FLTI class of 2024 graduates with sites set on creating positive change in the SLV

FLTI Facilitator and Shooting Stars Founder, Jamie Dominguez, speaks to the Family Leadership Training Institute 2024 graduating class. Photo by Priscilla Waggoner.

ALAMOSA— The Family Leadership Training Institute (FLTI) graduated its fourth cohort of future leaders in the community last weekend, making a total of 40 students who have successfully completed the course that is as intensive as it is prestigious. Of those four successful cohorts, two were taught via Zoom with one in-person class in English and the other in Spanish.

Conducted at the Shooting Stars Cultural and Leadership Center in Alamosa and facilitated by Shooting Stars founders and FLTI trained facilitators Jamie and Cristalray Dominguez, classes are three-hours long and meet once a week for 21 weeks.

In addition to classroom instruction, a series of guest speakers ranging from city officials to elected members of the Colorado legislature spoke with the students about their areas of expertise, exposing them to information and systems that will serve them later as future leaders in the community.

The mission of the Institute is three-fold: to promote leadership development, increase civic capacity and, ultimately, advance equity in all policies. The goals for each student attending the institute are equally clear: “to gain the tools, social connections and experience to elevate their voices and create positive change in the San Luis Valley area.”

Against that ambitious but greatly needed backdrop, nine graduates – one after another - took the podium last Saturday and faced a packed, attentive, standing-room-only crowd of more than 70 people who had come to the ceremony.

Each graduate then described for the audience the project they had developed over the course of the training, designed to address a need they had identified in their community and, in so doing, impacting lives and making their community a stronger and better place to live. 

Creation, development and completion of a vision for their project – including presenting that project to the community at the ceremony – was required in order to successfully graduate from the institute.

“It’s important to understand how education and graduation look in the community,” says Jamie Dominguez who, with Cristalray, founded Shooting Stars and is trained to facilitate FLTI. “It’s not always only secondary education. There are things going on in people’s lives where, historically, they haven’t been involved in high school or college graduation. But the impact of learning is so huge that you can associate it with an accomplishment like that. We’ve had some graduates that have never walked across a stage before they graduated from FLTI.”

The excitement and support in the audience was palpable as each graduate completed their last assignment.

Antonio Andres’ project, titled “Fentanyl Awareness”, will educate the public with facts about the drug, including how to spot an overdose and properly administer Narcan.

Dora Candelaria’s project addressed “Substance Abuse and Suicide Risk in Teens” through educating the public and creating a system of support for those dealing with addiction and suicidal thoughts.

Ja’Nya Dominguez’s project “Mom’s Night Out,” creates a safe space for women with postpartum depression where they can learn what postpartum depression is and how to naturally treat it.

Sonni Hunt’s “Role Models,” created a project in honor of her brother that connects black youth with a role model that looks like them and can share their stories, wisdom and experience. Mayor Ty Coleman, who spoke at the ceremony and is black, offered to be Hunt’s first role model in her program.

Javiel Maes’ “Mathias House,” has the goal of creating a supportive, sober environment for those who suffer from addiction and are ready to make a change. Maes plans to offer job readiness and substance abuse classes.

Jo Anne Manzanares’ “Amistades del Valle “(Friendships in the Valley) will provide a comfortable space where people meet on a routine basis and form friendships, share ideas, learn from each other and explore the world together.

Jimmy Mondragon’s “Friday and Saturday Night Youth,” creates opportunities where youth can come to a safe space and have fun in a safe environment. His goal is to reach kids from low-income families with activities that are fun and exciting. Mondragon’s project is already in its beginning stages, as evidenced by the kids in his program who stood on the graduation stage with him.

Delia Pablo’s “Golden Hour,” will create opportunities for the community to come together at either sunrise or sunset and “let nature speak to them with a message of the hope and value in life.”

Crystal Waldroupe’s “Family Matters” will help bring families and programs together for bonding experiences that make families stronger.

The history of the Family Leadership Training Institute at Shooting Stars demonstrates that graduates’ projects are not “wish lists.”

When asked for examples of projects envisioned by students while attending FLTI that have been implemented and are still being delivered, Cristalray Dominguez readily provided examples of two former graduates.

Jane Simpson’s goal was to create a food pantry in Del Norte. Dominguez says that food pantry continues to be in operation and, as a sign of their commitment to ongoing support, Shooting Stars recently donated $1,000 to Simpson’s program.

Miranda Lopez, another graduate, created a project that would teach parents how to read to their children in a way that was fun and engaging and showed them the importance of reading. Lopez not only provided instruction but then went on to team up with an author for a book on the subject that is currently on the market here and in Mexico.

During the graduation ceremony, Alamosa Mayor Ty Coleman addressed the audience with high praise and encouragement for the graduates. Dr. Luis Murillo, Assistant Superintendent of Alamosa School District, said he had a speech prepared but, after listening to the graduates’ presentations, said, “Your projects are very impressive. I have nothing that I can tell you that you haven’t already learned. I’m here to support you in any way that I can.”

FLTI of the San Luis Valley’s class of 2024 was made possible through the partnerships between Shooting Stars Cultural and Leadership Center, the Early Childhood Council of the San Luis Valley and a grant from the Colorado Health Foundations.

FLTI of Colorado operates under the Colorado State University’s Office of Engagement and Extension. Students are selected for the institute, and anyone interested in learning more about the program should email Cristalray Dominguez at [email protected].