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Featured Changemaker: MOLLY FITZPATRICK on Youth and People-Powered Politics

Philanthropiece’s Youth Global Leadership Program Coordinator Alicia Conte recently had the opportunity to sit down with Molly Fitzpatrick, Boulder Organizing Director for the New Era Colorado Foundation. New Era is an organization that serves as an innovative vehicle for hands-on democracy, by engaging, educating, and training a new generation of active citizens and young leaders in Colorado.

How did you get involved with New Era?

I first got involved with New Era Colorado as an intern, through my first year internship placement with the INVST Community Leadership Program at CU Boulder. I stayed on for another year after that. After I graduated from CU, I moved to Washington DC for eight months because I wanted to get involved in politics on a larger scale. When I got there, however, the political realm felt inaccessible, especially when contrasted with a grassroots organization like New Era. New Era engages people in democracy at a local and state level, which is where real change happens.

What projects is New Era currently involved in?

We are currently in the midst of a campaign to defeat Ballot Measure 310 in Boulder, which is an Xcel-backed  measure designed to kill our chances of creating a locally controlled electric utility. Since the 2011 vote to create a municipal utility for Boulder, the city has explored options of what a locally controlled utility could look like, and found that it is possible to reduce greenhouse gases by 50% while keeping rates the same for customers. Xcel takes a huge profit from our city, and we have the opporunity to break away from them and invest that profit back into our community. We have the opportunity to create a new model of what a cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable energy future looks like.

Why youth?

Young people have historically been left out of the political process, and we’re working to change that.  At New Era, we try to meet young people where they’re at by offering innovative opportunities to engage in politics. For example, we do things like conduct voter registration and outreach on college campuses, and host creative voter engagement events such as “Trick or Vote” and a “Candidate Survivor” candidate debate. If you get young people voting early and often, they’re more likely to be lifetime voters. We recognize that the youth are under-represented, and we are working to change that.

What events in your life have shaped your values? How does what you’re doing reflect those values?

The family that I was raised in has largely shaped my values. They always placed an importance on kindness towards others, mutual respect, and being generous with your time and money. Home was always a safe space, where I was taught that we are all equal, and as a child, I soaked all of this up.

What key relationships have shaped your life path? Any role models?

I know it sounds cheesy, but my mom and dad. My mom has always been a peacemaker, with a big heart and a lot of patience. She has lived out a different life than people expected of her, and she’s happier for it. My dad always taught me that girls are just as good as boys, if not better! He knew I would run into challenges in life as a woman, and he set me up to be ready for those challenges from a young age.

Sabrina Sideris (INVST Community Studies Program Director) has also been someone who has changed the entire trajectory of my life. It’s because of the INVST Program that I got involved with New Era, and she is someone who has shown me what it takes to be an effective community leader. And Carrie Jackson (New Era Program Director) has also been an important role model for me. She is one of those people who meets you where you are at, while challenging you to be your best self. Both women are mentors who know how to build and sustain relationships, which is at the core of community organizing.

What is the most exciting part about your work?

Seeing our interns and volunteers take on leadership, personally and within the organization. The energy they bring is so refreshing! They are the ones helping to change the rhetoric around the Millennial Generation; we are not apathetic, we just need more outlets to engage with democracy.

What are you best known for around the office?

My “Save the Manatees” campaign that I started as a child, and being the Queen of Abbrevs.

How can community members support New Era’s efforts?

Register to vote! And if you’re already registered, update your address! There are also a variety of ways to get involved with New Era. Volunteering during our phone-banking events and going door-to-door to register voters are just a few options. In 2011, Xcel Energy outspent us ten to one, yet we out-organized them and won. We’re going to do it again this year!

What makes you happy?

Spending time with family and friends, juicing, crock pots, watching movies, eating at Sherpa’s, and riding the Carousel of Happiness in Nederland, CO.

You can email Molly at [email protected] if you are interested in getting involved. Check out New Era’s “Campaign for Local Power” viral video here.

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