Courtney Stone. Image.

Colorado Springs Rising Professionals is a nonprofit organization that works to empower young professionals in the region through professional development, civic engagement, mentoring, and networking.

The success of the program has been tremendous since it’s inception in 2006 and ten years later, 2016 is prepped to be another successful year. We sat down with five of the organization’s members for this interview series to tell that story.

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Image via Facebook. 

Courtney Stone moved down to Colorado Springs from Fort Collins after getting her degree in social work about three years ago. She is lucky enough to call the job she found in her new city her “passion.”

At the Independence Center, Courtney provides services across the spectrum for people with disabilities of all types—but mostly in the form of political advocacy of specific issues that act as barriers to these people.

About a year ago, she began her involvement in Colorado Springs Rising Professionals, the nonprofit organization that empowers young business professionals in the area through professional development, civic engagement, mentoring, and networking events. With the Rising Professionals, Courtney joined the civic engagement committee, where she focuses on election work—specifically getting young people focused on important political conversations and ensuring they’re engaged in the upcoming election process in 2016.

For her involvement in the Rising Professionals’ civic engagement committee, Courtney was awarded with the 2015 Rising Professional of the Year Award. One thing in particular that makes her civic engagement so incredibly effective is her ability to converse.

When we sat down to speak with her last week, Courtney had no shortage of insightful things to say about the organization, the city, the current state of young people, and more. Here are the highlights:

On initially moving to Colorado Springs…

“We made a list of places we wanted to live in Colorado. Colorado Springs was dead last… So I came down here kicking and screaming and found the job that I currently work at…

“I think the unfortunate truth is that we don’t always like to acknowledge cities like Denver with Colorado Springs. Colorado Springs has sort of a poor reputation among other cities in the state as being less open to young people, more conservative and more right-leaning—not in a bad way, but more so just in a way doesn’t align with tendencies of young people.”

On aligning her professional career and personal interests…

[At the Independence Center] I work on a broad political advocacy level of specific issues that are barriers to people with disabilities—transit, affordable housing, mental health, election advocacy. We’re trying to engage people with disabilities and the general population. My day job aligns perfectly with what I do at Rising Professionals.  I got started about a year ago with the civic engagement committee, working around public policy and volunteerism for young people in Colorado.”

On civic engagement…

How do we take something that nobody cares about and make it interesting?

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The Civic Engagement committee hosted a Coffee with Councilmember Larry Bagley (District 2) where they talked about economic development, City for Champions, homelessness, marijuana and more. The Rising Professionals also offer committees on marketing, sports and culture, professional development, and mentorship. Image via Facebook.

On productivity in the program…

What we love to see is when people come out initially, make those first few social connections and get involved with a committee, which is where you get down into the nitty gritty—getting to know people personally and getting invested in small things that you have the capacity to create…

“Growth personally and professionally comes when you put in a little time to commit to some of the projects we’re working on and to push yourself a little bit.”

On purpose…

I feel incredibly fortunate at such a young age to have found a career that aligns really well with my skillset and my value system. It gives me a purpose in my work life that not everybody has been able to find at such a young age. I try and align everything I do with the value set of getting people invested in their community, recognizing that when people find that sense of ownership, they want to stick around and get involved. It’s a stepping stone to having a stronger voice and stronger representation at all levels.”

On being awarded the Rising Professional of the Year…

I actually ended up being at a fundraiser where I was sleeping outside on rocks and cardboard to raise money for homeless people when the award was given out so it was fitting. I was happy with how that worked out. That was exactly where I wanted to be.”

On misconceptions about millennials…

Young people can sometimes be aligned with not being as engaged as we should be, but millennials actually have a tendency to volunteer at higher rates than previous generations and are generally aligned with more social justice issues than other age groups.”

On her changed perception of the city…

The reputation we have is this broad brushstroke of Colorado Springs that doesn’t apply to the individuals within it.  I’ve been able to find a niche of people that may be smaller than the group I would find in metro Denver, but there’s still people that have similar value systems and similar core beliefs and believe in the things that I do.

When you put a little work in to invest in your community and finding those people through process of elimination, the people that show up and really care are the people that have shown me that this community has a lot of offer… The Rising Professionals are working hard to change the reputation that we’re not welcoming to young people, because that’s not the case.”

Check out everything the Colorado Springs Rising Professionals are up to this month here and how you can get involved in one of the organization’s committees here.