Stacie reports from Washington, D.C.

Picture: Stacie Gilmore, Executive Director of ELK, with Julie Chavez Rodriquez (White House), Maite Arce and Michelle Neuenschwander (Hispanic Access Foundation)

I arrived home from my whirlwind trip to Washington, DC late last night. I was very tired, but also content. I am energized by the wonderful partnership ELK has developed with the Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF) and founder, Maite Arce, and her staff. They are doing important work around organizing and empowering local Latino leaders in 17 cities across the US. They are also strong, smart, and strategic women, which I love! I have to say before this trip I was a little anxious. I was going to be in DC for just a little over 24 hours, it seemed like a lot to accomplish in a little amount of time – but I did it! Thursday morning, October 6th, started out very early. I woke at 5 am, but was dismayed when I got on my laptop to see that it was 3 am in Denver! I knew it was going to be a loooonnnggg day! The meeting with the White House and Julie Chavez Rodriquez, Associate Director for the White House, Office of Public Engagement was fantastic! We presented her with over 38 letters from HAF and ELK to support the full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. President Obama will acknowledge receipt of these letters, and that will be very rewarding for the ELK students!

After a working lunch (thanks, Andrea!), I headed over the National Park Service (NPS) to meet with George McDonald, Program Manager of the Youth Division, to talk about getting more ELK students employed with the NPS. George walked me around and introduced me to folks that could help ELK. Lo and behold, when I was handed a document, Pathways to Parks, there was a picture of ELK’s own Dwayne Smallwood and a group of ELK students! After that I was off to meet with Francisco Carrillo at the Department of Interior, along with Nate Hawley, Gayle, Jessica to talk about ELK and HAF. It was a very productive meeting, and then I headed straight to the airport to fly home! Our nation’s capital certainly knows about ELK! Building relationships and keeping them strong is what I do best, and I’m glad to be able to push the ELK mission forward. ELK students are depending on my staff and me, along with a great board and volunteers to help them achieve their dreams. We will DO IT!