Women of Influence: Jan Isaacs Henry

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Jan Isaacs Henry, the co-founder and executive director of Kidpower of Colorado, still leads the nonprofit she founded nearly 20 years ago. In those two decades, Henry has made a significant difference to the Colorado Springs community and to the safety and well-being of a generation of children.

Henry worked as a psychotherapist from 1979 to 1995, primarily treating women. In her practice, she treated many patients who had endured abuse as children, and she became painfully aware of the long-term effects of such abuse. Hearing of a program that taught children how to protect themselves from abuse, Henry enrolled at her own expense in a Kidpower International training program in California.

She was impressed — so much so that she established Kidpower in Colorado Springs in 1994 and has served as the organization’s executive director and lead instructor ever since.

The number of children served has grown from 164 in 1994 to 3,520 in 2012. A total of 38,000 individuals have received training to date, and many more have benefited indirectly from training provided for social service agencies, educators, law enforcement and parents.

Kidpower teaches children from 4 to 18 how to set appropriate boundaries, use their own voices to keep themselves safe, and, as a last resort, use their own physical strength to prevent abuse.

In a dramatic example of the program’s effectiveness, a teenage girl working at a local ice cream parlor was accosted by two men while she was taking out the trash. Using physical skills learned through Kidpower, she fought off her attackers and called for help. The men fled but were soon apprehended.

Henry, like most successful nonprofit leaders, understands the value of collaboration. Her organizational affiliations and board memberships include the Victim Assistance Law Enforcement Board, the Colorado Coalition against Sexual Assault, the Family Empowerment Team and the Center for Nonprofit Excellence.

In nominating Henry as a Woman of Influence, 2010 honoree Nancy Saltzman spoke of her passionate dedication to the children’s welfare.

“Email her at 5 a.m. or 11 p.m. and you will get a response,” Saltzman wrote. “Ask for information about anything related to the safety of children and you will have an answer as soon as humanly possible. Kidpower of Colorado has never denied a student enrollment in a class for lack of funds, even if the funds come out of Jan’s pocket.”

— John Hazlehurst