Kelly Shelton grew up in Texas, but couldn’t wait to find a home in Colorado. More than five years later, she’s heading up fundraising efforts at the internationally known Space Foundation.

“I was one of those people from Texas who just said, ‘Let’s move anyplace in Colorado,’” she said. “And so my husband and I ended up here. I got a job working with the Girl Scouts of Colorado — I got into nonprofit work after college — and we stayed here.”

Shelton says she loves being in Colorado Springs, but was nervous at first because the city has such a reputation for being tight-knit.

“Coming here, I really thought I might be an outsider for a while,” she said. “But people really do welcome you with arms wide open. People are always willing to help out, to connect you with other people. It’s a wonderful city.”

As a self-proclaimed “space nerd,” Shelton says she loves the opportunity to share and promote the work of the Space Foundation.

“I work on fundraising for the educational projects and the Space Foundation’s overall mission,” she said. “I have a real passion for what they are doing — promoting the importance of space and space education. It affects the whole world, really, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”

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But that doesn’t mean raising money for the nonprofit organization is easy, she said.

“There’s a lot of competition out there,” Shelton said. “And it’s hard to compete with so many great causes and so many great organizations. You have to get out there and find people who are passionate about what you are doing. You have to educate people about the goals of the Space Foundation and then get them involved. There are people out there — but they just don’t realize everything we do here.”

But once students are through the doors and exploring the Discovery Center, it’s all worth it, she says.

“Seeing a kid’s face light up at the sight of a 6-foot globe floating in front of them, that’s incredible,” she says. “Or seeing them have that ‘aha!’ moment at one of the exhibits, that’s very exciting. I’m lucky I’m the one who gets to tell that story.”

And it’s that passion for her job that garnered the attention of the Space Foundation’s Acting CEO and COO, Shelli Brunswick.

“Leaders and rising professionals embrace unique skills and attributes,” she said. “Many times, one will observe a very consistent attitude of professionalism, perfection and the desire to learn and grow. As a young professional, Kelly Shelton embraces all of these attributes.”

Brunswick said Shelton’s enthusiasm and energy more than made up for her lack of experience when she first came to the nonprofit.

“Despite being new to the profession, her instincts and enthusiasm easily compensated for her nominal experience, which has since greatly expanded,” she said. “So much that not once, but now twice, she has been promoted. … I know we can count on Kelly to display the utmost professionalism, respect and sincerity to one and all.”