Inspired Leader Aubrey Hall details her experience at Inspire Colorado's Leadership Academy held in Denver in November.
When I first arrived at Inspire Colorado’s two day Leadership Academy in Denver, I hadn’t an idea of what to expect. I had applied one day before the program deadline, was the only representative from my school, and I was two hours away from my family and friends with little provided context other than the concept of integrating youth voice into American democracy. However, as more and more students arrived in the conference room of the hotel where the academy was being held, I learned they had come from all around the state for the same reason that I had. I became more and more comfortable with and excited about the idea of involving my peers in the democratic process. I spoke to representatives from schools as close to me as Colorado Springs and to students who had driven two and a half hours from Yuma.
At the outset of the first day, we dove into an impassioned discussion regarding feelings and observations surrounding the results of the November 8th election. Although Inspire Colorado is a non-partisan organization, clearing the air regarding all of our personal feelings and experiences surrounding the recent election allowed us to humanize and put a face to the viewpoints of others. This was also an opportunity to begin brainstorming ways in which to channel our peers’ partisanship into enthusiasm for voting, a skill that we continued to hone throughout that weekend’s programming sessions.
As the day went on, we received the necessary information required in order to actually register our peers to vote, and discussed the fundamentals of youth voice in democracy as well as the pillars on which Inspire Colorado was founded. All of this left the group with a sense of purpose and diligence in getting our peers involved in the democratic process. Throughout the rest of the day, we continued to learn more about ourselves and each other, as well as running through hypothetical scenarios that we may encounter while attempting to register our peers to vote.
One of the most meaningful sessions that we took part in was the one in which we created “This I Believe” statements, using personal stories from our lives in order to emphasize our one true passion or core belief. After the statements were written, they were posted on walls around the room by Inspired Colorado staff while our group ate dinner. When we re-entered the room and had the opportunity to read what our peers had written, it was awe-inspiring. Each person had come into the Inspire Colorado program carrying something formidable, but in spite of their various difficulties and experiences, they are choosing to amplify the voices and opinions of their fellow high schoolers.
The following morning, the Inspired Leaders met with powerful community leaders who work at organizations throughout Colorado that focus on the amplification of the voices of constituents, particularly those who are marginalized. The connections established with these community leaders, as well as those that the Inspired Leaders formed with one another, created a steady foundation of mutual knowledge, passion, and understanding that will allow us to be highly successful in registering our peers to vote and encouraging them to be active members of our democracy for the remainder of our high school careers and beyond.