Meet Archway Team Member Julie Spires!
Where are you from originally?
I am originally from Houston, Texas. I first moved away when I went to school in Oklahoma, at the University of Oklahoma. I got both my undergrad and master’s degree there!
What brought you to Colorado?
My husband got a job offer in Colorado Springs. So, it was either Colorado or Dallas, and for us it was an easy decision. We really liked Colorado and wanted a change in scenery! We moved to Castle Rock when we first came here, I was commuting to Denver and my husband was commuting to Colorado Springs.
Tell us more about your educational background.
My undergrad is in Anthropology and my master’s in Museum Education. Specializing in Archaeology in my undergrad, I got to go out on digs, which was amazing. I really love archaeology, but I discovered that it’s pretty difficult to establish a career in the field. The two main routes are contract work or the academic world, and I wasn’t super interested in either. That’s where my master’s came in, I felt it was a good transition to be able to work in a museum where much of the finds end up and to have an opportunity to teach others.
What were you involved in before Archway?
Once I got my master’s I worked in museums for a few years doing field trip programming. I worked a lot with kids, which I really enjoyed! When we transitioned out to Colorado, I was able to do the same thing – I was at a Natural History museum in Denver. After about a year in Castle Rock we made our way to Colorado Springs, and that began a time where I worked for various non-profits.
The position I landed long term was with the YMCA. I started out doing memberships there, but eventually got promoted to overseeing all youth programming at the downtown location. That included short term projects like supervising the staff at the Child Watch Center, where parents drop their kids off while they work out; to more complex programming like overnight trips and summer camps.
Once my husband and I moved to Denver, I was able to transfer to a YMCA here, but the job was in a completely different department, further removed from working with people, and I wasn’t enjoying it. I wanted something where I could continue to work with kids and do programming, it’s what I loved in all my past jobs.
Why did you choose Archway?
The position fit everything I was looking for in a career. A non-profit with an excellent mission, and the job more specifically deals with programming and providing services to, not just kids, but families as a whole. I was really interested to make a difference at a housing level because it’s so essential. To provide services for such a basic need really sounded like something I could be passionate about.
What do you like most about your job?
Just to help show the contrast, I’ll start with at the YMCA. One thing I really liked was when we got to issue scholarships to kids. That was a true difference-maker in their lives, and you could feel that you were making an impact so tangibly in that moment. But it was such a “once-in-a-while” thing. But here you can see the direct impact of the community outreach you’re doing, especially since you see all the residents, week in and week out. You can really grow a relationship and see the difference you’re making.
One of the things that gives me the most immediate or tangible sense of this is food banks. It’s surprisingly one of my favorite activities. I say surprisingly because you would think that, with my background in youth programming, I would really like the activities I get to plan and field trips. As much as I do love that, food bank meets such an essential need across the entire community, not just youths or teens or adults. And you can see just how thankful the residents are for our efforts to provide that resource multiple times a week.
It seems like you have always had a heart for others – volunteering and working for non-profits. Has this always been a part of you, or something that developed later in life?
I think I’ve always really enjoyed working with kids. Growing up I used to work at Girl Scout Camps, teaching kids how to ride horses and doing activities. I’m a really big fan of unstructured learning – getting to learn through experience, touch and feel and to gain exposure to the things that you’re trying to “teach”.
As far as working for non-profits, I think that is also something that has just been innately a part of me. I always remember volunteering growing up and looking for ways to be of service to others. I remember doing food banks in high school when volunteering and making food for others. That just developed into a desire to have a job that was more purposeful, that I got something out of. Not just an office job.
Tell us about the Archway Thrift Store you’re heading up!
I’m very excited to get this program off the ground! Like I mentioned earlier, resources like food bank are so essential, you can tell this is really where we are making a big difference in the lives of our residents. I am always looking for donations for socks or toiletries to hand out at food bank. Every time I’m able to hand items like that out to residents, I can see their face light up, it makes their week and even month. The Thrift Store is essentially a progression onto that idea. There are some residents who will be able to get a whole new wardrobe from the donations we’re looking to get. It will be so impactful.
What do you like to do in your free time? How do you incorporate your interests and the things that make you unique into your job?
I’ve always been an outdoorsy person, but that really grew and flourished once I moved to Colorado. Needless to say, Oklahoma is pretty flat and Texas is pretty hot! So, I love to get outside and hike, and I really enjoy sports. I was never involved in sports super heavily growing up but being from Texas you’re definitely raised to love sports! That helps me a lot on site here at Foothills Green because we have a lot of teens who love football and basketball, so it’s pretty much all we do. But being outdoorsy has also helped with setting up field trips on hiking trails and ropes courses. Those always go over well too!
I also love my fantasy football league. That’s been my prized possession lately. Actually, anything fantasy, people think I’m kidding when I say I’m super into it. But I won my March Madness bracket this year as well, and I’ve won my fantasy football league too! I think I catch some of my teens here off guard knowing all the players and standings. It gives me a little street-cred.
What are you most excited about for the future of Archway?
The staff and the leadership team we have are such good people, with good hearts to do more. There is a great sense of ambition and growth. It gets me really excited to see resources like the Thrift Store popping up and increased food banks, as well as intention to acquire more properties. The heartbeat of the organization is so strong, and it feels like we’re headed in a great direction and making things happen where we see need. It’s really fun to be a part of.