YI Rocky Mountain is a leader in creating economic opportunity for young adults by amplifying their voices in the political process. We pass state policies and initiatives, and train diverse cohorts of young adults to effectively advocate for their community’s needs, focusing primarily on health care, higher education, basic needs, civic engagement, and the workforce. We are committed to expanding opportunities for young adults from low-income and historically underrepresented communities.
- Provided over 900 hours of in-depth advocacy training to more than 200 young adults through YI’s paid YAP;
- Reached 1,000+ young Coloradans in person and an additional 250,000+ online with important consumer information on health care and higher education;
- Connected youth with hundreds of state and local lawmakers working on YI’s core issues, including providing over 150 testimonials to state legislative committees;
- Placed 40+ media stories written by or featuring the accounts of YI’s youth leaders on economic security issues facing young Coloradans;
- Provided guidance and oversight for institutions of higher education, the state legislature, the Department of Higher Education, and the Governor’s Office on CARES Act spending;
- Developed and implemented the Healthy Minds and Hunger Free Checklists for college campuses;
- Developed a mental health advocacy toolkit called Evokate to engage young adults, from marginalized and underrepresented backgrounds, in a process of understanding effective advocacy;
- Produced multiple policy and research products related to achieving gender equity in Colorado apprenticeships, a policy roadmap for supporting student parents, recommendations for increasing young adult use of preventive health care services, and Women in the Workforce.
- Produced “Dismantle to Rebuilt: Colorado’s Young Adult Pulse,” a blog series on how we engage young adult voices throughout our annual policy agenda development.
Young Advocates Program
Since our founding in 2016, we have run the Young Advocates Program, a paid ($17.50/hour) leadership development program that trains the next generation of leaders ages 18 to 34 who have had less power or privilege, specifically people of color and low-income young adults, in advocating for policy change to improve their lives and communities. YI’s policy priorities are informed and driven by young adults we work with through our leadership programs [e.g., Young Advocates Program (YAP) and Youth Advisory Board (YAB)], research projects, and our broader young adult network. YI advocates for policy changes that achieve health equity and economic security.
Cohorts of 10-25 young adults (“Advocates”) meet for four hours a week for four to five months. During this time, Advocates learn about issues that impact young adults in Colorado and collaborate on hands-on service projects in our focus areas. Advocates are paired with mentors in their chosen field of interest and often find work through their mentorships, expand their networks, and build professional skills. Participants learn about the intersection between policy, advocacy, storytelling, and organizing as they discover how to best engage in the legislative process. Additionally, they’re empowered to lead in their own communities and receive training on professional and personal development.
Advocates participate in training sessions and activities led by YI Staff and partners, including:
- Community Organizing and Resilience: How to build a coalition and/or an issue-based campaign
- Public Speaking, Self-Image, and Branding
- Mental Health 101 and Trauma-Informed Care
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
- Financial literacy
- Professional development training- resumé, job searching and networking skills
- Lobbying 101 and the Colorado Legislative Process: How ideas become laws and how to effectively advocate
Youth Advisory Board
The Youth Advisory Board (YAB) is composed of 15-20 young adults from across Colorado and includes a mix of current college students, young adults who have interrupted educational experiences, and young professionals building their careers. These young people provide input that directly shapes YI’s policy agenda, upcoming initiatives, and outreach. The YAB ensures that our work consistently supports our mission while providing young adults the opportunity to weigh in on our current and upcoming work. Board members meet quarterly and develop a capstone project throughout the year.
The Rocky Mountain Young Invincibles office is committed to advancing policy benefiting young adults in higher education, health care (with an emphasis on mental health care), workforce development, and civic engagement. Our policy priorities are guided by the needs of young adults in Colorado. We regularly survey our network, and continuously solicit feedback from young adults throughout Colorado to ensure that we hold young adults furthest from power and privilege at the center of our work. The immediate aftermath and ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted health care affordability, quality, and access, further barring young adults from upward mobility in higher education and workforce development. The YI Rocky Mountain 2023 Policy Agenda will address healthcare affordability with a focus on disparities among marginalized racial/gender/sexual identities, reproductive justice, workforce protections for hourly employees, and increased access to higher education, particularly for students furthest from privilege who need access to wraparound support services in order to succeed.
YI Rocky Mountain will advocate for policies that expand equitable access to health (physical + mental) and thriving for young adults. We will support efforts to increase medicaid access for young adults with mental health struggles, increase access to affordable medical services, and address gaps in reproductive and maternal care that disproportionately impact Hispanic, Black, and Rural Coloradans.
In 2023, Colorado college students are facing unprecedented levels of inflation, high cost of living, and the rapidly rising cost of college attendance. A lack of sufficient state investment in higher education perpetuates geographic, racist, and classist inequities in college acceptance, attainment, and retention. YI will work to pass policies to connect more students to financial aid opportunities, protect student rights, and increase access to basic needs. Marginalized college students are often struggling with the increased cost of living and these policies will increase wrap around support from higher education institutions.
Access to economic opportunity is critical for young adults. This access includes the support we need to get to work, such as transportation and/or childcare. Steady access to employment is critical for young adults to build generational wealth, and it is equally important that work does not interrupt one’s access to needs like healthcare, education, or family responsibilities. YI will advocate for policies that ensure worker protection and support for working young adults.
Projects and Research
Healthy Minds Checklist
The Healthy Minds Checklist encourages Colorado’s institutions of higher education to create inclusive mental health programs that enhance existing campus resources to decrease stigma and improve access to care. Institutions that implement accessible services that meet the requirements earn a Healthy Minds Designation.
Hunger Free Checklist and SNAP Ambassador Program
The Hunger Free Campus Checklist addresses food insecurity on college campuses by ensuring that students have access to resources, food, and assistance applying for SNAP benefits. Campuses that meet the requirements will receive a statewide designation as Hunger-Free Campuses.
In partnership with Hunger Free Colorado, YI developed the SNAP Ambassador Program to expand community college students’ access to food. Hunger Free Fellows conducted outreach on their campuses to help students apply for SNAP benefits, ensuring that their peers have access to nutritious food and support when they may otherwise go without.
YI continues to work with students across the state to help ensure their institutions apply for both designations. We also continue to work alongside the Colorado Department of Higher Education Office of Equity on strengthening and expanding the checklists for years to come.
Policy & Advocacy Digital Toolset
YI, in partnership with Active Minds and The Well Being Trust, is co-creating a mental health advocacy digital toolset for young adults ages 16-24 years old across the United States. We’re engaging young adults – particularly of marginalized and underrepresented backgrounds – in a process of understanding effective advocacy, exploring the world of mental health policy, and engaging in social change.
We’ve produced various policy and research products related to achieving gender equity in Colorado apprenticeships, a policy roadmap for supporting student parents, and recommendations for increasing young adult use of preventive health care services. In our most recent report, Women in the Workforce, we researched the future of women’s involvement in the workforce and found that the child-care crisis, brought on in part by the pandemic’s effects, had a massive impact on women and families, especially in marginalized communities in Colorado.
We also launched a new annual blog series, “Dismantle to Rebuilt: Colorado’s Young Adult Pulse,” which reports on how we engage young adult voices throughout our annual policy agenda development process.
Made possible with funding from the CDC, we have mobilized our young adults to inform and educate their communities about COVID-19 and Flu vaccines in order to dispel misinformation and disinformation and protect the health and safety of those community members. Our partnerships with local organizations doing vaccine and community engagement work bolster our impact and allow us to reach marginalized people where they are and in ways that are impactful for them. With the help of our partners, we hosted vaccine clinics, disseminated easy-to-understand information, and connected communities with the resources to make informed decisions about their own well-being and that of their families.
Through partnerships with Colorado college campuses and local nonprofit organizations, YI crafted a Get Out the Vote campaign that included rallies, educational tabling events, voter registration drives, and a virtual webinar with the Denver county Clerk & Recorder, Paul Lopez. We were able to bring quality, fact-checked information to young adults in the state so that they could feel more equipped to vote in the 2022 midterm election through a ballot guide geared toward young adults, and face-to-face conversations on college campuses in Colorado. We also provided concrete actions for young adults to be civically engaged beyond voting for those who are not eligible to vote.
If you’re interested in partnering or joining our work in Colorado or the Rocky Mountain Region, we’d love to hear from you!
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Lakewood, CO 80228