September 2, 2013 Updated: September 2, 2013 at 1:39 pm
Young professionals weigh in on opportunities, challenges in the Springs:
BRETT ANDRUS, 35
Occupation: Owner of Modbo and S.P.Q.R., downtown art galleries; starting art classes at the Ivywild campus through a new venture, Modboco
Background: Grew up in Colorado Springs, moved back in early 2000s.
“I think the Springs is changing demographically but what we really need to focus on is attracting a young creative class here. It’s imperative. We’ve got to make a decision as a community — who are we going to be? Are we going to be a retirement community or are we going to keep trying to reinvigorate our city and make it a growing, vibrant interesting city that everybody can come to and thrive here?”
SAMANTHA BRUNER, 29
Occupation: owner of Colorado Springs Food Tours
Background: Grew up in Colorado Springs.
“I’ve been able to connect to different groups of people who really are passionate about the town and want to make a difference. As long as I’m excited to come home and to see Pikes Peak through the window of the plane, I know that that’s where I need to be and that’s where my home is.”
DANIELLE BURGENER, 23
Occupation: Administrative assistant at Alpine Autism Center
Background: Native of Colorado Springs.
“What I like about the city is the fact it’s not a huge town, but you can still reach the mountains in a reasonable amount of time. ... The room for advancement is not huge. I feel like you can easily outgrow the career opportunities fairly quickly.”
SHANNON COKER, 29
Occupation: Community relations director at Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado
Background: Native of Colorado Springs, 2005 graduate of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
“I would love to see younger people have a stronger voice in town. We’re sometimes not given any credibility for what we have to say. I think young people challenge the status quo.”
DANIEL COLE, 29
Occupation: Executive director, El Paso County Republican Party
Background: Grew up in Colorado Springs.
“When I was growing up here in high school, it was fashionable to complain about Colorado Springs and to daydream about moving to Portland or San Diego, but I never bought into that.”
To young Democrats in the city: “Don’t be intimidated by the fact that you’re outnumbered. Get out there and see what you can accomplish for your cause.”
DEANNA FINCH, 29
Occupation: Pursuing a master’s degree in science management and has worked for two years as a career services adviser at Colorado Technical University
Background: Grew up in Pleasanton, Calif.; moved to Colorado and started work at CTU in August 2011.
“I think that our student looks a lot different than students that you would see on, say, UCCS.”
“Sometimes it does seem that networking can be a little challenging, especially if you’re not military [but] people want to help people that help themselves.”
CHRISTOPHER GMINSKI, 27
Occupation: Alternate format assistive technology coordinator at Pikes Peak Community College
Background: Lived in Boulder, working at the University of Colorado; moved to Colorado Springs about three years ago when he got the PPCC job.
“Seems like the Springs is lacking a little bit on the community sense. It’s a good community. I think Colorado Springs can build on that.”
DREW HOUSTON, 29
Occupation: Intervention advising specialist at Pikes Peak Community College
Background: Grew up in Colorado Springs.
“There are a lot of opportunities for mentorship, a lot of opportunities for growth and learning. For an evening out, I would go to Denver.”
CARRIE KINTZ, 31
Occupation: Lead publicist at Focus on the Family
Background: Grew up in Iowa, graduated from Air Academy High School; at Focus for 12 years, three in her current position.
“On a lot of issues we’re seeing a little bit more social divide on certain things that probably would be considered very staunch conservative issues and we’re seeing young people kind of diverge but still holding on to a very strong faith. That can be a deterrent to some people but I think that again that can slowly change if we’re dedicated to seeing that change happen.
NICK LEE, 33
Occupation: Entrepreneur and co-founder of Startup Colorado Springs
Background: Has lived in Colorado Springs for 25 years.
“Throughout the history of Colorado Springs, the focus has been on fostering real estate development and business development. That’s fantastic, but we’re at a point, I believe, where we have far exceeded what we need as far as development goes and now it’s time to focus on actually getting the people here that will actually help the community grow — focusing our time and energy on human resources. There’s a lot to be said for attracting high-growth companies here.”
EMILY MCBRIDE, 23
Occupation: Colorado Springs Police Department police service representative
Background: Moved to Colorado Springs from Denver in 2008 to attend the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
“I wasn’t really fond of going back to Denver ... I don’t want to go back to that big city life right now. You have the small life where you can walk through town and see someone you know and just say, hey. But at the same time, it’s really not that far to go someplace and get away for a weekend — go outdoors, Pikes Peak, camping.”
KRISTY MILLIGAN, 35
Occupation: Executive director of Citizens Project
Background: Colorado Springs native who moved back after spending time on the East Coast.
“We have to change the way that we talk about our community before we can do anything else. I believe that cultural offerings in the community really contributes to the vitality of the community for young people.”
JASON OWENS, 29
Occupation: Associate director of employer relations at Colorado College
Background: Grew up in Denver; graduated from CC in 2006.
“A lot of our students are interested in the outdoors, and Colorado Springs offers that.”
JAMES PEARSON, 39
Occupation: Project manager at ITT Exelis
Background: Moved to Colorado Springs in 2005 after 13 years in the Army.
“Colorado Springs is a great place to live, and there’s so much to do.”
“Colorado Springs feels sometimes that it’s exclusive ... You cannot be afraid to talk to people. You never know what conversation is going to lead you into your next job.”
DENISE PEREZ, 23
Occupation: Verizon retail sales representative
Background: Moved to Colorado Springs at age 4; graduate of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
“It can be easy to feel confined in a city like Colorado Springs because it does not boast all of the culture and attractions that comes from the bigger cities like Denver. However, I feel that Colorado Springs has so much to offer as far as a city with outdoor attractions. We, as a city, also promote a lot of health and well-being, which is awesome. The most amazing thing about our city, however, is our ability to come together as a community.”
JOHN STEWART, 26
Occupation: Professional soundscaper
Background: Colorado Springs native; attended college in Dallas before returning to the Springs about two years ago.
“There are a lot of people who feel like they have to move, feel like they’re in a box. If you’re in a position in life of where you can stay here or move somewhere, I think people would want to stay here simply because it’s pretty awesome. There aren’t too many people who wake up angry in Colorado.
A lot of people do feel like, for whatever reason, that they’re not able to reach their full potential by being here. People talk about being able to rock climb, fish, hiking and running and that’s awesome. But if you don’t do that, then what do you have? How are you going to sell me on a city where all there is is military installations and I can run in fresh air all the time? It’s not going to come from government. There will never be an initiative where Steve Bach says we’re going to spend $10 million on renovation for live entertainment.”
ALLISON SWICKARD, 36
Occupation: Executive director of marketing and communication at Pikes Peak Community College
Background: 12-year resident of Colorado Springs.
“I moved thinking, ‘I’ll go to Colorado Springs, but I’m going to end up in Boulder or Denver.’ There was something about being close to the mountains and not having to drive, and you could immediately make impact, and the pace of life, and you could get involved. That’s why I think I’m still here.”
JARIAH WALKER, 36
Occupation: Partner at Walker Asset Management Realty Inc. and chair of Leadership Pikes Peaks’ Leadership Now program
Background: Colorado Springs native.
“I don’t think that people realize that they can make more opportunities here than maybe they can in other spots. You can’t just come to the city and expect things to be happening immediately ... I think you have to get involved with a group and you have to get plugged in a little bit in order to see those opportunities present themselves.”