Scholar Highlights

Jessica Cuthbertson, 1997 Boettcher Scholar, is an award-winning eighth-grade English teacher in Aurora Public Schools who has crafted a career as a teacher, instructional coach and social media activist. Growing up in Rocky Ford in the 1980s, Jessica’s future in education was shaped by her parents and teachers. Mrs. DeLeon gave Jessica a strong foundation as an early reader and the chance to mentor and learn from bilingual students in a K-2 classroom community. Jessica’s middle school social studies teacher, Mrs. Bartolo, arranged a day at The Denver Post to foster Jessica’s interest in journalism. “Key teachers at the right time kept my love of learning alive and made me want to pursue a career in education, even though that’s not what I originally planned to do,” Jessica said. After graduating from Regis University in 2001, Jessica completed a year-long fellowship with the Boettcher Foundation, where she worked in outreach and communications for the Boettcher Scholarship. It was there that her passions coalesced, and she was inspired to pursue a career in public education: “Traveling the state fueled a desire to teach and advocate for Colorado schools and students.” As a National Board-Certified Teacher and self-described “edu-geek” who enjoys adolescent literature as much as her students, Jessica is committed to the growth of “budding journalists” in her eighth-grade class and to elevating the voices of educators across the country, who she believes are often excluded from decisions that impact them. Jessica is an active Twitter influencer, moderator and writer whose thoughts on education innovation, policy and equity have been published in Education Week, Chalkbeat and Smithsonian magazines. Jessica attributes much of her voice as an advocate to her time as a “teacherpreneur” with the Center for Teaching Quality, a position that allowed her to teach part-time while engaging in teacher leadership and high-level policy work. Through the center, Jessica discovered that social media, particularly Twitter, is one of the best tools for continued learning. “The reason I’ve been in education for 15 years is because I can write about classroom experiences, education policy and systemic issues,” she said. “These conversations keep me engaged as a learner and a citizen, and they also make me a better teacher. My students see that I’m learning and working alongside them.” In addition to teaching and blogging, Jessica is active in her parish and on the Aurora Public Schools’ strategic taskforce, where she advocates for English-language learners representing more than 140 nationalities. Additionally, she is co-facilitating a pilot program to support 20 rural Colorado teachers in attaining their National Board certification as part of a teacher retention strategy for the state. Jessica credits this service ethic to her small-town upbringing, faith and mission-driven education at Regis, which was supported by a Boettcher Scholarship. “As a result of the Boettcher Scholarship, I was able to attend Regis, my top in-state choice of college,” she said. “Their mission of ‘men and women in the service of others,’ combined with being a Boettcher Scholar, continues to drive my commitment to working toward a more equitable public education system for all students in rural, suburban and urban districts across our great state.” Recently, Jessica has encountered an even more formative experience for her identity as an educator and advocate: becoming a mother to a current first grader who she and her husband recently adopted from Ethiopia in February of 2017. “Becoming a parent has fundamentally changed me as a teacher. As a mom, I’ve grasped how much parents trust that teachers are doing their best – and as a teacher it’s my obligation to do right by their children.”...

Long before becoming the first in his family to attend college, 2016 Boettcher Scholar Cesar Caraveo was learning to thrive in whatever circumstances came his way. At just one week old, Cesar faced major surgery for spina bifida, a condition with serious health and mobility risks. Not only did he surpass his prognosis by walking at the age of one, by age three, he was playing soccer. Less than a decade later, severe scoliosis put Cesar in a body cast for three months and sidelined him from soccer for more than a year. Instead of being discouraged, Cesar used the experience to study, recover and develop a sense of unconventional optimism, a philosophy that has shaped his life and led to his rapid return to the soccer field and school. “Whatever obstacles that come my way, I strive to overcome by learning from them,” Cesar said. “I let them make me better.” Cesar’s optimism opened doors for leadership with his soccer team and within his high school. His parents encouraged him to take advantage of every opportunity that came along. That led him to volunteer with the Spina Bifida Association of Colorado and to travel to Europe with a youth exchange program – both experiences he believes contributed to his earning a Boettcher Scholarship. “When I got the letter, the first words that caught my attention were ‘Reach new heights as a Boettcher Scholar,’” he recalled. “In that moment I realized that what I’d been working for—what my parents had worked for—could actually happen. And I knew that the Boettcher Scholarship was the community I wanted to be a part of.” Now in his third year at the University of Denver, Cesar is pursuing a degree in computer science along with minors in business administration, mathematics, leadership and Spanish. While he is involved with the DU club soccer team, Pioneer Leadership Program and 1GenU, a program for first generation DU students, Cesar has perhaps been most challenged and inspired by the summers he’s spent interacting with high schoolers in Brazil. Cesar recently completed his second summer as a teaching fellow with US-Brazil Connect, a Denver-based organization that builds cultural connections and leadership through English-language instruction. After traveling to Brazil in 2017 with a Boettcher Educational Enrichment Grant, Cesar was recruited as a senior fellow to teach English online and onsite in the Brazilian Amazon. The program honed his leadership skills and inspired a love for teaching that has convinced him to apply his computer science degree as a teacher. “US-Brazil Connect was life-changing. Not only is it the reason I want to one day teach, it gave me a more grounded perspective that time spent with people and in relationships is what matters,” he said. Cesar is once again expanding his cultural horizons, currently spending his fall quarter in Barcelona, a city where another one of his passions – soccer – can run wild. “Soccer is basically another religion in Spain. To be somewhere where I can partake in that culture will be amazing.” When Cesar thinks about the Boettcher Scholarship, he doesn’t dwell on the accomplishment, but sees how it has prepared him for something greater. “Because of Boettcher I could go to DU, travel the world and develop a love for teaching. My trajectory is so different and so exciting,” he said. “The Boettcher Scholarship is a turning point, but it’s only the beginning.”...

When Richard Leggett explored future careers in middle school, he was pointed to three options: chemist, applied mathematician and minister. However, the 1971 Boettcher Scholar from Colorado Springs had no doubts about which vocation he would chose: “I always knew that I was called to be a priest.” Five decades later, Richard is living out his calling as the recently appointed vicar of Holy Trinity Cathedral, an Anglican parish in New Westminster, British Columbia. In his role, Richard serves the spiritual needs of an urban, blue-collar congregation in one of Canada’s most secular and progressive communities. “My work is help answer how our faith community can live in the 21st century and translate the gospel into new ways,” Richard said. “How can we be leaven in the loaf of this downtown neighborhood?” One of the ways Richard is answering this question is through a large-scale development on the cathedral’s property, which is in the heart of the New Westminster’s historic center. Richard is working closely with the neighborhood to guide the construction of a 30-story residential tower that includes 42 units of affordable housing, a community plaza, and new parish offices and meetings spaces with commercial-grade community kitchen. The goal is to “reinvent the spaces and the conversations where we engage our neighbors.” About his challenging task of guiding the development, Richard joked “No one taught this type of work in theological studies.” However, Richard is thankful for the life experiences that prepared him to lead this creative undertaking. After graduating from the University of Denver with a bachelor’s degree in French, German and secondary education, Richard took various jobs in retail and teaching foreign languages before being ordained in 1981 and serving in Denver for three years. In 1987, he received his master’s in liturgical studies from Notre Dame and moved to Vancouver with his wife, son and two cats for what he anticipated would be a three-year teaching position. While at Vancouver School of Theology, Richard completed his doctorate and helped to develop the first accredited master’s in divinity program in North America for people serving in indigenous communities. This work opened doors for Richard to travel to other parts of the world to develop and teach “dynamic cultural translations” that resonated with laity and clergy in diverse cultures. After 23 years teaching, Richard chose to return to congregational ministry as a rector at a church in Vancouver. Before accepting the appointment to Holy Trinity in 2018, he had also served as member of the staff of the Anglican Church of Canada and a national committee member. Looking back on his path, Richard is amazed by the opportunities he has had to advance his own education and to faithfully and creatively engage with modern culture. He’s also never forgotten the gift of the Boettcher Scholarship, whose plaque he has displayed in every one of his offices for more than three decades. “The Boettcher Scholarship was a tremendous gift of the generosity of the foundation and family. If not for the scholarship, I don’t know what we would have done. The scholarship was the foundation for my success as a graduate student and the springboard for my career.” Richard noted that being a Boettcher Scholar impressed upon him a noblesse oblige, a responsibility to pay forward the gift he had received. The scholarship is also a reminder of the gratitude and joy he has found in following his vocation. “Remember that all that you are, and all that you have, is a gift. Living in gratitude means we live and respond in ways that build up other people and ourselves. Joy stems from this – the deep-seated conviction that you are doing and being who you are called to be. This is your purpose.”...

A 2007 Boettcher Scholar, Cristina Gonzales entered the University of Denver as a business major. However, she soon realized her true passion was in art history. Rather than continuing to take art classes “on the sneaks,” Cristina made a bold move and declared an art history major at the height of the recession. She then went on to complete a MBA in museum studies and nonprofit management. “It was the best, ‘bad’ decision I could have made,” she said. Cristina’s decision to pursue her passion in art history paid off when she found a trajectory to positions at cultural nonprofits such as History Colorado, Museo de las Americas and the Latino Chamber of Commerce, as well as with the media giant Comcast-NBC. She was recruited to Saint Joseph Hospital Foundation’s development team during the final phase of the hospital’s $100 million capital campaign. Cristina is currently the development manager for Saint Joseph Hospital Foundation. In her role, she coordinates donor engagement for Denver's oldest private teaching hospital, which occupies a newly constructed campus just east of Downtown Denver. Cristina describes her position as “one of the hospital’s faces of community good” and enjoys working closely with donors to identify opportunities to support Saint Joseph’s mission, as well as attending community outreach events. At just 29 years old, Cristina’s résumé has more diverse experience than many mid-career professionals, an accomplishment she attributed to following her interests and receiving support from those who believed in her potential, a message she received when she opened her letter from the Boettcher Foundation. After opening her letter in the Pueblo Central High School parking lot, Cristina remembers jumping up and down and soon being surrounding by other staff and friends at the school who heard she had been offered a Boettcher Scholarship. “My whole village was celebrating, and they deserved to. My accomplishment was theirs as well, because they supported me. That’s why I will always believe in giving back.” As a first-generation college student, the journey to receive a scholarship was not always easy. She remembers classmates telling her to drop out of the Boettcher process: “They’re never going to pick someone from Central,” she was told. However, Cristina persisted in serving her community and following her passions – a theme that has defined her journey. In the broader community, Cristina seeks to create the same life-changing opportunities for others as her “village” and the Boettcher Foundation did for her. Her service on the boards of DU Art at the University of Denver and CultureHaus at the Denver Art Museum provide an ideal mix of her professional expertise and passion and inspire her to live a “creative life.” When she’s not creating innovative fundraising strategies or traveling to see unique art exhibits, Cristina enjoys “hosting ridiculously themed dinner parties for friends.” Cristina hasn’t built the resume that she or others initially expected when she entered the University of Denver as a business major. Instead, she says she ended up with something much richer. Her advice for those hoping to do good through their profession is to pursue opportunities that they truly enjoy. While that may seem like a risk, the reward is almost guaranteed. “If you really love what you do, you’ll be the best at it and your contributions will be greater than thought possible. Find that niche, embrace it. You can’t go wrong with following your heart.”...

As a journalism major at the University of Colorado Boulder, Kelly Graziadei didn’t know she would one day build and lead critical functions from sales to product marketing for the world’s largest media company. “If you had asked me then about doing work in tech (or what I thought of as working with computers back then), I would have replied ‘absolutely not,’” she said. The 1993 Boettcher Scholar, however, always felt drawn to places with abundant opportunity where she could create and define her own path. Such was the feeling she encountered as a recipient of the Boettcher Scholarship. “I knew I had the foundation behind me, believing in me and my ideas. That pushed me to work hard and gave me a vote of confidence to go and do big things,” she said. After graduating and starting in a leadership development program at a phone company in San Francisco, Kelly saw the opportunity to be a pioneer in the digital sector and made the leap. She worked at numerous companies, including Yahoo, before embarking on a seven-year career at Facebook, where she successfully led monetization strategy and go-to-market functions as the director of global marketing solutions. Today, Kelly is an entrepreneur-in-residence at Foundation Capital, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm. She’s taking the time to explore opportunities in start-ups and venture capital, a season the fast-paced technology executive called “a true gift.” For Kelly, making thoughtful decisions and taking action are fundamental to entrepreneurship and leadership. While all people have the potential to be entrepreneurs, Kelly notes it’s not just good ideas that lead to success. “We all have good ideas. What sets an entrepreneur apart is they are driven to build. They cannot not act. There’s no plan B or option of sitting back.” In her own right Kelly is a builder and successful entrepreneur, working in companies from three people to 20,000; In her tenure at Facebook, global advertising revenue grew from $3 billion in 2011 to more than $39 billion in 2017. Grounded in her experience, Kelly shared the key qualities she encounters among thriving entrepreneurs, and advice for would-be entrepreneurs: Grit: “Know that if you’re going through something difficult, it will help you later.” Commitment and passion: “Lean into what you love. You can learn a lot of skills but you can’t manufacture passion.” Hustle: “Work really hard and creatively solve problems that others won’t.” Leadership: “Communicate a clear and bold vision to enroll the right people.” Authenticity: “Truthfully answer the question of which issue you are uniquely positioned to solve.”   For Kelly, part of authenticity is also knowing what opportunities to pass up: “It’s just as important to know when to say no. You need to understand your values and let those inform your decisions and priorities. The opportunity cost for entrepreneurs is really high.” Knowing how to spend her own time is critical for the relationships she maintains as a mother of two and a mentor. Mentoring young people, especially women in the tech and entrepreneurial sectors, is something she is deeply committed to. “I love spending time with people looking how they can step up as a leader and take their impact or organization to the next level. Anytime I can be a coach or a sounding board, I do,” she said. “But it’s hard to classify this as giving back, because I gain so much myself.” In addition to mentoring, Kelly gives talks to groups across the world on numerous topics surrounding leadership and innovation. She was also the speaker at CU Boulder’s 2016 spring commencement, where she live-streamed grads singing the university’s fight song. In daily life, social media is ubiquitous. Like television in the 1950s, it fundamentally changed the way we connect with each other and consume information. And while social media has opened new doors to participate in each other’s lives and the market, it has also produced troubling isolation and misinformation, especially among young people, she noted. “My hope is with this mobile transformation, the pendulum swings back a bit towards deeper connection,” said Kelly. “People are hungry for meaningful connection. My wish is we’ll see more entrepreneurs willing to build spaces that better span and connect the physical and digital world from health and wellness to shopping and entertainment and more.” From building the social media advertising world to paving inroads for her mentees, Kelly is a builder and a thought leader who continues to pay forward the investment of the Boettcher Scholarship. When asked to share advice for scholars building their own paths, Kelly shared a final bit of advice. ”Don’t live someone else’s dream. There’s no replacement for passion – you can’t fake it. Pursue the thing that makes you so excited you can’t imagine doing anything else.”  ...

Will French has always loved horses, despite the fact that his parents were never really into them. He took riding lessons as a kid, and, in junior high, got horses of his own – but not in the most conventional way. “My dad is a lawyer, and he did some work defending ranchers in grazing fights,” Will said. “The ranchers couldn’t pay him all that they needed to in cash, so we got paid in horses, which I thought was pretty awesome.” As a fifth-generation Coloradan, Will grew up in Fort Collins and attended Poudre High School. After receiving the Boettcher Scholarship in 2003, Will chose a path that would allow for horses to remain a constant in his life. He attended Colorado State University to study equine science, continued on to attend veterinary school at CSU, then progressed to an internship at Littleton Equine Medical Center, a major equine referral hospital. “In the internship, we rotated through medicine, surgery, and emergency, and kind of got a taste of everything,” Will said. “After the internship, I was fortunate enough to be offered a job, and my wife was also offered a job there too — she’s a veterinarian also — so we both work at the same practice.” Will focused on lameness in sport horses, and performs various tasks such as chiropractic acupuncture, ultrasounds, general exams and X-rays. “I really enjoy the puzzle piece of cases, and trying to put all the pieces together — so kind of that critical thinking part,” Will said. “I love working outside and getting to see my work in action. When the horse is lame, and then gets to go back and do its job successfully, that’s a lot of fun.” For Will, the most significant impact being a Boettcher Scholar has had on his life is the call to service and giving back. As president of the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association, Will spends plenty of time doing just that. The association is the professional organization for veterinarians in Colorado, focusing on advocating for veterinary practices in the state, providing educational opportunities for veterinarians and creating outreach to the community. The organization also has a charitable branch called PetAid Colorado that works to provide access to quality care for pets in low-income communities. Will’s work of making contributions to the veterinary profession, supporting pet and owners in need, and bringing horses back to health has left its mark on Colorado, and he is thankful the Boettcher Scholarship has encouraged such service. “To him who much is given, much is expected,” Will said. “We’ve been given an incredible opportunity, and to figure out the ways to give back to our community is super important.”...

Saturday mornings in the southeast Colorado town of La Junta (population 7,000) are more active – and muddier – than they used to be. Each Saturday, regardless of the weather, 1971 Scholar Barry Shioshita and a group of friends gather at a variety of locations to train for obstacle racing. The core members, known as Team OGZR (“Old Geezer”), began meeting five years ago to train for Spartan mud runs after Barry, a fourth-degree black belt in Taekwondo, sought a new training regimen. However, not long after completing their first race, they realized the potential for a new mission: transforming a muddy arroyo into a channel for community wellness. As the CFO for Southeast Health Group, a nonprofit that provides behavioral and primary care health care, along with comprehensive wellness services across six counties in southeast Colorado, Barry was aware of the lack of community awareness and the stigma associated with those suffering from mental illness. He also knew that the arroyo bordering the Southeast Health Group building was the location of a long-planned trail. Inspired by these two needs, Barry, Team OGZR and employees of Southeast Health Group launched La Junta’s first-ever Mud Sport event in April 2013, in celebration of Children’s Mental Health Month. “The first mud run helped us to grow a concept, and develop the course route,” said Barry. Since then, the event has become a staple in La Junta each April, with nearly 250 runners enjoying muddy obstacles, music and a tour of Southeast Health’s integrated healthcare facilities. Recently, the city and Southeast Health Group developed a disc golf course adjacent to the trail, a permanent amenity that engages up to 50 people on sunny Saturdays, and is indicative of Southeast’s philosophy of healthy lifestyles. “In rural Colorado, if you don’t partner, you don’t get it done. You can have a great idea, but it takes collaboration and hard work to make it happen.” Barry loves rural life, and the slower pace and the opportunities for connection it brings. “You have the opportunity to know the people you sit next to in the coffee shop. People truly care about each other, and look out for each other’s kids.” Growing up on a family farm in the San Luis Valley, Barry raised animals, harvested alfalfa and potatoes, and loaded semi-trucks with 50-pound bags of cabbage. “We learned to work hard, and to appreciate that when you give 100 percent, you get 100 percent back.” After attending Sierra Grande High School and receiving the Boettcher Scholarship, he studied business administration, economics and marketing at Adams State. Barry and his wife moved to La Junta where he began a three-decade career as a county administrator, overseeing the day-to-day operations of counties in Colorado and northern California. He returned to La Junta in 2011 to provide financial and strategic oversight for Southeast Health Group, the largest healthcare provider in southeastern Colorado. As a healthcare administrator in rural Colorado, Barry has a direct hand in responding to community needs and adapting to challenges.  A few years ago, the community was faced with a drastic reduction in the number of primary care providers who were in the area.  Southeast Health recognized an opportunity not only expand its market, but also provide an integrated approach to healthcare. Barry, staff and volunteers spent weekends and nights on the facility renovation, taking it from concept to opening in seven weeks. In response to changing needs, Southeast Health has also added a mental health peer advocate drop-in center, fitness equipment and the only hydrotherapy pool between Pueblo and Kansas. Barry is a strong believer that the integrated healthcare model of one-stop shopping for primary care, behavioral health and physical therapy works. Barry said, “If we are successful in our risk taking, then the end goal is a benefit to our community and the region that we serve.” For Barry, community isn’t just where he lives – it is how he lives. Community-building has shaped his profession and public service since winning the Boettcher Scholarship in 1971. “Winning the Boettcher Scholarship meant the opportunity to go to school and pursue whatever my dreams were going to be. People believed in me, and in turn I was going to do my very best for my community.”...

Gina Gonzales-Wagerman’s life has been defined by seizing opportunity. As a result, her journey has led to diverse pursuits ranging from teaching primary school in Bulgaria to working on marketing for popular TV shows like The Big Bang Theory and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. These experiences have opened many doors for Gina; much the same way that opening the letter informing her that she had won the Boettcher Scholarship set her on the path for a lifetime of opportunity. Gina, a 2000 Boettcher Scholar from Pueblo Central High School, attended Colorado State University with her scholarship. Though she began in mechanical engineering, she soon shifted to a major that allowed her to combine her interests in math and drawing – fine arts with an emphasis in graphic design. After graduation, Gina felt the urge to give back through service in some capacity – a common desire among Boettcher Scholars who are selected in part for their strong service ethic. “I applied for the Peace Corps, and the process took about six months, so I had forgotten all about it,” Gina said. “Then, I got this call [when I was] coming out of a theater after a movie, and they asked, ‘are you ready to do your duty to your country?’ I was wondering who it was, and they said ‘this is the Peace Corps! We have a project for you in five weeks, are you ready’?” Gina moved back home, packed up, and left for Bulgaria, where she taught primary school English and started an after-school sports program. Her experience in the Peace Corps prompted a desire to become further involved in international development, leading her to pursue a graduate degree in global marketing communications and advertising from Emerson College in Boston. There, Gina heard a guest lecture from chief marketing officer from Warner Bros. speak as a guest lecturer. She followed up with the speaker and ended up receiving an internship with Warner in Burbank, California. That internship set the path for her career. “I started at Warner Bros. Worldwide Television Marketing as an intern graphic designer,” Gina said. “I basically started there, worked many different positions, and, after 10 years, I am a director here.” As director of creative services, Gina works on marketing for various Warner Bros. television shows, including Ellen, The Big Bang Theory and Arrow. One of her favorite moments with Warner Bros. was yet another instance in which she grabbed an opportunity that allowed her to combine her passions – training people in Ethiopia on how to start a radio program and market it. “This opportunity was really exciting, because I was able to do international development, marketing, and graphic design all at once,” Gina said. “I always battle with myself because I’m working in an entertainment company, which is basically the opposite of international development, but I do think that these opportunities are there for overlap. And if they are not, you can make them for yourself.” Being a Boettcher Scholar has not only taught Gina the power of pursuing opportunity, but also the importance of giving back. Whether through mentoring a high school student through Warner Bros.’ volunteer branch, serving as a running mentor with her running club, or hosting a writing club with her husband, Gina values investing in others to help them actualize their potential, just as the Boettcher Foundation has done in her own life....

As a journalist and investigative reporter for 9News, Chris Vanderveen has been recognized at the national level for coverage of the Aurora Theater Shooting, opiate abuse, and a query into the fuel lines of combusting helicopters that prompted a federal investigation. For these stories, Chris received Reporter of the Year awards from the National Press Photographers Association and a regional Edward R. Murrow Award. However, when asked which stories stand out the most from his 22-year career, the 1992 Boettcher Scholar noted, "It’s the small ones – stories that would have remained untold otherwise, about humble people living remarkable day-to-day lives.” Chris Vanderveen’s own story began in suburban Denver in 1973. While other kids watched cartoons after school, Chris grew up consuming television news and the daily paper: “When something was going on, I wanted to know more about it.” Chris’ inquisitiveness helped him earn a Boettcher Scholarship to attend CU Boulder, where he studied broadcast journalism and anchored the campus radio station. From there, he landed a job as a photographer in Casper, Wyoming, and soon was anchoring weekend newscasts. There, Chris realized a career in journalism was a match for his inherent curiosity and love of storytelling. “Journalism starts with something as simple as a curious reporter asking the questions that no one else is,” Chris said.  From there, “the story develops into something much bigger, something that can profoundly impact our community.” One of Chris’ most memorable stories took place in 2010, when he met an Army veteran who had been shot in the neck in Iraq and paralyzed. Over the course of a year, Chris documented the veteran’s recovery and his dream to have children. The day Chris received a call that the veteran’s wife was pregnant with twins was “one of the coolest moments to capture” in his career. Sharing remarkable stories fuels Chris’ passion for journalism and service, even in the face of adversity. While many might perceive the current social and political environment as an obstacle for journalism, Chris sees a unique opportunity to discuss free speech and advocacy. “I’m more proud and more excited to be a journalist, writer, and investigative reporter than ever,” stated Chris. “It’s a fascinating time in our country. We are having overdue discussions, and that’s a good thing.” Chris is a strong advocate for the First amendment, and lent his thoughts to the ongoing discussion about college campus speech: “We must listen to things we don’t agree with. Yes, we’ll hear things we despise. But supporting the ability of people to speak who you may not agree with is a critical form of leadership.” One of the ways Chris employs his skills to give back to the community is as a board member for The Blue Bench, a sexual assault prevention and support center in Denver. As an advocate for victims and the father of a young daughter, Chris is optimistic about the direction of recent discussions and the #metoo movement. “This country is having an overdue discussion about the role of powerful men and victims’ voices,” he said. “Victims need to feel they have an avenue to be heard and for justice to be pursued, and that’s finally coming to light. It’s okay to be uncomfortable.” Looking back, Chris admits at the age of 18 he was unsure about accepting the scholarship, when his dream had been to attend a program out of state. Yet today, he is grateful for the financial freedom and the encouragement to give back to Colorado that the scholarship provided him. “[The scholarship] was one of the greatest surprises that could have happened to me. I don’t take that gift for granted, especially with the perspective I have now.”...

On the high plains of Colorado, an emerging leader is driving wild mustangs and the policies that manage them. Stephanie Linsley, 2011 Boettcher Scholar, is the head trainer and equine manager at the Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary (GEMS), a Colorado nonprofit that provides training, adoption and advocacy for wild mustangs and burros. After graduating with a degree in psychology from Colorado State University, Stephanie joined GEMS full-time in 2016. Since then, Stephanie has lived and worked on a 1,000-acre ranch in the eastern Colorado town of Deer Trail, managing up to 80 horses at a time and facilitating on-range operations with a lean staff of three. Last year, the organization helped more than 200 wild horses find homes instead of being sent to holding facilities where they are often destroyed or sold for slaughter. The mission of GEMS means Stephanie’s days are largely spent in the saddle socializing wild mustangs and educating adopting owners. Unlike many horse enthusiasts, however, she wasn’t born in the saddle. Her love for horses – and psychology – emerged when she received her first horse at the age of ten: “I realized there was more to owning a horse than loving him…I recognized early on that I needed to figure out how to communicate with this horse if my life with horses were to go any further.” Soon after, Stephanie began volunteering with wild horses and decided to pursue a degree in psychology. For her, the connections between the disciplines are clear: “Working with horses, there’s a whole other animal to deal with: people. Understanding how both animals are motivated and learn is critical to horsemanship and running an organization.” Stephanie’s all-in passion for wild horses and understanding animal behavior has enabled GEMS to enact positive change beyond the boundaries of the ranch. The organization’s philosophy of cooperating with the Bureau of Land Management and other key stakeholders has given GEMS a respected voice in wild horse management, an oft-contentious issue. Last winter, the Bureau of Land Management wanted to conduct a helicopter round-up of the Sand Wash Basin mustang herd near the northwestern Colorado town of Craig. Helicopter round-ups are a quick but often traumatic method which can lead to injury or even death. GEMS successfully lobbied to conduct smaller scale bait-trapping and field sterilization with the assistance of their on-range support team. Forty-three mustangs in total were rounded up, and all have landed in safe homes or found sanctuary at GEMS. In October, Stephanie was invited to present to the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board about these efforts. Receiving the Boettcher Scholarship was a catalyst in Stephanie becoming a leader in her field at just 23 years old: “Without that opportunity from Boettcher, I wouldn’t have had the chance to pursue this type of advocacy work at a nonprofit, in a field I love. That gratitude is always in the back of my mind, guiding me to serve.” With more than 100,000 wild horses across the country, Stephanie acknowledges that GEMS can’t tackle the whole issue. However, as the only organization in the country that provides on-range and off-range support, she believes GEMS and its cooperative approach can serve as a successful model for other states. Looking ahead, it’s clear Stephanie’s passion for horses and commitment to understanding them will continue to guide her impact: “Horses are our greatest teachers. They tolerate our mistakes, they forgive us, and they encourage us. No other creature can inspire such passion in a human, and for that, I've dedicated my life to interpreting their lessons.”...