Local young professionals honored with Mayor’s Young Leaders Awards

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Tuesday evening, Mayor John Suthers presented five individuals with the annual Mayor’s Young Leader Awards, which recognize achievements in the categories of future industries, economic impact, creative industry, innovation in education and innovation in sports and wellness.

Past award recipients have included notable names such as Mundi Ross of the Colorado Collective, Jennifer Peterson of Rocky Mountain Field Institute and Chris Aaby of Catamount Institute. 

See the 2016 winners and their outstanding achievements below:
Left to right: Todd Baldwin, Megan Leatham, John Suthers, Claire Swinford, Allison Plute, Brittni Darras - COURTESY THE CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Courtesy the city of Colorado Springs
  • Left to right: Todd Baldwin, Megan Leatham, John Suthers, Claire Swinford, Allison Plute, Brittni Darras

Innovation in Education: Brittni Darras, Academy School District 20
After learning one of her students attempted suicide, Brittni Darras, Rampart High School English teacher and Varsity Cheer Coach, decided to do something. She wrote a letter. That letter detailed how her student was important to her. After receiving that letter, Brittni’s student told her it helped save her life and gave her the courage to push forward. Brittni then decided to write more letters and her letter writing campaign was so impactful that it was featured on the Today Show, Good Morning America and in The Washington Post. The Pikes Peak Region has the highest rate of teen suicide in the country and Brittni provided a shining example that one person really can make a difference. She volunteers with Safe2Tell, an online anonymous program that empowers students, teachers and others to report important information about violent or troubling events before or after they have happened.

Creative Industry- Claire Swinford, Downtown Partnership
Claire is most at home wearing several different hats on a weekly basis, working with artists, athletes, nonprofits, entrepreneurs, developers, government officials and community advocates to celebrate Colorado Springs’ cultural vibrancy and make it more accessible and inclusive for visitors and residents from all walks of life. Claire serves as Urban Engagement Manager for the Downtown Partnership and administers Downtown as a state-certified Creative District and directs the legacy public art program Art on the Streets. Her proudest accomplishment in 2016 was facilitating a group of volunteers to bring the participatory public art project UNITY to Colorado Springs for the What IF Festival, where over 1,000 people participated in the creation of a giant sculpture symbolizing the interconnectedness of our community despite differences of belief, language or national origin.

Economic Impact- Todd Baldwin, Red Leg Brewing Company
Todd Baldwin is the President of Red Leg Brewing Company, which has been an integral part of the community since day one helping and supporting military, veterans, veteran organizations, and their families. Todd has founded the Southern Colorado Brewer’s Association which is a local non-profit organization to market and advocate for breweries in El Paso, Teller and Pueblo Counties. He has also founded the Veterans Beer Alliance, a national organization that has members from all over the United States. They service customers not just from Colorado Springs but the entire Southern Colorado region.

Innovation in Sports & Wellness- Megan Leatham, Pikes Peak International Hill Climb
Megan is one of handful of women running major motorsports events in the United States. She is the Executive Director of America’s second oldest automobile race, Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Her outside-the-box thinking helped the race enjoy phenomenal growth and recognition. 2016 saw some of highest numbers in attendance figures in over 2 years. Megan has been the driving force in the success and the worldwide recognition for the event.

Future Industries- Allison Plute, Colorado Springs Utilities
Allison has spent over 10 years engaging the community in conservation education and outreach, specifically focusing on our community's precious water resources and stewardship of our local watershed. Her consistent willingness to drive sustainable solutions and tackle any project makes her an ideal community partner and an asset to Colorado Springs. Allison has served as a steering committee member of Pikes Peak Earth Day. She is a member of the Colorado Association for Environmental Education, and a member of the National Association for Interpretation.

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