In March when we suspended in-person operations entirely, our Spring cohort had to adjust rapidly to virtual programming as we reimagined our programming and policy in the remote world. The spring cohort picked up without missing a beat, and our fall cohort has continued to set an exceptional precedent of what is possible through a Zoom call.
We could not be more proud of the work the young adults in our Fall cohort have done. Throughout the past four months, they’ve impressed us at every turn with their intentional participation in virtual training, their thoughtful and respectful engagement with each other, their willingness and ability to dig into difficult topics, and of course, their impressive work product from the program. Check out some highlights of their unique work below!
Racial Equity Working Group
Defund the Police White Paper
- Our young adults have been researching Defund the Police policies since September and have written a white paper on this issue from the perspective of young adults. Using Pueblo, CO as a specific example, this white paper considers the reallocation of city budgets away from police departments and towards community services like mental health care, and basic needs coverage. While this white paper is still being developed, it will include information about changes happening around police department funding across the country and reflect on the work that is possible here in Colorado. Our young adults are motivated to work on racial justice, and this white paper on Defund the Police is just a piece of the puzzle for us to work more intentionally on racial equity policies.
Abolish ICE White Paper
- Another white paper young adults developed this year focused on the services and problems with ICE. In the Racial Equity Working Group, young advocates investigated ICE services, detention centers, and community impact. They drafted a white paper that outlines the role ICE plays in our communities, and considered the impact of abolishing this agency. This work is a reflection of our young adults interests in dismantling racist systems and re-visioning communities that are not rooted in fear.
Higher Education Working Group
Base funding adjustment research
- In Colorado, funding for higher education is complex and confusing. Colorado legislators passed HB20-1366, which implemented a new model for funding allocation to institutions of higher education to direct more funding to universities serving pell-eligible students, historically underrepresented students, and low-income students. However, we know that this is just the start to equalizing funding for institutions of higher education in Colorado. Our young advocates have jumped into the work as they research the base funding adjustment to Colorado institutions of higher education.
ACT/SAT Test Optional Policies
- During the legislative session, Colorado legislators passed HB20-1407, which temporarily suspended the requirement of test scores for admissions at universities and colleges in Colorado. Based on ample evidence from across the country, we know that test scores are not accurate or effective measures of college readiness and instead, test scores further inequities in education and are inherently biased against students of color, low-income students, and first-generation students. To further the state’s goals of making higher education more accessible and diverse, our young adults have been working on coalition building and fact sheet development to support a long-term test optional policy in Colorado.
Occupational licensing for DACA recipients
- Right now, DACA recipients are not able to get occupational licenses for many careers they receive a bachelor’s degree in. One of the most important parts of passing legislation is the testimony and there are powerful stories from DACA recipients regarding occupational barriers. Our young advocates have been working with DACA recipients to draft and refine written, audio, and video pieces for testimony, which is a critical component of advocacy to pass the DACA occupational licensing bill.
Student Emergency Grants
- Last year, our young adults worked on a policy to create an emergency grant fund for students who have crises in their lives prohibiting them from being successful in their studies. COVID threw a bit of a wrench in that bill, but they’re bringing it back this year! They’re collecting stories, updating the fact sheet, and creating coalitions to pass this important piece of legislation.
Open Educational Resources
- Young adults have written op-eds and developed testimony in support of continuing funding for open educational resources, or free online textbooks.
- This cohort also developed story collecting tools for several other policies we’re working on.
- Protecting young adults with private student loans
- Increasing FAFSA completion rates
- Removing legacy admissions from public institutions of higher education
- Prohibiting transcript withholding practices
Healthy Minds Working Group
Over the course of our program, members of the mental health working group organized, promoted, and hosted a Healthy Minds webinar. The event drew over 50 guests from all over Colorado, and western states. This webinar was the culmination of hard work, and the result was an excellently executed virtual event with a guest speaker from Emerson House and stories from three of our young advocates about their own experiences with mental health. Thank you to Alyssa, Sarah, and Brenna for sharing their stories with us!
If you missed it, you can still learn about the event and listen to the recording! Click here to access the recording from our Facebook page!
Written by Marley Weaver-Gabel, Rocky Mountain Policy Fellow