Karla Alder is a 2015 FLTI of Eagle County graduate with a remarkable commitment to providing leadership in her community. FLTI of Colorado is pleased to feature her in this month’s Alumni Spotlight.
When Karla first got involved with FLTI as a participant, she drove 41 miles to the Eagle County site from Leadville each week. Not only did she put in the same 20 week time commitment as all of our family leaders do, but she also drove over 1,600 miles commuting.
When Alder decided to attend FLTI, she worked as Latino Family Coordinator with Full Circle, a nonprofit organization in Leadville dedicated to making Lake County “a place where children make healthy choices, families thrive, and the community is united.” Her civic project focused on bringing FLTI to Lake County. She reports, “I was fortunate enough to work with Full Circle staff, Alice Pugh and Leslie Cook-Knerr, to bring FLTI to my own community in Lake County.”
Lake County planned to offer the program entirely in Spanish, which made for some initial cultural challenges when recruiting participants. Karla shares, “Inside the Spanish community, women are often expected to be home caring for their families and the idea of a twenty-week leadership program posed a perceived barrier for many. I was able to share my own experience, how FLTI provided me the tools to better advocate for my children and family as well as helping to build a stronger, more connected community. I always explain how the program is not only a benefit to individuals but also to children, families, and the entire community.”
Then, tragedy rocked the small community. Lake County has three large, privately owned mobile home parks. Of these, two parks are not required by county officials to have fire hydrants, risking public safety. On May 29, 2015, a fire in one of the mobile home parks without a hydrant claimed the life of a 10 year old boy. Denver’s CBS 4 reported that it took firefighters four hours to put out the. “It was during this time that civic engagement took on even greater importance,” Alder said.
In the following weeks, Lake County’s first FLTI cohort began with thirteen members from the community and Alder taking on the leadership role of site coordinator in addition to her duties as Full Circle’s Latino family coordinator.
Since then, “FLTI has helped to transform the entire community and we’re now preparing for our third FLTI class,” Karla reports. “As a result of this locally driven, leadership opportunity, we’re seeing many of the community problems get addressed.”
Examples of how Lake County family leaders are creating change include; promoting tenant rights advocacy, particularly in light of the fire hydrant tragedy; teaming up with school district officials to revamp bullying policies; working with CDOT to build a pedestrian bridge to reduce highway accidents; advocating for Spanish services to be provided at the local hospital since nearly half (47%) of the population is Spanish-speaking; and coalition building to provide immigrants with information about their rights.
Karla proudly says, “Leadership has caught on in Lake County and many people are coming together to help support family leaders and their civic projects. We’ve all learned that when it comes to civic participation the benefits far outweigh the investment.”