Having the desire to be active in your community is one thing; having the knowledge and background to be an effective civic participant is something else.
For the past 12 years, the Leadership Steamboat program has sought to bring the two together: finding those who want to participate in community service and providing them the experience and knowledge necessary to fulfill their civic desires.
And for 12 years the program has grown to better meet the needs of its students. Leadership Steamboat begins anew this month under the tutelage of Sandy Evans Hall, executive vice president of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, and Scott Ford, counselor at Colorado Mountain College's Small Business Development Center.
The 10-month program, co-sponsored by the chamber and CMC, serves 20 students who meet once a month to explore the issues that affect life in the Yampa Valley.
Ford, who has co-facilitated the class for three years, said the program provides an opportunity for students to understand the workings of the community from the inside out.
"You come away with a much better appreciation of how interdependent we are across all segments, economically, socially and culturally," Ford said. "You can't leave this (program) without having a greater sense of community."
Program participants will identify several key issues affecting the Yampa Valley and spend time exploring those issues with the people most involved with them.
"You're actually meeting the people and learning the complexities of the issues you read and hear about," Evans Hall said. "When you have that greater depth of understanding you're able to make more thoughtful decisions."
The program also includes field trips to examine the challenges facing area agriculture, land conservation and mining. Classes also will include a session geared toward understanding the collaborative process often used by community organizations and agencies, a study of local businesses, industries and volunteer organizations and a look at the community's infrastructure and city and county governments.
In the end, program participants not only will better understand the community in which they live, but also have a better understanding of how to participate in areas of interest to them, Evans Hall said. Plus, they will have developed connections with key community players, she said.
"People who are coming into this program already have a strong desire to become involved," Evans Hall said. "I see so many of the former students very active in the community today. They've gained a deeper understanding of how things work."
Evans Hall said the program provides something for everyone, whether you're a lifelong Routt County resident or a newcomer.
The cost of the program is $400 per student. There are several openings remaining in the course, which begins with a 1 1/2 day retreat Sept. 23 and 24. The program meets once a month beginning in October. Classes are held Fridays for the entire day.
For more information call Ford at 870-4491 or Evans Hall at 879-0882, ext. 210.
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