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Young crowd in Colorado Springs: A family-friendly place with unexpected variety

By: Jesse Byrnes jesse.byrnes@gazette.com
September 2, 2013 Updated: September 2, 2013 at 8:00 am
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These are incontrovertible truths about the Colorado Springs area: It's conservative. It votes Republican. It's the home of many Christian organizations, including Focus on the Family, and the tax-limiting amendment known as TABOR.

Some people say it adds up to young professional repellent, a nod to the belief that the demographic tends to be more liberal. And some are.

But young professionals are not a monolithic group, and what may be a repellent to some is a magnet to others.

Take Daniel Cole, the 29-year-old executive director of the El Paso County Republican Party.

"Limited government, low taxes, individual initiative . those people have opportunities here in a welcoming environment that wouldn't exist in a place like Boulder," Cole said.

Past traditional political bounds, many young professionals are looking for ways to make change outside government, and they live in Colorado Springs because of its 754 charitable organizations, including those with a religious bent.

"I think it attracts a lot of young professionals that want to work in faith-based organizations here," said Rajeev Shaw, 31, who works on community relations and millennial outreach at Focus on the Family.

"We're a family-friendly city, and that definitely attracts" young professionals who are getting married and starting families, Shaw said. "Young professionals like myself are drawn to organizations and leaders that are like that. Colorado Springs as a region really has a long history of embracing the next generation."

Carrie Kintz, lead publicist for Focus, also said Colorado Springs is a draw for young professionals who are getting married, having children and want a more family-friendly environment.

"It's a great family town. It has a lot of ministries, it has churches, it has a lot of suburbia and neighborhoods . that can kind of be a draw in the ministry sphere," Kintz said.

This doesn't mean that young professionals who aren't conservative or wanting to work for faith-based organizations can't feel at home in Colorado Springs, those of opposing political slants said. Most young professionals in the city echo a strong sense of community - or, at least, a desire to create one - and eye various opportunities to get involved and change the perception that those on opposite ends of the political, social and demographic spectrum can't find middle ground.

"To some extent, I think that we create the conversation and the stereotypes about the community, and to some extent I think that our community is limited," said Kristy Milligan, 35, executive director of Citizens Project, a community organization that works to promote "equality, religious freedom, and respect for diversity," according to its website.

The key is to get involved, young professionals said.

"We can say a lot of things about the politics of this city - things we wished would happen, things we wished wouldn't happen - but there's a certain amount that we hold in our own hands to create good community," Kintz said. "As young professionals, we take initiative in so many areas in our lives. Why not this one?"

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