2017 Rising Stars: Christopher Aaby

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Continual investment in the environment and people are the keys to  34-year-old Chris Aaby’s success.

As executive director of Catamount Institute in Colorado Springs, his passion for the Colorado Springs-based nonprofit is evident. He’s worked for the organization for more than 10 years, serving as marketing director and assistant director before stepping into the organization’s highest position.

“Seeing my staff be successful in their job and [watching] children have a life-changing experience is motivation for me every day,” he said. “I enjoy helping others live up to their potential and having the right skills to have an impact on the world around them.”

Catamount was founded in 1997 and provides environmental education programs, outdoor activities and leadership development for local youths. A dual American-Norwegian citizen, Aaby said growing up in northern Europe shaped his views on protecting the environment.

“I spent summers there as a child, and their progressive views on recycling, conservation and nature-connection have stuck with me,” he said. “Being able to access so much of the mountains and outdoors even on a quick lunch break is such a treat in the Springs.”

Building confidence and success has been a journey, Aaby said, as he occasionally second-guesses himself in a world with so many talented people. He said his biggest obstacle throughout his career has been figuring out that he is the right person for the task.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Be happy, confident and comfortable with who you are. Don’t let people or outside influences tell you who you are and who you should be. Your dreams are yours, and you should live them no matter how crazy they may seem to others.

“There are times when bad things happen, and I would ask myself, ‘Why do these things keep happening to me?’” he said. “I finally realized they were happening to me because I am the right person to tackle these challenges.”

Aaby said he has a unique perspective to share and tries to honor that in his work.

“Catamount Institute is entering its 20th year,” he said. “I am excited to play a lead role in preparing the organization to grow and flourish in the future.”

He has an associate’s degree in fine arts and graphic design from Pikes Peak Community College and is chairman of the steering committee for Leadership Pikes Peak’s Leading Edge program, a summer program for high school juniors and seniors to help connect them with the community.

“One can only hope for volunteers like Chris, who are truly committed to their cause and are extremely hard workers,” said Kasi Dwyer, who met Aaby through Leading Edge. “One of the biggest attributes that Chris brings to the table is his far-reaching contacts in the Colorado Springs community. He has a knack for fostering excellent relationships, which I believe stems from his personable and caring personality. He smiles and everything just seems a little brighter and happier. He is truly a star in this community.”