Tell me a story: Amber Coté

When you think of Colorado Springs’ best-known nonprofits, what comes to mind? Maybe Pikes Peak United Way? The Fine Arts Center? Care and Share? TESSA or CASA?

Every one of those organizations is part of Amber Coté’s story. For 20 years, Amber has served her hometown’s nonprofit community, helping keep locals safe, satiated and/or inspired. And not just within big operations — she recently ended a three-year stint on Urban Peak’s board of directors, and spent eight-plus years with FutureSelf, the much-missed youth arts organization.

Today, Amber works for the Center for Nonprofit Excellence. As leadership and community steward, she forges bonds between local nonprofits, businesses and volunteers.

Over coffee recently, I asked Amber if she’d share a lesser-known bit of her personal history. From a list of prompting questions, she picked the same one that Jon Khoury tackled last month. Here’s the question, as well as the response that she decided to give in writing.

If you hadn’t pursued your chosen career, what might you have done instead?

After other random fancies — over-the-road truck driver, Thunderbird pilot, photojournalist, rock band promoter — I had decided to be a 21st-century cultural anthropologist. I was absolutely fixated on the subject, which deals with human culture especially with respect to social structure, language, law, politics, religion, magic, art and technology.

Elsie Clews Parsons, an American anthropologist, sociologist, folklorist and feminist, was one of my first inspirations. Internalizing her story, I imagined a future full of adventure, study and teaching. I would travel the world, embedding myself in various cultures and documenting what I observed. Then I would share those observations and lessons in ways that would resonate with people from other continents, creating opportunities for connection, empathy and world peace.

Yes, it sounds naïve. But Margaret Mead had helped drive America’s sexual revolution and feminist reawakening through research into Polynesian cultures that highlighted their openness to premarital sex. There was no reason my work couldn’t create another revolution.

On the way to completing my studies, I had an unexpected pregnancy and began an unanticipated family. We moved to Austin and, when a career in the music business didn’t pan out, came back to Colorado, where I began working in the nonprofit field. My path became more humble, but meaningful and impactful all the same.

That said … I can still imagine my tent in a desert thousands of miles away, clothes drying on a line, cup of tea on the ground, and the sun setting as I finish up my notes for the day. Dreaming of world peace and my own little revolution.

“Tell Me a Story” is a blog series that shares personal-history snippets from members of the community. To learn how Time Capsule Memoirs captures full-length personal histories in print and audio, click here.