LeaderShape in Love: Part 1

LeaderShapeInLoveFebruary always brings about thoughts of love and at LeaderShape, we’re turning to mush over some sweet love stories from folks in our community! Over the course of this month, we want to tell you about some couples who met through LeaderShape, tell you how they fell in love, and take a peek at what’s next for them. We hope you enjoy these stories and perhaps are inspired to reconnect with your own loves!

First up is Doug Litteken and Caroline Cvetkovic. Doug and Caroline met in 2010 at an Institute session hosted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign at Allerton Park. They hadn’t met prior to their Institute experience, but were paired up for an activity during the challenge course on the second day of their session. After that, they started communicating through notes in their mailboxes during the Institute. Doug left Caroline a note in her mailbox, thanking her for courage she had shown in an earlier activity that day. Caroline said, “The kindness from this stranger gave me confidence.”

Once they returned to campus after their session, Doug and Caroline met up for lunch. What happened after that was almost five years of long-distance dating. Doug moved to Houston to work at NASA as a structural engineer at the Johnson Space Center (you can see his talkMARS presentation on his work here), while Caroline stayed at UIUC to complete her PhD. During this time, their leadership training reminded them of why they were pursuing their passions. “LeaderShape solidified my personal values and helped to mold my adult character. It pushed me and helped me to understand how I could be comfortable being out of my comfort zone,” said Caroline. Doug said the biggest part of the Institute experience for them was talking about being vulnerable and putting themselves out there with each other and in other relationships. “It’s a hard thing to do but it can be so impactful once you do it. It’s definitely something we took from the Institute and practice regularly,” Doug said.

What’s next for this couple? They’re enjoying married life in Houston, where Caroline is a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Neuroregeneration at the Houston Methodist Research Institute. They’re active in the local alumni club, professional societies, and sports leagues, and travel back to the Midwest to visit their nephews and niece.


Palmer Award Finalists: Silvia Araoz

As we continue with our Palmer Award finalist highlights, we are pleased to introduce you to Silvia Araoz. Silvia is from Salt Lake Community College and participated in the Latinx session of the Institute in San Antonio, Texas.

Silvia’s vision is to ensure that low income populations who are struggling with immigration issues have confidential and convenient access to legal issues. One of the ways in which Silvia is working toward her vision is through the Salt Lake City Mexican Consulate, where works in the Education Window helping immigrants obtain information on how to get education to improve their lives. She has also given presentations about the requirements to become an American citizen at local churches and libraries.

Mariflor Medina, a friend who also attended the Institute, is partnering with Silvia on this work as well. Both Silvia and Mariflor hold a paralegal certificate and are working toward their degrees in social work. Together they have a created a business plan to create a mobile legal aid resource and are actively meeting with community members for coaching and support. With access to a vehicle such as a van or a bus, Silvia and Mariflor will have the ability to connect with immigrants in person throughout Utah and provide information on American citizenship, the fight to vote, education, legal aid, and more!

It is clear to see that Silvia and Mariflor are staying in action when it comes to their vision for the Latinx community, and we are eager to see where their work goes from here.

You can learn more about  this year’s Palmer Award recipient TahLea Wright here.

Palmer Award Finalist: Kimberly Elmendorf

071D8A58-A682-4D47-8073-B94CB1AF6270Now that we’ve announced this year’s Palmer Award recipient, TahLea Wright, we are excited to share more LeaderShape goodness by highlighting the finalists for this year’s award. We have three Institute graduates to tell you about, starting with Kimberly Elmendorf from the University of Central Oklahoma.

Kimberly cares deeply about suicide prevention and campus sexual assault prevention. And she has demonstrated a commitment to her vision in so many ways this past year.

As a volunteer with the Crisis Textline, Kimberly participated in 34 hours of training and now serves as a Crisis Counselor for the organization. Through this training, she has learned how to talk with a person who is feeling suicidal, assess their risk, and connect them to resources that will help them where they are at in their lives.

At UCO, Kimberly is a Peer Health Leader. In this role, Kimberly has contributed to a weeklong sexual assault prevention campaign, helped to provide events that teach students to recognize the signs of suicide,  promoted counseling as a mental health tool, and is working to break the stigma of getting help.


Kimberly is also a part of the Institute of Hope. As a member of this organization, Kimberly puts on programs to provide hope to sexual assault survivors, such as a sponsoring a panel of that included their title IX coordinator, an employee from the YWCA, and two survivors. The program provided a safe space to have open and honest discussion with the option to anonymously text questions to the panel.

Please join us in thanking Kimberly for the work she has done on her vision and in the areas of suicide prevention and campus sexual assault prevention so far.