In its third year, the American Civic Collaboration Awards continue to highlight outstanding efforts of civic collaboration making impacts in local, national and youth communities.
We celebrated all winners and finalists in an awards ceremony at the National Conference on Citizenship in October.
This year's Local category winner was RISE Colorado.
We asked RISE to answer a few questions about what it means to win a Civvys award, their work and their hopes for the future. Read on for a brief interview and to learn more about RISE Colorado.
Aurora, Colorado is one of the most diverse school districts in the country, with 143 languages spoken. Yet those most involved in the barriers to education, like immigrants and refugees, have been left out of the education reform conversation. RISE educates parents on the opportunity gap, empowers them with leadership development to become policy architects and decision makers, and works with them to engage and organize other parents and school officials. RISE builds solidarity, education and empowerment among parents, giving them the tools they need to become active participants in the school community. There is no agenda or angle it asks families to support. Parents are the decision makers, and they work together to find ways to support their children's academic achievement. As a result, they have seen amazing collaborations take on a life of their own, for example refugee parents speaking up for undocumented immigrant parents who can’t always “go public” with their concerns or needs. They have also created materials and toolkits to share with other diverse school communities around the country.
What are your hopes and plans for the upcoming year?
The next year is going to be all about building on the momentum we're feeling right now. We're looking forward to expanding our impact and growing our internal capacity, too, to accommodate that growth. At the same time, we're still deeply committed to Aurora, Colorado, the city we're rooted in, and we are currently working on a remodel to our building (which we just bought this year!) to introduce a new Community Gathering Space right here in the RISE building. We can't wait to break ground early next year.
Why is collaboration important today?
Collaboration is at the root of everything we stand for: those most impacted must lead the movement for change. It's all too easy to hear about and witness the issues in our society, and to think we know the answers. The truth is, in order to drive equitable and sustained systematic change, we need to go to the people most impacted and trust their expertise. They know the answers and have the solutions. They live it every day! Our world is entrenched in deep partisanship and a lack of trust in the systems shaping our everyday lives, but at RISE, we know that we don't need to put our differences aside to collaborate and make change happen: our differences are our strengths. Collaboration allows us all to bring our unique perspectives and expertise to the table to solve the issues and challenges together.
What do you wish people who have lost hope knew?
To those who have lost hope, we'd say to focus on the wins, no matter how small. Zoom out, and take a look at what's happening in your local communities. What are the problems you want to solve? Break them down into tangible, concrete issues and eventually, they'll add up to a whole much greater and more valuable than the sum of its parts. Systemic change doesn't happen overnight; it happens with each individual success that slowly but surely builds momentum and disrupts the status quo.
What does winning a Civvys award mean to you?
As a nonprofit in Northwest Aurora — a historically marginalized and underrepresented community here in Colorado — it is really exciting for RISE Family Leaders' work to be recognized. The Civvys Awards are exactly aligned with our theory of change: it all comes down to collaborating, engaging, and organizing together to make change happen. The changes that RISE Family Leaders are making in their schools and community are perfect reflections of the power in democracy-building and civic collaboration and we couldn't be prouder of them for the work they've done. We can't wait to see what they achieve next because we know educational equity isn’t just possible — it’s coming!