During a site visit to Chicago to work with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) as part of my electoral work with the Campaign for Community Change, I had the opportunity to sit down with one of the organization’s newest organizers, Elizabeth Rodriguez. A recent college graduate, Through her personal story, Liz revealed her deep commitment to her work and the strong heart and soul of what it means to be a community organizer.
Elizabeth Rodriguez grew up in an all-female household and constantly asked herself why different people are given different privileges. In high school, she volunteered to help underprivileged people as a means of coping with the inequality that she saw and experienced every day. When she went to college, it was the first time that she had an explanation for why these things were happening, why different people had different privileges and different levels of wealth. These lessons shaped her desire to do community level work and she grows more connected to this work every day as she works to build lasting power and increases the number of voters in her own community.
While Liz took this position with little knowledge about what “community organizing” meant, she has quickly developed a passion and love for it. She now asserts that her position as an organizer is about building relationships in her community that extend beyond Election Day and provide for sustainable community strength. These relationships include those between Liz and her own volunteer interns, one of which she recently helped apply to college. To Liz, her position is about building a culture of connectedness and “showing that there is hope” not just for the young volunteers she works with, but in her community as a whole.
Liz’s story is a reflection of the passion and strength that drive organizers around the country. I have had the good fortune to meet with many young organizers this election cycle and I am consistently astounded by their ceaseless sense of community and responsibility to do the right thing. Their enthusiasm is contagious and not only benefits their personal growth as organizers, but the communities in which they are organizing. These are emerging leaders that will work to empower their communities for the long term. I am so excited to see all that they do and the future they are working to build.