Although Sloan Gonzales was born in Texas, she doesn’t hesitate for a moment to call Colorado Springs home.

The Doherty High School graduate moved here at age 6, and went on to complete both her undergraduate (sociology) and master’s (communication) degrees from UCCS.

Today, Gonzales, 29, is employed by Leadership Pikes Peak and is in charge of the Women’s Community Leadership Initiative — a program for those who have recently experienced a crisis and/or are going through a transition, and Leadership NOW!, a program meant to develop the leadership skills of young professionals and engage them in the community.

Early in her career, Gonzales, a former Girl Scout, worked for the organization, including overseeing programs involving bullying and health and wellness.

But she wanted more in a career. Gonzales went through the Leadership NOW! program and realized she needed to return to school for her graduate degree.

“Through that process, I fell in love with teaching,” she said. “I’d always been a trainer and a facilitator and did Diversity Club in high school.”

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So she took the role of diversity trainer in college and spoke around campus.

“It was in my master’s program that I discovered my talent and what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” Gonzales said. “I left the Girl Scouts and took a severe pay cut to be a graduate teaching assistant and work for the university.”

During her last year of graduate school, Gonzales taught public speaking.

“I was the poster girl for public speaking for the university,” she said. “I would speak to every freshman and sophomore class in every department and talk about the nature of public speaking.”

Lorelle Davies, director of auxiliary services at Pikes Peak Community College, nominated Gonzales for a Rising Star recognition.

“When I think about young professionals that are making a difference in Colorado Springs, Sloan is one of the first that comes to mind,” Davies said. “Doing the math to calculate the number of youth, students and community members that Sloan impacts directly each year reaches into the hundreds.

“Sloan is a builder and developer of people and ideas. [She] has a drive to create and bring things into the light, whether that be a program she is running, a team she is part of or the people she works with.”

Gonzales said being recognized as a Rising Star is “a really cool honor. Everyone who was nominated is phenomenal. I went on LinkedIn and stalked all of them! I’m just humbled to be a part of that group. I’ve never won an award before. I work really hard and someone noticed — and that’s nice.”

— Bryan Grossman

What advice would you give your younger self?

Slow down, slow down, slow down. My entire life has been about being the best. I never slowed down to enjoy what I was doing. I’m working on the idea of, I don’t know what I’ll be next year, but I’ll be present now.