Life After 50: How Leadership Los Alamos Led Me To Serve

  Scene from the 2012 100 Best Communities for Young People Award celebration. Photo by Bernadette Lauritzen

Former LAPS Superintendent Dr. Eugene Schmidt speaks with former LAHS student Soumyo Lahiri-Gupta at the 2012 100 Best Communities for Young People Award celebration. Photo by Bernadette Lauritzen  

Executive Director

If you don’t know me well, let me tell you how a little, local program, brought me to where I am today.

About 2006, I read an article in the Los Alamos Monitor, about a program called Leadership Los Alamos (LLA). I was smitten with the idea of it all, but never thought I could attend. When my last child entered kindergarten and with the help of a scholarship, I decided to try something new. I never knew it would fundamentally change me as a person.

The goal pf the program covered a different topic each month, in a day long series of activities. The topics include; local government, youth, education, non-profits, culture, economic development and environment. Their motto is, “Learning today, for a stronger tomorrow”. I graduated from the program in 2007 and as I write that I do automatically stand in the James Bond 007 pose.

The comradery slowly developed the class, like a giant family. Throughout the class, you learn and grow together and experience joys and sadness with your new team. They may be people you’ve heard of or people you have never known. During our class, we celebrated success and disappointments along the way. There may have been a class meeting, that eventually led to marriage. The possibilities are endless.

I can tell you I never dreamed this class would lead me to run the local senior centers through a pandemic, we never knew would arrive. I believe my experience through Leadership Los Alamos, helped me to pivot on a dime, and retain the resilience I needed along the way. My class leaders of John Hofmann, Rick Reiss and Marla Brooks, created best educational lessons of my life. I learned I had the potential to do many things.

I stepped up to volunteer my time to help acquire the national recognition of the 100 Best Communities for Young People. This award, by America’s Promise Alliance, caused former LAPS Superintendent Dr. Eugene Schmidt to ask if I would help accomplish that goal. I had the fortitude to do it, even when a community leader forbade me, and said we’d never win a second time. I believed we not only win, but easily, too.

Schmidt shared half of the winnings, which allowed me to start my own nonprofit Champions of Youth Ambitions (C’YA). Today, we serve the community in a variety of ways, currently trying to raise $1,000 to garner national notoriety as COVID-19 heroes for Nambe Pharmacy.

The collaborations offered during LLA, love for community and well roundedness about learning what our community and community partners offer is bar none. The orientation and the graduation were seminal moments in my life. It inspired me to get involved in different ways and take a chance with a good idea.

If you have a business or organization you want to see thrive, see if they will allow you to invest in this class and help you grow. The time will pay off in many ways.

The class applications process has been extended and you can learn more at