The People’s Champion

Left: Candi CdeBaca, Mercedes Jara, Rachel Jara, Diego Jara at Project VOYCE Annual Wake Up with VOYCE Breakfast, August 2019.

Left: Candi CdeBaca, Mercedes Jara, Rachel Jara, Diego Jara at Project VOYCE Annual Wake Up with VOYCE Breakfast, August 2019.

District 9 “Eastside” native.

I was welcomed into the world right here in District 9 by my grandma and her fellow St. Joseph’s Hospital housekeeping team. I was fortunate to be raised by my great-grandma, grandparents, and mom. My great-grandma “Nana” was a sharecropper and moonshiner who moved to Denver from Milliken, Colorado with several of her 13 siblings.

Our family was a working-poor family where everyone pitched in to raise me, my two younger siblings, and my older cousin. There was a time when eight of us lived together in our two bedroom house in Swansea. We relied heavily on our tight-knit community that always stepped up for neighbors in need.

I was the first in my family to graduate from high school and did so proudly as Valedictorian and student body president of Manual High School. Upon graduation, I was awarded the Daniels Fund Scholarship and became the first and youngest dual-degree graduate from the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Social Work. While at the University of Denver I worked multiple jobs at the Women’s College, the Center for Multicultural Excellence, the Denver Center for Trauma and Resilience, and the National Conference of State Legislatures.

At every opportunity I built lasting pipelines for those who would come after me including founding a nonprofit called Project VOYCE in my home community and building out a four-year long program called the Excelling Leaders Institute designed to support vulnerable students at the university.

policy expert, social worker & educator.

In 2009, I moved to Washington, DC as a New Leaders Intern and New Leaders Fellow with the Center for Progressive Leadership. A four-month fellowship led to a six-year opportunity to be a part of history under President Barack Obama’s leadership. During this time, I worked at Excelencia in Education, a national education policy organization, the District of Columbia Public Schools and the Cesar Chavez Foundation.

These roles afforded me the opportunity to deepen my policy skills and balance it with action. I became an expert in policy development, policy analysis, investigation, federal policy compliance, and community organizing. In DC, I learned how to use policy to protect the most vulnerable while still encouraging innovation and growth.

In 2014, I returned to care for my grandmother in hospice and immediately began organizing my home community of Swansea. I realized Denver was in great need of leaders with deep policy knowledge and experience combined with a love of community. I began collaborating with our current representatives on the issues that affect all of us including housing, environment, and transportation.

Simultaneously, through my work at Project VOYCE I have been educating, employing, activating, and organizing underrepresented youth in community to create the Denver that we all deserve. In partnership with community-led organizations and residents we have conceptualized and creatively transformed opportunities into action to achieve people-centered goals. It is with that experience that I strive to create a bold and compassionate Denver led by it’s people.

problem-solver.

Growing up, I always remembered the words of my grandfather: “a bored kid is a lazy kid.” So, coming from a space of limited resources, I learned how to build something from nothing. I became a visionary and forward-thinker rooted deeply in historical context. I organized students to demand the only AP class offered in my high school. I shoveled snow, cleaned houses, and established multiple micro-businesses during high school.

As that entrepreneurial spirit matured and my purpose became more focused, I launched an investment club, co-founded a 13-year old youth development nonprofit, co-founded a youth mentorship group, initiated a registered neighborhood organization, helped to file several lawsuits against the federal government, and catalyzed a community-led land trust.

I know firsthand how to turn vision into action and tangible outcomes; no dream or vision is too big and my superpower turning skeptics into believers, dreamers and doers. My experience as an educator, social worker, policy expert and organizer are the assets we need on council as we leverage Denver’s growth and reputation as a hub for innovation and forward-thinking to build a city that will last, that we can afford, that we love, and that loves us back!

 

I’ve been Fighting for the people of District 9 my whole life.

Our district is exploding with potential and promise. That is what attracted the smelters of the late 1850s and that is what attracts newcomers today. But irresponsible growth is disastrous both for those who built this great city and those that choose to make it their home today. Our history as a boom and bust city underscore the need for us to focus on the long game. I have spent a great part of my life understanding the policies that strike the balance we need and protecting the most vulnerable. There is not a human who knows me who will deny my love for our community and the proof is in the legacy of my labor. I choose Denver. I choose District 9. I choose us. I need you to choose me. I have always understood that if inclusiveness is the destination, solidarity is the vehicle, and community-building is the road we must take.

Change is on the horizon, let’s rise together!

 

 

AUTHORED PUBLICATIONS

  • "Not all taxes are created equal". YellowScene Magazine. September 28, 2018.

  • "Globeville, Elyria and Swansea could be erased without aggressive intervention". Denver Post. June 23, 2017.

  • "Hands Up, Don’t Shoot: The high stakes of modern day activism for youth of color”. The Equity Alliance. November 14, 2016.

  • "Nonprofit Unicorns: Realities that Make Executive Directors of Color Mythical". The Nonprofit Quarterly. November 2, 2016.

  • "Tracing Transitions: The Effect of High School Closure on Displaced Students". Project V.O.Y.C.E. & University of Colorado. September 2010.

  • "Taking Stock: Higher Education and Latinos". Excelencia in Education. 2009.

  • "Being the Change: New Leaders Podcast, Episode 2". Center for Progressive Leadership. August 2009.

  • "Leadership for 21st Century Change". W.K. Kellogg Leadership for Community Change Project. 2009.

  • "Singled-Out: Student Stories of the Diversity Challenges and Opportunities in the Classroom". University of Denver. October 2008.

  • "Engaging Latino Communities for Education Closing the Achievement Gap". National Conference of State Legislatures. 2008.

  • "Community Council Report: Recommendations for the New Manual High School". Manual Renewal Committee. November 2006.

 
 
5280 Magazine, January 2019

5280 Magazine, January 2019

HONORS & RECOGNITION

  • 5280 Magazine, “Disrupter”

  • Planetizen Magazine, Top 100 Urbanists

  • University of Denver’s Alumni Achievement, “2018 Community Engagement Award”

  • Inter-Neighborhood Corporation (INC), “2017 Neighborhood  Star Award”

  • Shorter AME Church, “2018 Shoes of Justice Award”

  • Colorado Latino Forum, “2017 Valiente Courageous Leadership in Environmental Justice Award”

  • Phi Alpha National Social Work Honor Society: 2007-2009                                                             

  • Alpha Kappa Delta International Sociology Honor Society: 2005-2009

  • Psi Chi National Honor Society in Psychology: 2006-2009

  • University of Denver Dean’s List: 2005

  • Latin American Educational Foundation Scholar: 2004

  • Coors Hispanic Employee Network Scholar: 2004                     

  • Daniel’s Fund Scholar: 2004                                                                  

  • National Achievers Society: 2004

  • Colorado Youth Leadership Award: 2002, 2003

  • Mile High Scholar: 2001, 2002

  • El Pomar Youth and Community Service Award: 2003

  • Denver Rotary Scholar: 2003, 2004

 
 

COMMUNITY LEADERSHIP

  • Guest Lecturer, Denver, CO, 2014- Present

  • 2E-”Democracy for the People” Ballot Initiative, Original Signatory, 2018

  • Women Who Startup-Bootcamp, Featured Speaker, 2018

  • World Affairs Challenge-Women & Equality, Panelist, 2018

  • Women’s March on Colorado, Featured Speaker, 2018

  • GES Community Land Trust, Resident Leader, 2018

  • National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation Conference-Participatory Budgeting, Panelist, 2018

  • Auraria Hunger & Homelessness Summit, Keynote, 2018

  • Continental League-Diversity Conference, Keynote, 2018

  • World Affairs Challenge, Keynote, 2018

  • University of Denver-Pioneer Prep, Keynote, 2018

  • Community College of Denver-Women’s Empowerment Week, Keynote, 2018

  • DenverCAN Gentrification Summit, Organizer & Speaker, 2018

  • Creative Placemaking Leadership Summit: Artplace America, Panelist, 2018

  • Colorado Black Women for Political Action- Courageous Conversations on Education, Featured Speaker, 2018

  • DenverCAN, Co-Founder, 2017

  • GES Coalition, Co-Founder, 2017

  • Ditch the Ditch, Organizer, 2014-Present           

  • Founder & President, Cross Community Coalition, 2014-Present

  • University of Denver-Diversity Summit, Panelist, 2017

  • Denver Foundation-Issue Briefing, Speaker, 2017

  • Denver Press Club-Housing Conversation, Featured Speaker, 2017

  • Junior League-GES Service Project, Featured Speaker, 2017

  • Auraria Latinx Summit, Featured Speaker, 2017           

  • Transformative Leadership for Change, Fellow, 2017

  • Colorado Preservation Inc. Summit, Speaker, 2017

  • Community Resource Center, Fellow, 2016

  • Denver Foundation-Executive Directors of Color, Fellow, 2016

  • Latino Leadership Institute, Inaugural Fellow, 2015

  • Denver Mayor’s Youth Award Ceremony, Keynote, 2015

  • Cesar Chavez Foundation, Regional Organizer, 2015-2016               

  • Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute-Ready to Lead, Mentor, 2013

  • CHCI Scholarship Review Committee, Volunteer, 2013           

  • Hispanic Youth with Power & Education, Hispanic Hero Mentor, 2012

  • New Latino Movement, Volunteer, 2009      

  • Center for Progressive Leadership, Fellow, 2009-2010                      

  • Immigrant Rights Organizing Committee, Volunteer, 2009-2011               

  • Denver Mayor’s Latino Commission, Appointee, 2006-2009                                                                   

  • Girls Inc. of Metro Denver-Junior Alliance, Member, 2008                                              

  • Girls Inc. of Metro Denver- Scholarship Selection Committee, Volunteer, 2008                                                  

  • Denver Community/Teen Court, Intern/Interpreter, 2005-2006                                                                  

  • Youth Development, Intern/Facilitator, 2006                                                                                   

  • Denver Mayor’s Youth Commission, Appointee, 2003-2006                                                                                    

  • Denver Public Schools-Student Board of Education, Vice-President, 2002-2004      



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