2018 Rising Star: Erica Oakley-Courage

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Erica Oakley-Courage worked in communications with sports teams in Seattle and Chicago before moving to Colorado Springs nearly a decade ago. Since coming to the Pikes Peak region, she’s married, found her dream job with Palmer Land Trust and poured her energy into a long list of volunteer endeavors.

“Erica is the embodiment of community passion and engagement,” said Rebecca Jewett, the executive director of Palmer Land Trust. “When I think about the next generation of community leadership, I think of Erica.”

That is exemplified by Oakley-Courage, 39, sitting on the board of directors as the philanthropy chair with Peak Vista Community Health Centers for the last three years. When she first moved to the Springs, she was sick, not yet married and didn’t have health insurance.

“I found Peak Vista and the care I got was so different than what I ever had through insurance,” she said. “I told myself when I was in a position to give back, I would engage in a really deep way.”

That crystalized even more when she started working as the development director at Palmer Land Trust in April 2015.

“It’s so fulfilling to work there and help preserve what we have,” she said. “I lived on a ranch as a kid and land conservation has always been important to me.

“When I left Chicago, I wanted to be in a community where I could have an impact. As citizens, I feel we have to get involved, and to give power and voice to people who maybe can’t do it themselves.”

When Oakley-Courage participated in the 2017 Institute for Leaders in Development, she was voted by her peers to represent the class with a speech at the graduation ceremony. She now serves on the group’s development committee.

She also serves on the program committee for the Colorado Planned Giving Roundtable. In past years, she has volunteered with the Girl Scouts of Colorado, the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, the Colorado Springs Osteopathic Foundation, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region.

In 2016, she was named the Outstanding Emerging Fundraising Professional by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. That same year, she received the Volunteer Service Award from the Girl Scouts.

“From everyday leadership motivating her colleagues, to deeply engaging donors in Palmer Land Trust’s work, to being recognized regionally as an outstanding fundraising professional, Erica believes in her work and her community to the depths of her bones,” Jewett said. “It is rare to find someone so passionate and authentic in her work.”

— Bob Stephens

What advice would you give your younger self?

Be brave, be fierce, be kind, trust your instincts, and the scary things are the ones you should be saying yes to.