“I’ve always been someone who volunteers and is really interested in community aspects and dynamics,” Richardson said. PHOTO COURTESY OF HANNAH RICHARDSON

The right person to get involved

Hannah Richardson joins Spanish Peaks Community Foundation

Place-based education is a pedagogy that focuses on teaching students to be involved in the area they live and to understand the needs of their community and the best ways to support the population. One example of this could be community trash cleanup days hosted by Discovery Academy and Community Learning Center.

Hannah Richardson has a background in outdoor education and teaching and created environmental science curriculums for schools she worked in before landing at Discovery as a teacher and community outreach director. She started looking at community outreach through the curriculums she was making and began to consider how her educational plans could serve those communities.

“I’ve worked at all nonprofit schools and slowly got more involved in grant writing, community events and fundraising events, so then when I came out here, I guess I wanted to live in Big Sky, but I also really wanted to continue to expand on those administrative nonprofit opportunities,” Richardson said.

She described her role at Discovery as the perfect steppingstone to the position she has started. Richardson now serves as the community engagement director for the Spanish Peaks Community Foundation. All the program development and grant writing she did at Discovery paved the way for this position as far as skills go, but almost more importantly, she found how excited she got about things like Give Big Gallatin Valley and the Community Learning Center component of the Montessori school.

“It really motivated me to kind of keep looking for the next step, like where is that full-time job opportunity?” Richardson recalled. Anyone so motivated by community engagement and development that gets excited about grant-funded programming is definitely on the right path if they find themselves in Richardson’s position with the foundation.

In this full-time job opportunity, Richardson will be working on the foundation’s social media, fundraising, community outreach and development projects, and grant writing. She looks forward to working with foundation board members and with the member base, who makes up the donation base for the foundation.

The fact that the members provided so much of the foundation’s funding is something that Richardson believes is worth reminding the community. The Spanish Peaks Golf Classic, for example, funnels all proceeds back to the foundation, which then allocates the money to various community initiatives.

Spanish Peaks gave about $425,000 to the Big Sky community in 2020 and the estimate for this year’s first grant cycle is $191,000. Despite not being full-time residents, members feel invested in the town they vacation in and want to give back in a way they can.

“It’s all a balance and I think the more we understand the different community dynamics and people that are giving back, the better we can serve Big Sky,” Richardson said.

Until now, education was Richardson’s primary way of connecting with a community. She loved and has so much gratitude for her two years at Discovery, but knew it was time to move on. “In both aspects of my two different jobs at Discovery, we were doing community-based projects,” she said. Projects that focused heavily on place-based education and supporting the Big Sky community.

A community’s needs can change. Something that worked one year might not work the next, and Richardson is looking forward to investing her time in understanding that dynamic.

“That part’s kind of fun,” Richardson said about the investigative work. “It’s really cool that certain programs work well at different times depending on communication and community needs.”

One of her goals in her position with Spanish Peaks is to get community members involved with things like Resort Tax meetings or fundraising events. There are so many things going on and, “The right people are getting involved,” and she wants to motivate community members to participate.

She strives to remind people of all the ways community can be found in Big Sky.

“I am looking forward to working together with local organizations to continue to serve the Big Sky community,” she said.

More Information

Lone Peak Lookout

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