Like many people, I was not brought up in a Beaver Cleaver household. My mother raised my two sisters and me by herself, and financial struggles were common. Learning to live without certain luxuries “would make us appreciate them more when we could afford them,” she would say. And my mom was right.
While she worked three jobs during our younger years, the community often jumped in to make sure we were taken care of. Whether it was a neighbor who took us to the park, or teachers and coaches who pushed us a little bit more than the other kids, my hometown of Colorado Springs did not allow my sisters and me to fall through the cracks.
These teachers, mentors, and employers also pushed me in high school and college, leading me to heights I could not have imagined. I am thinking about them a lot these days as I get ready to leave Colorado Springs.
I think of my 12th grade English teacher, Jessica Lewis, who sat down with me after school to help me fill out college applications. And my instructor at UCCS , Tamara Moore, who went out on a limb to provide me with a scholarship when I was contemplating dropping out because I could not afford tuition. And my past employer, Daniel Davies, who let me work my 30 hours a week on a flexible schedule so that I could afford rent and not miss class.
It is easy to get caught up on Colorado Springs’ shortcomings, or the places we need to improve. But, as a lifelong resident, I can say this community is nothing short of amazing.
To add to the list of opportunities this city has provided me, El Pomar Foundation recently partnered with the American Council of Young Political Leaders to assist with the D.C.-based nonprofit’s Election Exchange program. As a result, I am about to leave for a two-month stint in Washington.
ACYPL’s Election Exchange will bring 50 young elected leaders, political activists, policy experts and grassroots organizers from around the world to D.C. to explore components of a successful national campaign including political fundraising, policy formulation, message development, media strategy, polling, field organization, micro-targeting, and youth participation.
Fellow Sabrina Ragaller and I leave in the next week and to say that we are excited would be an understatement, as we are both passionate about international relations. My excitement is matched by gratitude. This really has been a life-long goal of mine and it would not have happened without the investment my community made in me.
Be sure to follow our travels on the blog over the next two months!