Learning to fly | AspenTimes.com

Learning to fly

May Eynon
Gregarious guest speaker Greg Cortopassi of Boulder leads the opening retreat each September and the graduation day in May. Deborah Barnekow photo.

In 1988, a local nonprofit organization was founded with the objective of helping shape effective leaders. Then known as Leadership Aspen, the vision for the organization was defined as developing “a community coactively solving personal, professional and civic challenges.”Each fall, a class of approximately 30 students joins together for a year of learning and relationship building. The program begins with a two-day retreat in September, followed by once-a-month training sessions and concludes with graduation in May. A guest presenter facilitates each session, provoking exploration into personal and community leadership perspectives.A few years ago, Leadership Aspen’s name was changed to Roaring Fork Leadership (RFL) to better represent the span of individuals served through the program.RFL allows diverse community members to step back from their everyday demands and look at their roles in the community. The program provides an opportunity to establish lasting connections with colleagues from all over the Roaring Fork Valley.”I found the RFL program provided a unique and valuable opportunity to escape the daily grind and reflect upon and discuss the importance of civic engagement and the personal responsibility to participant in the community,” said RFL alumnus Scott Hicks.As a member of the class of 2005, I had the privilege of experiencing this firsthand. Through our various seminars, my view of the valley and its residents was broadened as topics relating to education, communication and conflict resolution were discussed.Our class was a carefully selected and well-balanced blend of professionals from the for-profit world and the nonprofit sector. Everyone brought something unique to the group. Discussions were open and ideas were freely exchanged and accepted – often punctuated by humor.”I found the RFL program to be beneficial in both my personal and professional life,” said Nancy Heard, manager of Mountain Photo for Aspen/Snowmass.”The program offers a wide range of skill-building seminars and then wraps it all up into a framework of personal development.”Since its inception, more than 400 people representing a cross-section of the community have graduated from RFL. Though similar programs are offered across the country, one remarkable aspect of this one is that the network continues to grow beyond graduation. Approximately 80 percent of the alumni still live and work in the valley, and many of them hold jobs with tremendous responsibility.

“RFL is the most important investment I could make in myself, my business, my family and my community,” added Erin Rigney of Rainy Day Designs in Carbondale. “I would recommend the program to anyone interested in enhancing their life on multiple levels.”I’m proud to join the ranks of RFL’s colorful cast of alumni and to have been exposed to current issues and opportunities in the community and beyond.Applications for the class of 2006 are available now at http://www.rfleadership.org, and are due next Tuesday, May 24. For information, contact Virginia Newton, executive director of RFL at vnewton@sopris.net or 922-6035.In addition to the annual program, RFL hosts several community programs during the year that are open to the public.To contact May to send info, insights or invites, e-mail allthewaymaymay@hotmail.com

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