Meet Danielle Holmes, a 2018 graduate from the Family Leadership Training Institute of Boulder County- Longmont (FLTI) whose leadership journey truly embodies the “why” behind the leadership initiative that is transforming the civic landscape of Colorado.
When asked about what issues she’s tackling in her new role, Holmes is humble, saying, “It’s a wild ride serving the university in this way. We’re a commuter campus with 3 different institutions providing higher ed to very different student bodies. I commute myself, sometimes as long as 2 hours one-way and combined with my studies, well, sometimes it feels like I’m not doing much.” Upon further reflection, Holmes shares that she is working with leadership from the three universities on her campus to develop a census count committee that would implement strategies to mobilize students and the surrounding communities around participation in the 2020 Census.
As a young adult, Danielle found herself wearing many labels cast upon her during her childhood: ward of the state, abuse victim, aged out. Like many others who’ve been branded with similar labels, she found herself living out many alarming foster care statistics.
- 1 in 5 children who age out of foster care will experience homelessness.
- 7 in 10 girls who age out will become pregnant before age 21.
- 1 in 4 children who age out will suffer from PTSD for the rest of their lives.
- Children who are abused growing up are more likely to experience interpersonal violence as adults than children who are not.
A Great Awakening
When Danielle applied for and received funds from The Women’s Independence Scholarship Program, she secured refuge with a domestic violence shelter in Boulder, enabling her to flee cross-country from an abusive partner and begin a new life. She enrolled at Front Range Community College (FRCC) and got involved with the OUR Center in Longmont, where she received a variety of services from basic needs like food and clothing to counseling services to treat the PTSD resulting from the abuses of her past. After Danielle won an out-of-state custody battle for her daughter, she was eligible for the Family Self-Sufficiency Program (FSS) in Boulder County, which offered affordable housing and other supports to her family while she completed her education.
“Before FSS, my ‘low-income’ housing rent was still $1,000/month and I was struggling with doing it all.” The program reduced her out of pocket rent to less than $300, freeing up much needed time and money to devote to her studies and other basic needs. Holmes said, “Until I was able to find myself in school, I was lost…for many, many years.”
Overcoming Barriers and Paying it Forward
Now, Holmes has not only found herself and a passion for the law, but she has continually stepped up to lead where her community’s needs arise. During her time with FRCC, she became a Legislative Representative of the FRCC Student Government Association (SGA). In the fall of 2017, she heard about The OUR Center’s new Family Leadership Training Institute programming and applied to participate. During the spring of 2018, Holmes completed her studies with FRCC, served on both the FRCC SGA and the State Student Advisory Council (SSAC), and attended FLTI.
“What was so cool about FLTI is that, with my studies being in political science, everything I was learning in school and doing with SSAC was reinforced in FLTI, plus I got plugged into this amazing community of friends with all these great connections! I gained so much and finally started to believe in myself.”
Through FLTI, Danielle was connected to Rep. Jonathan Singer (D-Longmont) and worked with him on developing (and passing!) HB18-1319, which established the Former Foster Care Youth Steering Committee. The committee is responsible for developing long-term service coordination for foster care youth who are transitioning into adulthood.
“I looked at my experiences and thought no child should have to suffer so far into their adulthood because of their past like I did. And I was able to help create something that will hopefully change the trajectory for hundreds, thousands of kids over the years.”
After graduating FLTI, Holmes remained connected with the OUR Center, then as a student intern and member of their advisory board, though she had transferred to MSU at that time. She wasn’t planning on participating in student government there due to the length of her commute. Come April, 2018, however, when she learned there were no candidates running for president of MSU’s student government, she put her name forth. This prompted another candidate to step up, but Danielle claimed the victory.
“So here I am, using all the knowledge and skills from FLTI, my education, and support of successful programs that work, to pay it forward for those who haven’t yet found their voices. I’m so grateful for it all.”
Later this month, Danielle will facilitate a fireside chat at MSU with former governor John Hickenlooper regarding his bid to become a U.S. Senator for Colorado.
“This is so cool – I mean, he signed my FLTI certificate of completion and now I get to interview with him!”
After graduation this
May, Danielle looks forward to taking the next steps toward further achieving
her dreams of working for social justice issues, particularly food and housing
insecurity, as she applies to various law schools.
 National Foster Youth Institute (2017). https://www.nfyi.org/51-useful-aging-out-of-foster-care-statistics-social-race-media/
 Widom, C. S., Czaja, S. J., & Dutton, M. A. (2008). Childhood victimization and lifetime revictimization. Child Abuse & Neglect, 32(8), 785–796. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2007.12.006