DLI Early History
In 2004, the “DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative” (a leadership development organization) brought its program to Denver, Colorado with a two-year commitment to build and strengthen Denver area leaders. One of the outcomes they desired to achieve was that upon graduating the initiative, its participants would continue the mission of effectively networking, training and supporting more leaders within the city!
Upon the completion of the Devos two-year commitment, two of its graduates Salt Wall and Micah Espinoza partnered with another salient organization, the "Urban Youth Workers Institute" (UYWI), who also serve urban leaders throughout the country. This partnership allowed Salt & Micah, along with other city-leaders, to facilitate UYWI’s one-day training conference known as "Reload". In 2007, the first Denver-Reload was held at “Church in the City”! This training event saw over 150 active leaders from across Denver & the surrounding areas gather in community to worship, pray and learn together! In 2008, as more leaders began to join this movement, under the leadership of Micah, Salt and other city leaders, a second and much anticipated “Reload” conference was presented at “Praise Center Church”, where over 300 leaders were in attendance! And again in 2009, this team hosted and facilitated a third, refined and powerful “Reload” conference! This time it was a two-day event held at “Colorado Christian University”. There was an overwhelming number in attendance and the event was noted as a tremendous success!
These training events provided a lens to see the Denver city and its leadership on-fire, motivated and actively serving hurting communities… willing to unite for their shared purpose! But, even though these events were empowering and exciting, we looked deeper through the lens and knew it wasn't enough for the many leaders in attendance who were hurting and isolated… It wasn’t enough for the majority who were persevering but unhealthy, feeling burnt out or on the verge of quitting.
So, in partnership with UYWI, the team came together and offered another service to the leaders in the city of Denver. But this time, it would look a little different. Together they would take “fewer leaders, deeper and further”! This would be done through the launching of two “Learning Communities” (A learning community is based on a one-year commitment, in which leaders would select one book per month then gather together around food and fellowship to pray and discuss the book). Under the leadership of Micah Espinoza and with the support of UYWI and other local leaders, these two learning communities were successfully launched… One consisting of men and the other of women, with a total of 25 leaders!
During these Learning Communities, the core leadership team for the Denver Leadership Initiative came together and ventured as participants within the learning community. After a year of meeting together, these leaders had journeyed far beyond merely sharing on the content of the books. They became vulnerable and transparent, willingly opening up their lives and hearts to share both their personal and professional experiences including: challenges, victories, expectations, disappointments, relationships, weaknesses, struggles and dreams. And, all this during a time when it was desperately needed in each one of their lives. Their love for God and one another was thriving and healing! When the learning community was nearing its end, these leaders said "We do not want to quit meeting together" and "More leaders need to experience this"! These statements were the beginning of the “Denver Leadership Initiative” (DLI), and their own experiences & transformations are at the heart of this dream!
In 2010, these leaders (Micah Espinoza, Salt Wall, Dave Jones, Phil Abeyta and Scott Sangster) began to faithfully meet, develop and prepare to implement the program that would eventually become the Denver Leadership Initiative. In 2011, again with the financial support, mentoring and partnership of the DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative, Urban Youth Workers Institute, Crowell Foundation and many leaders, organizations and churches from across the city, the Denver Leadership Initiative was launched and saw its first class of participants embark on a year long journey to unite, learn, grow and share their lives with each other as they set out to become “healthy leaders who create healthy communities”!
Together WE can build healthy leaders and communities!