorado Springs and our region.

Let’s work together to make this a place we ALL want to live, work and play!

- Advertisement -

[ls_toggle title=”Amanda BallejosSecurity Service Federal Credit Union“]

ballejosAmanda Ballejos has proven herself at Security Service Federal Credit Union.

She started out as a teller at Security Service and while she rose through the ranks of the business, first as an operations supervisor and later as an assistant branch manager 1, she earned a bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University-Pueblo and an MBA from the University of Phoenix.

Now an assistant branch manager 2 at SSFCU, she has more than 10 years’ management experience.

Responsible for daily operations of the SSFCU branch at Fort Carson, Ballejos takes pride in mentoring and developing some of the credit union’s future leaders, but it’s difficult to say where she’s more influential — on the job or in the community.

The leader who inspires her most is Rebecca Bumgarner, who has “built an everlasting relationship with the military community.  Her motivation for the soldiers and their families is priceless and her dedication to the community and members speaks for itself.”  Ballejos loves working at Fort Carson, Colorado Springs’ largest military installation, where she can help guide soldiers, families and DOD civilians on a path to financial wellness.

She is SSFCU’s liaison for community partners at Fort Carson, but also coordinates events in support of families of fallen soldiers (Survivor Outreach Service) and teaches financial literacy and workforce preparation to students in the HIRED program, an apprenticeship program on the post.

Mentoring might just be her strong suit. She’s had plenty of practice at it.

“I define myself by the success of others,” she said. Her motto is: “If I can’t help my team develop, then I fail as a leader.”

And she doesn’t limit herself to the banking industry. She mentors for several other organizations.

She’s vice president of education for TOP CLASS toastmasters, where she’s responsible for the orientation of new members, the organization’s mentor program and education awards. She’s also a lead for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox baseball camp and has been volunteering at the Marian House and Junior Achievement since 2011.


[ls_toggle title=”Sara Barad Pikes Peak Community Foundation“]

Sara-BaradSara Barad can be reasonably characterized as a young woman in a hurry. She came to Colorado Springs 18 years ago with her Air Force family, then attended Air Academy High School and Colorado College.

Her career started 10 years ago at Eye Associates of Colorado Springs, working with her father, Dr. James Barad. While there, she managed over 14,000 patient files, prepared patient charts for upcoming appointments, corresponded with doctors regarding patient referrals and submitted insurance claims. That experience may well have given her a leg up over her peers, and enabled her to snag an interesting and responsible position in a leading Colorado Springs nonprofit.

Barad, now 24, is currently a program officer at the Pikes Peak Community Foundation.

“I do everything,” she said. “We create various entities through which about $250,000 in grants are channeled, and I’m part of that process. More recently, we sponsored a community-wide contest for ideas that would really improve the quality of life in the region, with the winner receiving $10,000. We chose five finalists and put them up on our website for the public to vote. In 10 days we got 3,245 votes.”

Before joining PPCF two years ago, Barad was an intern and a performer at the Millibo Art Theatre, a performer at RiP ltd., and also interned at Vladimir Jones and the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. While at the FAC in 2011, Barad developed a database to track alumni of the theater school, created online videos to advertise theater events and collaborated with other interns on a marketing plan and “street team” to raise community awareness — all in three months!

“I really like to be involved in things,” Barad said. “One of my ultimate goals is to be director of my own theater, but there are lots of things that interest me.”

Her energy and competence did not go unnoticed.

“(Millibo founder) Jim Jackson told me that PPCF was looking for someone with lots of energy and enthusiasm, so I applied,” she said. “I found out later that every other person (the foundation) had asked had recommended me.”

Is there a person in the community she particularly admires?

“(City Councilor) Jan Martin,” she said. “I think she’s really involved in the community, and attends lots of events — she cares for the city.”


[ls_toggle title=”Dana BartonPikes Peak Workforce Center“]

Dana-BartonDana Barton had a colorful work history before being named business relations and development director at Pikes Peak Workforce Center. While in college, Barton spent five years helping recruit football players at Michigan State before the University of Colorado hired her for the same job.

“It was a blast,” she said laughing.

Barton, 33, met her husband-to-be in Boulder, and after marrying, they moved to his hometown, Colorado Springs. Someone suggested she work for The Broadmoor, which she did. Within a year, she was assistant director of human relations, then director.

“I spent seven years there doing recruitment,” Barton said. “I recruited all positions. I went to different countries and interviewed people there.”

She served on the board of the Workforce Center and on its Youth Council. She left The Broadmoor in 2010, and after a quick stint as a high-tech recruiter, Barton began working at PPWFC. “We offer services in training and development, resume building, updating computer skills and more,” Barton said.

Barton serves on the LAUNCH High School board of directors; she’s one of the local Kauffman Ice House Entrepreneurship Program facilitators; and she’s a Women of the Year Candidate for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

At some point, she’d like to hold public office.

“I would certainly be interested in the county commissioner position and senate, state then U.S. Senate,” Barton said.

The person who inspires her most is her mother-in-law, Martha Barton, executive director of Pikes Peak Hospice and Palliative Care.

Martha Barton is a strong, professional leader, and a mother, who has grown the nonprofit and has been recognized on a national level for her work, Barton said.

Dana’s favorite quote: “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are,” by John Wooden.


[ls_toggle title=”Megan BellUCCS“]

Megan-BellMegan Bell has been the director of UCCS’s University Center and Conference Services since 2011, and she loves her job.

“I love being on campus and being around students,” Bell said. “UCCS is such an amazing place to be right now with all of the growth.”

The 36-year-old grew up in Broomfield and attended the University of Northern Colorado to earn her bachelor’s in higher education administration. She also earned a master’s in educational administration from Washington State and is currently working on her Ph.D. in college and university leadership at UCCS, which she plans to complete next year.

“To finish my doctorate is a very big [goal] right now,” she said.

Bell was employed by universities in California and Boulder before moving to the Springs. At UCCS, Bell oversees events and conferences and does special event planning. She also teaches a course in either freshman seminar or higher education each fall and said she plans to stay at UCCS for years to come.

In recent years, she has served on numerous committees on campus, helping select speakers and managers for various departments, writing academic strategies, planning homecoming events and much more.

While not on campus, Bell is busy raising the 7-year-old foster child she adopted with her husband three years ago: “My other goal is to be a good parent to her.”

“Most of my connection with Colorado Springs comes through the campus,” she said, explaining that she is inspired by university leaders Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak and Administration and Finance Vice Chancellor Susan Szpyrka.

In addition, she is inspired by the “folks in the foster care system: Those folks are leaders in a different way — they are unsung heroes who don’t get noticed or recognized.”

Bell said that if she could pick one quote to sum herself up, it would be the words of Julie Andrews, who said: “Some people regard discipline as a chore. For me, it is a kind of order that sets me free to fly.”


[ls_toggle title=”Rhett BrengarthUMB Bank“]

Rhett-BrengarthRhett Brengarth has heard that the average college graduate today will work for 17 different businesses in his or her first 10 years out of school.

“That’s just absolutely amazing to me,” Brengarth said.

The reason he’s so flabbergasted is that, now 33, he’s only worked for one company since he finished college in Missouri in 2003 — UMB Bank.

Of course, the bank’s year-long management program for new graduates set him on a career path that has worked out well for him and for the bank. He started as a credit analyst, but knew early on that he enjoyed working with businesses and focused on business banking.

Now vice president of commercial banking, Brengarth is responsible for managing a portfolio and developing new business locally in Colorado Springs and along the Front Range.

“I’ve met a lot of great people here,” he said.

He deals daily with savvy business people, helping 75-year-old family businesses and young entrepreneurs just getting started.

While raising two children with his wife, who is a communications professor at UCCS, Brengarth is pursuing an MBA in finance from UCCS.

He’s about halfway through his MBA program. It’s a lot of work, but an interesting program and an important stepping stone on his career path.

“I’ve been in banking 10 years, but in order to continue growing and learning, I need additional skills,” he said.

The degree could position Brengarth for bigger management roles within UMB Bank, which he said has offered a lot of support.

In addition to his career, Brengarth has been devoted to the local community since he started setting down roots here. He’s on the Junior Achievement local board of directors and is involved with the Boy Scouts and Rocky Mountain Tigers.

“We absolutely love this community,” Brengarth said. “It’s beautiful and a great place to raise a young family.”

Asked which local leader most influences him, Brengarth can’t answer, saying, “I work with too many great business leaders to choose just one.”

But he doesn’t hesitate sharing his personal mantra, a quote from Albert Einstein.

“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”


[ls_toggle title=”Christina BrodslyJive Collective“]

Christina-BrodlsyChristina Brodsly had been in the public relations industry for 10 years when she decided to try something new. Looking for a way to offer more than the average PR firm, Brodsly joined Jive Collective in 2007 to help tie the loose ends of design, content creation and marketing into one simple product.

Since graduating from California State University in Long Beach, she has worked for major PR firms with clients including Ringling Brothers Circus, Disney on Ice, the Denver Convention Center and many Las Vegas companies.

“It was a lot of responsibility,” she said. “It definitely gave me the experience and the tools I needed to get where I am today.”

Brodsly moved to Colorado Springs five years ago when her soon-to-be fiancé was hired by Vladimir Jones, which later offered Brodsly a few contracts that turned into a full-time job. That was when she had an epiphany.

“I really realized what I wanted to pursue [professionally],” she said. “It isn’t just about contracting,  [but] the collective: all the pieces together — experts, copy writers, content providers — and keeping costs low for small businesses.”

Now communications director, Brodsly works with an eclectic variety of clients, including local filmmaker Pete Schuermann and Mike Bristol, founder of Colorado Springs-based Bristol Brewing Company.

Brodsly said her aspirations include doing “great work and elevate some of the brands here in Colorado Springs. … I really wanted to work on the brands that I really believed in and bring in other people who are passionate about those same things.”

She has served on the advisory board for UpaDowna, the Kids On Bikes board and was a committee member for Pikes Peak Earth Day. She said the community leaders who most inspire her are Mike Bristol and the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Alicia McConnell.

Brodsly, who tries to make the best out of every situation, said that one saying always helps to remind her of that way of thinking: “No matter where you go, there you are.”


[ls_toggle title=”Samantha BrunerUCCS College of Business“]

Samantha-BrunerAs director of the College of Business alumni office at UCCS, Samantha Bruner handles the fundraising, marketing and alumni relations for the college.

“I consider myself a marketing professional,” Bruner said. “Marketing is the banner that connects everything.”

In her case, “everything” involved working as a commercial real estate broker, working for a faith-based company, then with her mother, launching their own business, Colorado Springs Food Tours.

Colorado Springs Food Tours involves walking tours around downtown Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs and other places, “tasting our way through a neighborhood,” sampling the food and beverages of an area while avoiding national chains.

She still owns the business, and has people working for her.

Now, in her alumni role, she launched and is developing a career coaching program, where she partners professionals with UCCS students based on a student’s career path.

Bruner also plans and executes the largest fundraiser for the college, the Lifetime Entrepreneurship Award Luncheon. This year’s event will take place May 9 and will honor area businessman David Jenkins.

Her immediate goal is to finish her master’s in business administration degree at UCCS. She plans to graduate in May 2015. Her emphasis is in innovation management, managing change as it relates to technology, she said.

“I love working in higher education,” Bruner said. “I’ll probably look into opportunities that are here for me. In the long-term, I want to be able to make a difference, help people and be creative.”

Jane Young is the Colorado Springs leader Bruner most admires. Young, the co-owner of It’s not Just Money, a financial advising firm, volunteered with Bruner at the alumni association before Bruner began working there.

“She has a genuinely giving spirit,” she said of the woman who served as Rotary Club chair, alumni chair, Leadership Pikes Peak chair and more. “She’s incredibly involved.”

Bruner’s personal mantra is simple:

“In life, I strive to prioritize people, commit to excellence, do what’s right, be creative, and lead humbly,” she said.


[ls_toggle title=”Ann CesareMemorial Hospital“]

Ann-CesareInitially, Ann Cesare wanted to become a teacher. However, a little experience in public relations in New York City created a change of heart. She found she really enjoyed public relations. She graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder with a degree in American studies.

After New York, she returned to Colorado to work public and community relations with CU at its three campuses, Colorado Springs, Denver and Boulder.

Now she serves as the community outreach director for Memorial Hospital, which is under the University of Colorado Health system. She has worked at the hospital nearly six years, part of that through the transition from a city-run hospital to the UCHealth system.

In her current position, “I wear many hats,” Cesare said. “Primarily one to help create and establish the partnerships Memorial has throughout the community.”

When asked about her goals, Cesare said she is “really passionate about our Colorado Springs community. I love the work I do.

“If I could continue my career path in some community outreach goal and establish important relationships,  that would be satisfying to me. I am a people-person and that’s what I love to do,” she said.

UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak is the leader most admired by Cesare.

“Watching what she has done with the campus and the relationships she has built in this community is unbelievable, the partnerships she’s made …

“I love working with people, and Pam is so good at that. She has been able to move the campus in a direction that is tremendous, the advancements, the growth.”

Last year, she served on the Vineyard in the Village committee for Cheyenne Village and will be keynote speaker for its annual Shrimp Boil fundraising event. This year she’s also on the executive leadership team for Colorado Springs Heart Ball, American Heart Association and represents Memorial in a variety of roles with its community partners, including the Colorado Springs Conservatory’s 16th Note Society.

Cesare’s mantra is simple: More to come.

“I feel like I’m just at the beginning of what I want to do and the impact I want to have,” she said. “I just feel like there’s more to come. Always growing, always learning.”


[ls_toggle title=”Josh ChesebroStockman Kast Ryan“]

Josh-ChesebroJosh Chesebro took a battery of tests before college and found accounting would be a good fit.

“Being pretty analytical, that’s how I went about deciding,” Chesebro said. “I knew exactly what I was going to study when I started and just did it.”

Chesebro, now 38, finished college in less than three years because he was married and an expectant father after six years as a missionary in Kazakhstan.

After high school in Wisconsin, he found opportunities to do meaningful and demanding work in Eastern Europe. That was where he met his wife.

Now an audit manager at Stockman Kast Ryan + Co., Chesebro knows he chose the right career path.

“Playing around with numbers is pretty interesting,” he said. He had an accounting job in Denver after his degree, but couldn’t sell their house in Colorado Springs. Chesebro sent his resume to local firms where he wanted to work, and Stockman Kast Ryan posted the job he wanted the day after he put his application in the mail. It worked out perfectly.

He’s been able to grow and advance with the local firm. Chesebro said he enjoys having direct contact with clients even as a manager.

“I’m also at a point in my career where I’m trying to get more involved with the community,” he said.

He helps area nonprofits manage audits and with the Center for Nonprofit Excellence trains accounting managers. He’s also heavily involved with the Royal Rangers, an evangelical Christian organization, similar to Boy Scouts, Chesebro said.

In addition, for two years he has taught a financial management seminar for CNE, serves as treasurer of the KCME radio station board and as corporate board member of High Country Home Educators.

What local leader inspires him?

“Dave Kast — he is someone who has excelled at business and yet has a very big heart and really cares for those around him, and Pat Kravitz, who has also served very faithfully in the Royal Rangers.”


[ls_toggle title=”Brianna ColbrunnHousing & Building Association“]

Brianna-ColbrunnBrianna Colbrunn’s career took her to the mountains and back home to Colorado Springs.

At Colorado State University, she earned a B.S. in equine science, with a minor in tourism. Her minor landed her a job with Vail Resorts, where she worked in the tourism-travel division as a supervisor, organizing many events.

After moving back to Colorado Springs, she began working for the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs. As member services coordinator, she organizes the internal events, golf tournaments, awards receptions, breakfast with the builders, Realtor meetings with builders and more. She also assists with the Home and Garden Show and the Parade of Homes. In addition, she organizes the remodeled homes tour, emerging leaders golf tournament, a Christmas party, the Sky Sox tail gate party and chili cookoff and more.

And she’s planning her wedding.

With the help of Colbrunn, the 582-member organization contacts around 3,500 people weekly with member communications. She also works with Pikes Peak Community College and AspenPointe to employ veterans in the community.

Through her job at the HBA, Colbrunn also helped do recovery work after the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires.

This year, she serves on the Early Connections Learning Centers board and is chairwoman of the Early Connections Gingerbread and Jazz Gala. Also, she serves on the HBA Cares board, the Parkside Community Committee, the Colorado Springs Rising Professionals board and is co-chair of its Sports and Culture Committee.

Among other volunteer activities last year, she was a course safety marshal for the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

When asked about her goals, she said, “I would really like to see the Springs revitalized. I grew up here, went away and came back.”

Colbrunn cited her supervisor, Renee Zentz, as the leader who most inspires her. “She has always been a role model. I watched her manage different facilities and admired how she managed as a woman in a man’s world,” Colbrunn said.

As for her mission statement, Colbrunn said, “Good old ‘Carpe Diem.’ Seize the day.”

Another favorite: “Blessed are those who can laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be amused,” she said.


[ls_toggle title=”Tony FeltmanSpire Manufacturing Solutions“]

Tony-FeltmanTony Feltman isn’t a fan of the term “entrepreneur” as it might apply to him. “I’m a business owner,” he said. “It’s that simple.”

Yet in 2012, the North Dakota native did something most people would qualify as entrepreneurial. He discarded the safety and security of his high-paying corporate engineering job, wrote a business plan, obtained a Small Business Administration-backed loan and leased a 10,000 square-foot warehouse on Colorado Springs’ east side.

“During my time in corporate America, I built a team of engineers, designers and machinists,” he said. But the corporation wasn’t investing in our team. I thought we could do it better.”

Within months he had garnered a few pivotal customers, assembled a staff and started operations.

Though he’s the official owner of Spire Manufacturing Solutions, Feltman, 35, doesn’t think of himself as the boss. “I consider every one of our team members to be company co-presidents,” he said. “Without them, I don’t exist.”

Asked which local leader inspires him, Feltman responded: “Every employee at Spire inspires me, as we are all … leaders in this community.”

Spire provides subject matter expertise to prepare computer-aided designs, execute computer-aided engineering, and complete computer-aided manufacturing projects for commercial and U.S. government customers. Some of the manufacturing Spire performs here didn’t exist prior to its opening, and that’s where Feltman hopes to help the Colorado Springs community.

“The time is now,” he said.  “Manufacturing holds some of the greatest opportunity to the country. The trouble is, we have no pipeline, no workforce. My passion is to connect to younger generations.”

Since starting Spire, Feltman has been active in Southern Colorado’s innovation clusters and manufacturing forums, focusing on re-energizing and reinventing machinist and apprenticeship trades.

“I recently briefed around 30 people at a local high school on the topic of the Curiosity Mars rover, which is another project I was involved with,” he said. “Afterward, some 15 people approached me about gaining a summer internship. Most young people in the Millennial work force would rather do hands-on work than get stuck in a cube farm. And, that’s very exciting for our industry.”

Feltman’s personal mantra: “You will never have to ‘work’ another day if you follow your passion in life — mine is innovative manufacturing.”


[ls_toggle title=”Lisa FistaniEnt Federal Credit Union“]

Lisa-FistaniLisa Fistani started working at Ent Federal Credit Union by chance. But she has grown with the company intentionally.

She moved here in her senior year of high school, and her military family ended up staying. When they needed her, she came back after attending Florida State  on a soccer scholarship.

“I started at Ent just as a place to work,” she said. “Just a place to make a little money.”

She was a teller. When a manager yelled at her for folding a letter wrong, she decided she wanted to get into a leadership role.

“I wanted to become the kind of leader who makes people want to come to work,” she said.

She later realized how much she loved leading. So, when offered a promotion to work in business banking, she was nervous, but soon after that she assumed a leadership role again.

Now the Business Banking Regional Supervisor, Fistani says she has the best of all worlds.

She manages a portfolio of her own clients and leads a group of skilled business bankers. She  helps at the Marian House Soup Kitchen and getting teams together to volunteer with her. She also volunteers at the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region.

With two young children, she works to establish a balance between career and family. She could keep climbing the ladder, she said, but she’s not inclined to go much higher. She likes leading and working directly with clients.

“The grass isn’t always greener on the other side,” she said.

Which local leaders inspire her? Bosses Matt Genderon and Gregg Cawfield at Ent gave her the space and the guidance she needed to grow in her career.

Fistani’s motto: “Leaders are only as good as their people.”


[ls_toggle title=”Joshua GreenCompassion International“]

Joshua-GreenJoshua Green wants to make a positive impact on people in need. With an undergraduate degree in psychology, Green started his career working with troubled youth.

“From there, I felt I should have a better understanding of making an impact,” Green said.

So he earned his master’s at Notre Dame in nonprofit administration. He then became a consultant for multiple organizations, including arts groups, educational foundations and more.

More than five years ago, he came to Compassion International. He has worked in finance, strategy management, technology and budget forecasting.

“I work with the administrative functions as they define new strategies,” Green said. “I work with them to help them understand how technology can enable their processes.”

Having worked with a number of organizations in his life, Green understands the needs are broad.

“I feel like when you’re talking global poverty needs, you can talk macroeconomics and touch the human level,” Green said. “I want to have an impact on individuals, locally and globally, in social, educational, spiritual and financial arenas.”

Green serves as chairperson of Mercy’s Gate board, member of the Young Nonprofit Network, and active supporter of Leadership Pikes Peak.

Two leaders stand out as inspirations. One is Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach.

“I appreciate the leadership the mayor has brought, where we previously did not have leadership,” Green said.

Also, state Sen. Owen Hill is a good friend.

“He has been a young professional who has really seen his calling and vision and has gone full-throttle into politics.”

Green’s parents also serve as positive role models and inspire him as well.

“They opened my eyes to the needs of youth, disadvantaged, and those who are limited in their ability to reach their potential by showing me through their lives the value in making a difference,” he said.

Green said his personal life mission is to, “live out my faith by serving those with spiritual, physical, social and financial needs and to ensure they have support and opportunities for development in our community and throughout the world.”


[ls_toggle title=”Elizabeth HarrisonUnited States Olympic Committee“]

Elizabeth-HarrisonA few years ago, Elizabeth Harrison was one of those young professionals trying to leave town.

Her career took twists and turns, including stops in other cities, but eventually, she realized
Colorado Springs fit her best.

Born at the Air Force Academy and raised mostly in the Pikes Peak region, Harrison studied marketing and management at University of Northern Colorado.

A firm believer in taking risks, she left a full-time, permanent job to pursue a temporary one, hoping it might lead to better things in an organization she wanted to work for.

Just as her temporary gig was ending, the gamble paid off. Harrison jumped into the job her previous experience had prepared her for. Now  she doesn’t plan leaving anytime soon. Not once did she imagine walking the halls of the USOC.

“I applied to a number of positions over the course of seven years before I was blessed with the opportunity to work for the USOC,” she said. “My passion is helping people, so my goal is to eventually work directly with athletes and programs or work in an outward-facing role. I love working with teams of people with diverse ideas, so another goal is to work into a role that would allow me to collaborate and participate in group work and impact change.”

Last year, for the Rocky Mountain Young Professionals Summit, she was chairperson for Experience the Springs Committee; currently, she is committee chair for Team USA Young Professionals Civic Involvement, and has volunteered with tornado relief in Oklahoma City and Black Forest fire relief, served at National Volunteer Day (Ronald McDonald House and Catholic Charities), Thanksgiving turkey drive, clothing drives, blood drives, and assisted with numerous USOC, Team USA and other athletic events and fundraising.

The person who inspires her most is the USOC’s Alicia McConnell. “Alicia is loved and valued by the many who have known her and had the opportunity to work or serve alongside her. Alicia is a community leader who exemplifies mentoring, business accomplishment, and community service,” she said.

Harrison’s motto is: “Live my life with love and intention. Take risks, work hard, act with kindness and selflessness. Failure is inevitable, people will hurt me, but I know that my value is not impacted by those truths. Listen to that voice inside that knows the difference between right and wrong. And if ever lost, look up.”


[ls_toggle title=”Leslie HickeyColorado Springs Fire Department“]

Leslie-HickeyUnlike most, Leslie Hickey set a vision for her career while still in high school.  A field trip to Washington, D.C., was all the inspiration she needed.

“My motivator is to work for the public,” she said. “And, in my mind, local government impacts people in the most meaningful manner. It helps provide the roads you drive on every day, the parks your kids play at and the public safety aspect.”

After college, she interned for a Los Angeles city councilman. From there, she earned a master’s in public administration at Syracuse. Then it was on to New York, where she worked in municipal bond rating, and Washington to Government Accountability Office.  She met her husband and followed him to Colorado, starting in the GAO’s Denver branch before joining the Colorado Springs city budget office.

“It was an amazing learning experience,” she said. “I was able to work with departments and divisions all over the city organization.”

After a stint in the City Auditor’s Office, she joined the Fire Department as finance, planning and analysis manager. Her first-year anniversary came during the Waldo Canyon fire.

“There are no more inspirational leaders to me than the men and women of the CSFD,” she said. “They deal with dangerous, difficult and scary situations, and I don’t think I had enough appreciation for their care, knowledge and compassion.”

Hickey is responsible for a $60 million-plus budget, while managing  staff who analyze response times, fire station locations and annexation impacts.

“I always wanted to do something creative,” she said. “People don’t usually associate creativity with finance, but in this job we have to solve problems, and it’s different every day.”

Hickey, raising three young children, is treasurer and president-elect of the local Hadassah chapter, the largest Jewish women’s organization in the world.

Hickey’s motto is: “Do things that scare you. When you succeed, you’ll know you can accomplish anything.”


[ls_toggle title=”Julie HillUSA Triathlon“]

Julie-Hill“One of my greatest pleasures in life is to see people using their passions and potentials to the fullest!” said Julie Hill, education coordinator at USA Triathlon. “Anything that I can do to make that happen absolutely thrills me.”

Hill is willing to take risks in her own life, also. She came to Colorado Springs to take a marketing job, but that didn’t engage her passions.

“I became really interested in the athlete community,” she said. “I’ve never been a ‘real’ athlete, but I’ve always worked out, and I wanted to speak their language. So I became a certified personal trainer, took a leap of faith and quit my job. I ended up with a job at the USOC.”

After a few months working as a video researcher and broadcast assistant at the Olympic Committee, she moved to USA Triathlon.

“I remember editing footage of the first Olympic Triathlon, and it was so amazing,” she said. “So when the position became available, and it called for someone who understood editing, I applied.”

Hill’s career path has been anything but conventional. She spent several years as an assistant director at the Los Angeles Film Studies Center, worked as an intern/personal assistant to Jennifer Lopez, spent a few months as a model and sales rep for a cosmetics company, and worked as knowledge management specialist for the Department of Defense.

“I don’t believe in full accidents [in pursuing a career],” she said, “I’m very intentional.”

Next? “I like big ideas,” she said, “and taking the steps to see them through. The first step is to finish my master’s at Columbia, and then things are kind of sketchy and fuzzy. I’m doing some work for programs in Pakistan — my heart is to work with the poor, to teach them how to maximize their potential.”

The local person she most admires: Penny Hunter, who has been her friend and mentor for more than five years. Hunter does marketing for major motion pictures through her firm, Hunter Strategies.

Hill’s motto is: “When you walk into a room, don’t ask if they love me; Ask if they know that I love them.”


[ls_toggle title=”Chelsea HixsonNational MS Society“]

Chelsea-HixsonChelsea Hixson’s work as community outreach manager with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society is more than just a job. It’s personal.

“My grandmother passed away from complications of multiple sclerosis — so I’m very passionate about the cause,” she said.

The organization helps those afflicted with MS by providing support, resources and research funding. Hixson’s role in that mission is to develop those connections in Southern Colorado.

“My goal is to raise just over $150,000 for local programs and services and research in 2014,” as well as increasing awareness, she said.

Hixson is responsible for planning and implementation of Walk MS in Colorado Springs and Pueblo, involving about 1,500 participants, more than 100 volunteers and a dozen corporate sponsors.

“I really love that my job involves helping people,” she said. “How can a person expect good things to happen … if they’re not out there doing good things for others?”

Prior to her current position, Hixson worked with the American Cancer Society. In the future, she hopes to help others grow in their own professional development. “I’d love to be in a management position someday and be able to share with others what I’ve learned along the way,” she said.

Her inspiration in that leadership role is Colorado Springs Realtor Jariah Walker.

“Instead of sitting on the sidelines, complaining, he’s made the decision to get involved,” she said. “He’s really put himself out there, recently announcing his intent to run for county commissioner because he’s very serious about taking action.”

Currently, she serves on the Spirit of the Springs Rally planning committee, Colorado State University Ram Network of Colorado Springs, as professional development chairperson, and last year served as volunteer for the Pikes Peak United Way Mid-Cycle Review.

Through everything, Hixson believes she is responsible for her own happiness, inspired by a quote from Henry David Thoreau — “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”

“When my husband and I made the decision to establish roots here, I realized I needed to get out there and find what there is to love about living in this city,” she said. “The more involved I am in this community, the happier I feel about calling Colorado Springs home.”


[ls_toggle title=”Kevin KaveneyNorthwestern Mutual“]

Kevin-KaveneyKevin Kaveney will be 39 years, 11 months and a few days old when he accepts his Rising Stars honor.

“I’m getting in just under the wire,” he said. “Everything takes me a little longer.”

Now managing director of the local Northwestern Mutual office, Kaveney has had a rich life filled with experiences. “I was a captain in the Army in my first life,” he said.

He traveled the world and was stationed at bases all over.

“I single-handedly defeated all the Islamic terrorists in Korea,” he said, laughing. It’s funny because there were no Islamic terrorists in Korea, he said. Not everyone gets his jokes, but that never stops him from making them.

Kaveney tries not to take himself too seriously, though he is serious about business. Someone at Northwestern Mutual recruited him as a wealth management advisor when he was stationed at Fort Carson years ago.

The position was a fit.

“The principles of leadership and self-discipline I learned in the service were easily transferrable,” he said. Now that he manages the local office, Kaveney has several veterans working for him: 14 of his 32 representatives are former servicemen and women. Many are also endurance athletes.

“So, the common thread there is that we’re all people who can do unpleasant things for significant lengths of time with disturbing regularity,” Kaveney said.

In addition to his work with Northwestern Mutual, Kaveney volunteers with the Citizen Soldier Association, the Pikes Peak YMCA, St. Paul Catholic Church, the Pikes Peak Range Riders and the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo.

“One of the things I love about this community is the sense of Western optimism and rugged individualism,” Kaveney said. This community has been incredibly embracing and welcoming to our family.”

He’s been inspired by Broadmoor President and CEO Steve Bartolin, whom Kaveney met while in the service. He credits Bartolin for helping him build a life and connect with the community.

And his personal mission statement came in the form of a note from a former Navy Seal to Kaveney’s infant son: “Never Quit.”


[ls_toggle title=”Bree LangemoPikes Peak Community College“]

Bree-LangemoAs dean of the Business, Public Service and Social Sciences Division at Pikes Peak Community College, Bree Langemo’s primary objective is, among other things, to assure the success of her students.

“In my role, I work to improve student success, strengthen instructional support, and build community partnerships to better align curriculum to meet workforce needs,” Langemo said. “I am committed to building relationships in the community.”

Langemo joined PPCC in January 2012, leaving her post as associate dean of Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio, where she “played a key role in helping secure and coordinate the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s ‘Completion by Design’ grant, the largest community college grant in history.”

Langemo received her bachelor’s degree in accounting from the Minnesota State University Moorhead, before earning her juris doctorate from Ohio Northern University in 2003. She spent years as a staff attorney in Ohio before hearing the call of higher education.

When she isn’t overseeing the faculty and staff of the college, Langemo commits her time to “building relationships in the community,” including those with the Center for Nonprofit Excellence, CASA, Junior Achievement of Southern Colorado, and Leadership Pikes Peak. She’s also an active participant at events in Rotary Club, World Affairs Council and many more.

Langemo’s career goals include advancing her leadership skills and impact on the community. “I want to strengthen relationships with community partners and focus on initiatives that will have the greatest impact on students and our community,” she said.

Believing that hard work and integrity are essential for building strong relationships and reaping big personal and professional awards, Langemo said
she has an entrepreneurial mindset and likes to dream big.

“I like Victor Hwang’s ‘Rules of the Rainforest’ from the Global Innovation Summit: ‘Break rules and dream, open doors and listen, trust and be trusted, explore and experiment, accept failure and persist, and pay it forward.’ ”


[ls_toggle title=”Jennifer MarianoCare and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado“]

Jennifer-MarianoJennifer Mariano’s job as programs director at Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado, where she has worked for nearly four years, reaches far beyond what might be seen in Colorado Springs.

“I work with 280 partner agencies across 31 counties,” she said of her job, which is clearly far-flung.

Mariano manages seven employees and nine programs including government commodity distribution (CSFP and TEFAP), food assistance outreach, mobile food pantries, community gardens, food safety, low-income children’s snack programs and weekend backpack programs, and senior nutrition programs. She oversees distribution of 75,000 meals and snacks and 25,000 weekend backpacks yearly to at-risk children.

As if that weren’t enough, Mariano has four children.

“My husband was in the Air Force, so we moved around a lot, and I found jobs wherever he was stationed,” she said. “But we’ve been in Colorado Springs for some time now, and I expect that we’ll be in the community for a long time to come.”

Mariano came to Care and Share after serving for five years as director of communication for the Pikes Peak Chapter of the American Red Cross.

“I’ve spent my entire career in nonprofits,” she said, “and while I was working for the Red Cross I was just blown away by all the different programs that Care and Share has, and their impact on the community. So when a position became available, I applied.”

Mariano serves on the FEMA Emergency Food and Shelter board, the Abundant Harvest Community Garden board, and as a volunteer for Boy Scouts.

The community leader she admires most? Her boss, Care and Share CEO Lynne Telford.

“As a younger woman CEO in this very important field, she’s been a real inspiration to me.”

Her career ambition? “I’d like to be the CEO of a nonprofit,” she said. “I’m not in an enormous hurry, it may not be for four or five years — but I want to continue to make a difference.”


[ls_toggle title=”Cathy Matthews-KaneColorado Springs Country Club“]

Cathy-Matthews-KaneWhat started out as a college internship turned into a life change for Cathy Matthews-Kane. She came to The Broadmoor as an assistant golf professional in 1999.

“I was thinking it was just a one-summer job to finish my college internship, but I didn’t leave for more than 13 years,” she said.

Matthews-Kane, who grew up in Newfoundland, Canada, played Division I college golf at Iowa State University, where she was a four-year letter winner. During her time at The Broadmoor, she worked her way up to membership golf professional.  After earning her master’s in business administration at UCCS, she changed directions in her career.

Currently, Matthews-Kane is director of membership at the Colorado Springs Country Club. The focus of her job is twofold, recruitment of new members and retention of current members.

“I’m fortunate that I get to do a lot of different things — marketing, communication, running various aspects of the business,” she said. “The members and the people at the club are great, and I’m really enjoying the atmosphere.”

One of the best things about her job is the opportunity for a better work-life balance.

“It affords me time to develop both personally and professionally,” she said.

That chance to develop is something she hopes to pass on to others, as well.

“I want to continually improve as a leader on the Colorado PGA [Professional Golfers’ Association] board of directors. I hope to develop the future leaders of golf,” she said.

One of the people who inspires her most is Scott Blackmun, CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee, and a personal friend.

“He has tremendous influence on sports, and has great personal character,” she said.

Matthews-Kane is chairperson of the 2014 Mayors Cup Golf Tournament, serves on the Golf Foundation of Colorado board and also chairs the Dow Finsterwald Scholarship Committee.

Her mission in life can be summed up in six words — do it once, do it right.

“I say it all the time,” she said. “That could apply both professionally and personally. Don’t waste time doing something when it could be done better or more efficiently.”


[ls_toggle title=”Jessie PocockUCCS Galleries of Contemporary Art“]

Jessie-PocockJessie Pocock is a 32-year native of Colorado Springs, having attended high school and college here before working for UCCS’s Galleries of Contemporary Art.

Since she graduated from Colorado College in 2008, Pocock has worked much to further arts and culture in the local community. She has focused much of her time and energy supporting nonprofits that work in social justice and equality and is a strong believer in the success of the Pikes Peak region.

“I think that what got me to this work was an interest in community and civic engagement … and how that contributes to the overall climate of Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region,” she said. “I’m really invested in Colorado Springs.”

She became GOCA’s director of development and fundraising in 2012, performing a wide variety of tasks integral to the success of the two galleries. In her role, she aims to help the gallery run more efficiently and to make better use of its resources, writing grants, as well as a bit of everything else — from hanging lights to applying vinyl to the walls and patching holes.

During her time at GOCA, she has successfully overseen such programs as BRILLIANT and the gallery’s involvement in the Indy Give! campaign.

Currently, she serves on the Colorado College Public Interest Fellowship Program advisory board and as a Fellow Mentor; she’s also served on the boards of the UCCS Matrix Center for the Advancement of Equality and Inclusion, the Pikes Peak Safe at Schools Coalition and the Pikes Peak Equality Coalition.

Pocock, who mentioned an interest in one day running for local office, said she is “greatly inspired by local leaders including state Rep. Pete Lee, Kristy Milligan, Shawna Kemppainen, Lynne Telford, Heather Carroll and GOCA’s own Daisy McConnell.

When she needs perspective, Pocock reminds herself: “You’ve been through harder things than this before,” a phrase of support that remains
with her.


[ls_toggle title=”Shelby Pywell YarbroughMining Exchange – A Wyndham Grand Hotel“]

Shelby-Pywell-YarbroughAt 29, Shelby Pywell Yarbrough is likely the youngest general manager of any four-diamond hotel in the region.

After helping developer Perry Sanders open the The Mining Exchange – A Wyndham Grand Hotel and Springs Orleans Restaurant in 2010, Yarbrough became director of catering. She moved up to director of sales before becoming general manager in November 2012.

“I oversee everything, including the restaurant,” she said. “On a day-to-day basis, I’m everywhere — my role changes daily.”

She also oversees housekeeping and is in charge of ordering, hiring, firing and myriad other managerial tasks that keep her on her toes.

“I’m always trying to learn and grow,” she said.

Her career goals include making the Mining Exchange “the premier spot in Colorado Springs,” and she said it is well on its way to achieving that status.

Although a native of British Columbia, Yarbrough said she is having fun supporting the Colorado Springs community she has come to know so well.

“We have a gem of a city, and I think more people should know about it,” she said.

Yarbrough, in fact, met her husband Keith not long before starting at the hotel where they both now work — he as the chief engineer.

Among the community leaders who inspire Yarbrough are Raphael Sassower, Anne Alba and, of course, Perry and Lauren Sanders.

“They’ve given me this opportunity … they have trusted and believed in me,” she said.

The UCCS graduate said she has learned a lot in her life, having gone through the process of U.S. immigration and other stressful situations, and said that she never saw quitting as an option.

“Things get rough for people, and I think that many are inclined to give up,” she said.

“But hard work pays off: that is the time you can shine. … Giving up is not an option.”


[ls_toggle title=”Jon SeversonColorado Springs Young Professionals“]

Jon-SeversonShortly after arriving here in 2004, Jon Severson looked for something to do. The ardent cyclist, networker and entrepreneur soon created social networks, wrote for biking magazines, launched entrepreneurial projects and rode virtually every trail in the Pikes Peak region.

Noting the city lacked any organization that linked young professionals, Severson founded Colorado Springs Young Professionals in 2004. From its modest roots as an informal group meeting at various watering holes, CSYP has morphed into a statewide group with chapters in Denver, Pueblo and Summit County.  “We currently reach more than 40,000 YPs via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and email,” Severson said, “and we’re planning on Boulder in 2015.”

The group has evolved since its barhopping days. CSYP still hosts Thursday get-togethers, but also sponsors events and a Christmas toy drive. Severson has been deeply involved in the cycling community as well. He co-founded the Peak Region Cyclist, put on a regional bike show for three years, and recently started the Urban Singletrack Project.

“It’s a nonprofit dedicated to creating mountain bike trails within the city limits utilizing unused land and old homeless foot paths,” he said. “Our goal is 20 miles of trails in the next three years. We hope to make it a model for the country.

“Our next project will be how to take a small Front Range town and put it on the map for its cycling resources. I’m working on a mini-documentary on how cycling changed the direction of a local business.”

Asked for his mantra, Severson replied: “Well, in general I feel we should always be learning, always questioning. Do good things and try to leave something better than you found it. You have only one life to live, then you’re dead. No second chances, so do as much as you can … but take time to enjoy life.

“Really, the No. 1 thing that inspired me as a kid was the Ferris Bueller line: ‘Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around you might miss it.’ It’s far too easy to be Cameron, feel sorry for yourself and hide where it’s safe. You gotta get out there and live. Because when it’s over, it’s over.”


[ls_toggle title=”David SiegelBee Vradenburg Foundation“]

David-SiegelEncouraging growth of the arts in the Pikes Peak region isn’t just David Siegel’s job — it’s his passion.

“I come at my love of the arts really organically as a performer, as an artist,” said Siegel, who’s a classically trained violinist. “I know how it’s transformed my life, and I’m confident it can transform other lives in the same way.”

By day, Siegel is executive director of the Bee Vradenburg Foundation, but also plays in the band Mango Fan Django, which was voted best jazz band in Colorado Springs by the Indy Music Awards for the past three years.

Through his job, Siegel works to further the foundation’s mission — to invest in the excellence, innovation and sustainability of the arts in the Pikes Peak region.

“We have some incredibly talented artists and musicians and dancers doing some really great work, and I’m just working to support what they do,” he said.

That support for artists is accomplished through traditional grants and promotion of the arts.

“I serve as a community voice advocating for the importance of the arts in the Pikes Peak region,” he said.

The path to Siegel’s current position began at the Colorado Springs Conservatory, where he attended on a scholarship. From there, he went on to the Manhattan School of Music in New York.

“I looked around said, ‘Wow, none of these people know how to make a living for themselves in the music world. They don’t know what they’re going to do when they graduate,’” he said.

As a result, he arranged to work as an intern for a summer at the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, funded by the Bee Vradenburg Foundation.

“Together with Susan Edmondson (then executive director of the foundation), we created a program called the Bee Vradenburg Internship.” He was the first intern in the new program, which is now in its fifth year.

For Siegel, the importance of the arts can’t be overstated.

“Art creates community. I know it’s a bumper sticker, but art does create community. You can look at lots of communities around the country that have used art to transform [themselves].”


[ls_toggle title=”Jenny StaffordChildren’s Hospital Colorado Foundation“]

Jenny-StaffordSometimes life takes unexpected turns, as it did for Jenny Stafford. She moved here in 2001 to teach, planning to stay for one year and then head to Columbia University for her graduate degree in art history. Those plans changed.

“I just fell in love with Colorado Springs and decided to change gears,” she said. Instead, she earned a master’s in public administration with a nonprofit focus. Since May 2013, she’s been philanthropy director at Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation.

Her work there means more to her because of her life experiences.

“Our family’s life and the life of a close family friend have been touched through the work of children’s hospitals,” she said. “I’m so fortunate to be able to work for an organization that will transform pediatric care in Colorado Springs … my hope is to be able to continue to do that work for a long time in this community.”

Prior to the hospital, Stafford worked at the Pikes Peak Community College Foundation.

Currently, Stafford is board chair of the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region and was on the board for Cheyenne Mountain Civic Solutions from 2010-2013. She’s also served as board chair for Pikes Peak Therapeutic Riding Center.

She credits her business success to bosses who understand the importance of family, saying, “(They) value work-life balance and want me to put my family first and, without that, I would not be … in the position I am in today,” she said.

One influential boss, Jon Stepleton, her mentor for more than a decade, “taught me how to lead and manage people with grace and kindness and how important it is to be good to people. I admire (his) integrity and the trust that people have in him and hope that someday I’ll be seen as a very trusted community leader who works with high ethics and high integrity.”

Those values are reflected in Stafford’s life goal.

“Treat others how you’d want to be treated,” she said. “Treat people with kindness.”


[ls_toggle title=”Susan WoessnerUSA Swimming“]

Susan-WoessnerSusan Woessner has been a swimmer all her life. But when she started working at USA Swimming right out of college, she never expected the national governing body would be her only professional employer for the next 10 years.

Woessner started out tracking statistics for USA Swimming. It was a good first job and interesting, but wasn’t exactly her passion.

“My interest was always in young people and self-esteem,” she said.

She decided she needed a master’s degree in social work if she wanted to pursue that passion. When she left for graduate school in Austin, Texas, she never expected to continue working for
USA Swimming.

But Woessner finished her master’s just when NGBs were starting their Safe Sport programs, designed to prevent abuse and inappropriate behavior in youth programs.

It was a perfect fit for Woessner, who had found swimming an important esteem-building activity during her youth. Woessner wanted to make sure it would be that way for other young athletes.

Today, Woessner directs USA Swimming’s Safe Sport program.

“We’re really focused on being proactive and bringing attention to the risk factors,” Woessner said. “We want to encourage positive interactions between adult and youth athletes.”

Once Woessner came back to Colorado Springs, she dived in, saying, “I wanted to be more connected locally. I realized I knew a whole lot about the Austin community and I’d only been there 18 months. When I came back, I started to look around for ways to really invest in the Colorado Springs community.”

Woessner became active in CASA of the Pikes Peak Region and now serves on the board of directors for TESSA, which works to prevent abuse and help abuse and sexual assault survivors.

In fact, she’s inspired most by TESSA executive director Janet Kerr.

“It’s not an easy charge to work with domestic violence and sexual assault on a regular basis,” Woessner said. “She’s just so passionate about what she does.”

Woessner’s personal mantra? Acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude.


Photos from the event can be viewed here.