My name is Cecy Velasco and I’m a student at the University of New Mexico and an intern at Strong Families New Mexico (SFNM). I was introduced to the amazing work of Strong Families through one of their partners, New Mexico Dreamers in Action, which I have been a part of for two years. I have been interning for almost seven months now and each day has been an important learning experience. The greatest part is the ability to witness all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes, the growth and strength of the Strong Families network, and the passion and heart that the Strong Families New Mexico staff puts into their work. They embody the Strong Families values and frame, which is why it is successfully reflected in their work.
One of my favorite experiences so far has been my involvement in the legislative session with SFNM and a few of their partners such as the Men of Color Initiative (MOCI) and the New Mexico Coalition for Equity and Justice (NMCEJ). This was my first time at the New Mexico state legislature and I had never talked to a legislator before. I have to admit it was a bit intimidating at first. Would the legislators even care about what I had to say? I quickly learned that they did. They listened intently as I talked about the importance of having licenses for immigrants and how instating a two-tier license system would exclude hard-working immigrants that contribute to the economy and push them further into the shadows. It was also a great experience to learn from my group members from different organizations. We highlighted each other’s issues and built collective power through our collaboration. I gained new skills, confidence and knowledge that will help me in my current and future policy work.
This feeling continued as our Strong Families New Mexico partners debriefed about the legislative session a few weeks ago. Every group recapped the results of their efforts and shared our successes, experiences and areas for improvement. NMCEJ discussed their campaign to keep the Lottery Scholarship accessible for all students especially low-income students and students of color. The chair of the organization, Virginia Necochea, talked about the coalition’s plan to measure the impact of the increases in course requirements on our students and to use that information for future policy changes. Andrea from Encuentro spoke about the success in passing Senate Bill 44 which supports adult education by offering options besides the GED. Micaela from Young Women United explained how they used their expertise, knowledge and experience to leverage Strong Families partners. All of us greatly appreciated the value and experience Young Women United brought to our efforts this legislative session.
You could feel our collective power and in turn it empowered me! It was evident that our unity and collaboration made our individual groups stronger. Through the Strong Families network, connections and resources, we were reminded that even though our focuses are different, we are together because we all believe in and envision a future where our families will have the rights, resources and recognition needed to thrive. Everyone left inspired, motivated and ready to keep moving forward together. We will only grow stronger and together we will create change!