Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

Pioneer Leadership students tackle big issues

Global poverty, the self-esteem of teenage girls, affordable access to health care, education and senior resources were some of the issues tackled by this year’s Pioneer Leadership Program (PLP) students. 

At the beginning of the year, the 13 sophomore teams started their projects with a simple question: “When you think about your community, what makes you mad?”

“We wanted students to develop a project around something they really believe in,” says Paul Kosempel, PLP assistant director.

“Over the course of the year, students become passionate about these community issues and work hard to make long-term sustainable change happen. The teams set about understanding an issue, connecting with stakeholders and implementing their community change initiatives. Many of the projects will continue long after these students graduate,” he says.

Emily Parker, a public policy and political science major from Centennial, Colo., has been running the At Risk Youth Program at the Somali Community Center of Colorado with her group since September.

“It has been an incredibly rewarding experience for both of us as teachers and the Somali students,” Parker says. “I think that the Somali community has gained a crucial program for the success of their students, and we have gained an expanded worldview and deeper cultural understanding.”

PLP participants Michael Hubbard and Michelle Fox said they learned that making a significant impact on the community requires persistence and diligence.

“As a leader in the Pioneers for Public Health project, I will always look back on this experience and remember the importance of relentlessly working toward the well-being of those who need it the most,” says Hubbard, a biology major from Colorado Springs, Colo. Making an impact also requires a willingness to “exponentially strengthen your social capital,” he explains. 

Fox, a psychology major from Mount Prospect, Ill., says community work is as satisfying as it is difficult. Her team worked on an intergenerational project to create a choir with senior citizens and Denver Public Schools students.

Each year, 66 new first-year students are admitted into the program.

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