I didn’t know I wanted grapes that day until my mom told me we wouldn’t be buying any. That’s how I found myself ten-years-old and pouting in the produce aisle. However, before I could lodge a protest, she explained that there were many families—including kids my age—who have to pick grapes every day, fighting exposure to toxic pesticides that made them sick. My disposition immediately changed. I began to connect the dots between boycotting grapes and standing up for what’s right. Our action, along with the actions of many others, would send a powerful message, and could lead to important changes.
This is one of my earliest memories of recognizing social injustice and feeling inspired to act. It was also one of many moments that lead me to the work we do at CCMU. We collaborate with health care providers, policy and decision makers, industry experts, advocates, and individuals in communities across Colorado and at the Capitol to drive change. Most importantly, though, we work to lift up the voices of those who aren’t being heard, giving everyone the opportunity to be a part of the change process.
Civic engagement is important for our communities. Research shows that it promotes social cohesion, a thriving economy, and civic pride. It also helps individuals develop skills and confidence, strengthen their personal networks, and build leadership potential. Our communities are healthier—both financially and physically—when more Coloradans are engaged in civic life.
There are a number of organizations around the state doing great work to get more Coloradans engaged. Padres & Jóvenes Unidos is engaging parents and students in conversations about educational equity, mobilizing to change school discipline policies that adversely affect children of color. Together Colorado is a leader in immigration reform and health care reform, organizing local residents to make sure their voices count.
CCMU is excited to expand our work in this area, too. We’re in the process of recruiting Coloradans for a leadership committee interested in improving the health care system. This committee will be able to mobilize and participate in advocacy opportunities that align with their priorities and the priorities of their neighbors. We’re also developing workshops, toolkits, and other resources to help our partners build capacity to authentically engage more Coloradans. At this important time in our changing health care system, we see a great need for new voices to be a part of the conversation.
I look forward to seeing more Coloradans involved in our work and the work of our partners. The record-breaking turnout at recent caucuses and primaries to-date is a great sign of increased civic engagement; hopefully that extends beyond elections and into other change efforts. I was proud to join a movement for change in that small way in the grocery store so many years ago, and I am proud now to take a stand for healthier communities across Colorado. I hope you—and your neighbors—will join me!