03.19.19

Grantee Spotlight: New Era Colorado

Since 2006, New Era Colorado – a grantee of your Community Foundation – engages, educates, and trains new generations of young leaders in Colorado.

 
“We’re grassroots,” says Executive Director Lizzy Stephan. “We’re nonpartisan. And we’re all about empowering young people to lead Colorado not left, not right, but forward. 
 
“How? By making politics fun again.”
 
Lizzy goes on to describe New Era’s program areas, emphasizing 16- to 35-year-olds – from voter pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds to college affordability and student debt reform, to addressing the cost of housing, and tackling social justice and public policy issues. “This year, with high profile races coming up in 2020, we’re particularly interested in getting young people registered to vote,” she says. 
 
Adds Natalie Drevets, Development Director, “Youth power has really arrived in Colorado. It’s amazing how much support we’ve found, especially in Boulder County. Participation by young people had dramatically increased. We think it’s the result of our year-round engagement and organizing work.”
 
Indeed, New Era runs its high school registration program year-round to continuously register more young people to vote, especially young people of color. According to New Era, statewide in 2018, registered 18-34 year-olds voted at a rate of 48% compared to their already impressive 34% turnout rate in 2014; and while over 450K more Coloradans voted in 2018 than 2014, 41% of that increase was driven by 18-34 year-olds. In Boulder County alone, turnout jumped 17 points from the 2014 midterm election to the 2018 midterm election, with nearly 65% of 18- to 25-year-olds in Boulder County participating in the midterm. 
 
New Era’s spring program is on track to register between 1,500-4,500 young people. “This year, we’re really leveraging the power of young people to advance progressive change while we lay the groundwork for our work in 2020, growing the influence of young voters in our elections,” adds Natalie. 
 
In addition to its efforts around civic engagement and advocacy, New Era – co-founded by Lisa Kaufmann, now Governor Jared Polis’ Chief of Staff – also emphasizes leadership development. “Nearly half of our current staff started as volunteers,” says Lizzy, who herself started as a volunteer in 2010. “Our pipeline into politics is incredibly strong. For many – from Lisa Kaufmann to Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Molly Fitzpatrick – we’re the entry point into Colorado politics.” 
 
Other New Era founders and alumni in leadership positions, primarily in Boulder County, include Congressman Joe Neguse, CD-2; Rep. Leslie Herod, House District 8; Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg; Sally Anderson, District Director for Congressman Joe Neguse; Jill Grano, Outreach Director for Congressman Joe Neguse; and Lafayette Mayor Pro Tem Jamie Harkins. “We have alumni serving at every level of government in Boulder County – local, county, state, and federal,” says Lizzy.
 
Concludes Natalie, “Although people over age 60 are assumed to be our most active voter population, that script has been flipped in Colorado. The reality is, young people are showing up and our messages and strategies need to adjust accordingly. 
 
“Key organizations and community leaders are inviting us to the table, they’re soliciting our input. That kind of approach – an invitation to young people – is absolutely critical as we create change together.”
 
In addition to its focus on high school voter registration, economic justice organizing, and advancing election access and administration reforms, destigmatizing abortion and building support for abortion rights is also among New Era’s current priorities.