Many of you know my good friend Jason Gaulden, who has been an essential part of the African Leadership Group team since he and I first met early in 2017. Jason is a tireless worker and a first-rate thinker, whose own beliefs align perfectly with the ALG mission.
I was so pleased to see Jason get some much-deserved recognition recently. Eric Sondermann, a well-known political commentator and newspaper columnist, wrote a piece for Colorado Politics in which he singled out eight “exemplary Coloradans” for 2021. One of those eight was Jason.
Here is what Mr. Sondermann wrote:
“Despite upbringings a generation apart in Colorado Springs, Jason’s and my background could not be more different. Yet from that has emerged a valued friendship. With experience in the trenches of education policy, and with a few hard knocks along the way, Jason now leads the Untapped Potential Project, seeking to build a network of technical high schools to create career opportunities for students while solving workforce shortages hampering many businesses. He is a growing influence. Further, he is increasingly finding his voice as a fearless, passionate writer.”
I first met Jason in January 2017, during a national school choice week celebration on the west steps of the Colorado State Capitol, where I was one of the speakers. Jason always wears his enthusiasm on his sleeve, and he sought me out as soon as the event ended, excited by what he had just heard about the African Leadership Group. ALG was in its infancy then, and was led entirely by volunteers.
Jason seemed eager to lend a hand. I asked to meet with me to delve more deeply into my plans for ALG’s future. Just a few days after that initial introduction, we had coffee together, and I outlined my ideas for him. Jason was impressed by how much we had accomplished with virtually no resources.
His background in philanthropy, fundraising, and consultation positioned him perfectly to provide us with tremendous help, so when he offered, I did not hesitate to accept. As the old saying goes, the rest is history.
Jason’s deep connections in the world of philanthropic foundations, combined with his first-rate strategic thinking, are directly responsible for how ALG has evolved into the powerful and far-reaching organization it is today. It didn’t take Jason long to begin writing successful grants for ALG. The first was from the Walton Family Foundation. Since then, he has helped us win grants from a variety of local and national foundations.
We have grown as close as brothers over the past four years. Our families have become close. Late in 2019, I invited Jason to join me on a trip to Senegal. He has described that trip as life-changing for him. Although it seemed impossible for him to be more committed to ALG than he already was, he dove even more deeply into our organization after his return from Senegal.
I look forward to ALG’s continued close working relationship with Jason. Even as he works on important and complex ventures in Colorado and elsewhere, I know he will always be one of the guiding forces behind ALG, and that gives me great comfort.