A foundation of leadership

Carolyn Sackariason
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” There are hundreds of leaders living in the Roaring Fork Valley, thanks to a nine-month program that’s designed around creating “social capital” within the local community.

Roaring Fork Center for Community Leadership, also known as Roaring Fork Leadership, is celebrating its 20th year and is designed to connect people socially and civically.

The 501 (c)(3) organization follows the notion that government and communities work better and leaders are held accountable in places where citizens are actively engaged.

The Roaring Fork Leadership class comprises of a blend of 40 individuals representing a broad range of public, private, nonprofit, health, education and business sectors, and who reflect geographic, political, cultural, age and gender diversity, according to the organization’s executive director, Terri Anuszewski.

“Building trust in the community is one of the big things for us,” Anuszewski said. “We believe we are a direct influence on social capital … what impact do these 40 people have in the community?”

Today, Roaring Fork Leadership has more than 400 graduates, with 80 percent of them still living in the valley.

First formed as Leadership Aspen, the organization began in 1988 after a survey initiated by Colorado Mountain College and the Aspen Chamber of Commerce determined a need for a leadership-based community program.

Since then, each fall for the past two decades, a new class has formed and launched their transformative year of learning and relationship building.

The class meets 12 times throughout the year, with different speakers and experts highlighting each one. The organization also holds numerous annual public events.

Recent participants have reported that the first session with John Clark’s “Mastering the Future,” has been the most inspiring and life changing. The thrust at the beginning of the program is that participants accept that they are leaving the past behind and moving forward with a new line of thinking.

“What you learn in ‘Mastering the Future’ is that you are the only one that holds you back,” Anuszewski said.

As a result, several class members this year have exceeded their expectations and goals in their personal and professional lives, which has percolated throughout the community.

The class of 2008 also is completing several projects that will benefit different sectors of the community. Those projects include automating the Aspen Thrift Store so it can sell its high-end merchandise on an online auction website; helping various development projects throughout the valley become more environmentally sensitive; educating middle school students on watershed protection and creating videos of people from different walks of life to share their stories for diversity education that will be used by various nonprofits.

“This is a self-reflective group,” Anuszewski said. “It’s not about them but the community.”

Anuszewski said the program is a combination of 30 percent personal development, 40 percent skill development and 30 percent devoted to regional issues.

Each spring, the organization hosts receptions for prospective applicants. The deadline for people to apply for the 2009 class is June 12.

The class of 2008 will graduate June 11 at the Flying Dog Ranch.

Tuition is $2,000 for each participant in the program. Anuszewski said the actual market value of the program is about $4,000.

Support comes from alumni, foundations, government, local businesses and individuals. Major donors include Chaffin Light Real Estate, Rainy Day Designs, The Aspen Times, Wendy Aresty, Alpine Bank, the city of Aspen, 101.1 KUUR FM, Wells Fargo and the Aspen Community Foundation.

For the 2006 tax year, which ran from June 1 to May 31, the organization received $91,590 in public support, which includes government contributions. Program fees and tuition accounted for $48,915. With investment income and other fundraising revenue, the organization had a total of $149,673 in revenue. The organization’s expenses, which are mostly fees associated with programming, were $148,795, leaving an excess of $878.

Executive director: Terri Anuszewski

Salary: $56,346

2006 expenses: $148,795

Mission: Developing skills and relationships to transform individuals into engaged citizens.

Source: Internal Revenue Service