Barb and Joe have been dedicated members of the Greeley community for nearly 50 years, and they’ve been involved with The Greeley Dream Team since the very beginning. On September 24th, we honored the Slobojans at our 2019 Community of Champions . . . Turning Dreams into Reality Breakfast, and this week, we’re shining the spotlight on them again for our first Donor Spotlight!
Who are they?
The Slobojans are both the grandchildren of immigrants who heavily emphasized the importance of education, even though high school diplomas and college degrees were things they were unable to attain themselves. Barb and Joe are originally from Delaware and Pennsylvania respectively. In college, Joe joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), and he and Barb later spent two years in Germany, living in the local community. Joe recalls a drive along the Autobahn one year when he was asked what he was going to do after he left the military, and his response was: “I’m going to get my doctorate so I can teach at the college level.” He was then given the suggestion to travel to Colorado State College in Greeley (now the University of Northern Colorado). This suggestion brought them both to Greeley in 1970.
Joe then worked as an educator in Northern Colorado while Barb was a stay-at-home mom who was very active in the Greeley community. She got involved on the Board of Directors for Denver public television, and then was hired part-time at UNC to assist with fundraising. Eventually, Barb worked as a full-time fundraiser for UNC before working at both Colorado State University (CSU) and VALIC before retiring.
Barb and Joe also remained active in the community. They both served on several Boards and helped support different community groups. Barb even served on The Greeley Dream Team Board of Directors from 2010-2014.
What is their personal mission?
Barb believes that her personal mission comes directly from the way she was raised. She grew up being taught how to send what little she had back to her family back in Italy who didn’t have those things. She also grew up watching her mother’s active involvement in the community. Barb says that they both feel their lives are more than just working and supporting their own family, and they both strive to be conscientious of sharing. They agreed to stay in Greeley because it is “a community where you can get involved and make a difference . . . have this circle of friends and we also believe there’s a lot of cultural things here to do.”
Joe, on the other hand, does not come from a background of community involvement as Barb. However, he says that his personal mission is “to lead a life that’s a good example for our kids and to participate wherever I can to be helpful to others.”
Why do they give?
When asked what inspired them to give to The Greeley Dream Team, Barb and Joe both recalled their late son Mark. He had been a bright and intuitive kid, but Barb explained that he was “a non-conformist and he was hyper, and school was tough, so he had made it that much harder for himself. It really wasn’t until about the time he graduated that he recognized that he had really paid a price for that.”
Prior to Mark’s passing, he told Barb that he wanted to play football and still go to college. She was determined to help him, but he, unfortunately, passed away before she could. Barb finds motivation in helping students like her son achieve their dreams, and she states that “the Dream Team would’ve fit him if he had been able to access it earlier.” In Mark’s honor, Barb and Joe provided Dream Team students with the Mark Slobojan Memorial Scholarship from 1993-2002.
Barb and Joe agree that their favorite part of being active in the community is seeing results. Barb asserted that being involved in a feel-good organization and hearing student stories has been a good reminder of the issues in our community. We all know there are students who struggle, but we never realize that they are right next door.
What do they wish other people knew about The Greeley Dream Team?
Last year, 100% of the Dream Team Class of 2019 graduated high school. Joe praised this statistic with enthusiasm:
“The success rate last year, everybody needs to know that! What program graduates every single kid?! I was blown away! Every single one graduated from high school!”
Though Barb found these results to be as equally as amazing as Joe did, she directed her kudos to our Executive Director:
I will tell you, I don’t think there are many nonprofits around here that compare to Elizabeth, I really mean that. She’s dynamite. Because [her job] is so people-oriented, it takes a lot of time and it zaps your energy. When I was at UNC, I think I went through six Executive Directors and I would fill in that position when there was none. It nearly killed me! It was very hard. She’s organized and clear-headed, she just has a governor in her head that sends her in the right direction.
Joe echoed Barb’s thoughts and touched on how accomplishing these goals tells him two things: “one, it’s the dedication to the purpose and second, it’s the personal endurance.”
What do they want The Greeley Dream Team to do next?
While Joe has no desire to see the Dream Team ever go away, he is a firm believer in an organization accomplishing their goal and then leaving the community to continue bettering itself: “I think if the Dream Team can get to a point where we don’t need the Dream Team, we can say thank you, you did your job. Whether it’s the graduates or the product of the Dream Team that goes out into the community and helps solve that problem and it goes away, that would be best because we wouldn’t have the problem anymore.”
Barb spoke highly of both the alumni working as advisors and the tutoring program. Her hope is that the Dream Team will continue mentoring students with those who have been through the program themselves: “to me, that would maybe be more meaningful to students because it’s somebody that’s been through it.”
Thank you so much, Barb and Joe, for everything you do for not only us but our entire community. We couldn’t do it without you!