COLORADO, USA — Since 2013, the CLLARO Fellowship program has created opportunities for students of color to hold leadership positions in public policy making. This is a paid internship for students aimed at diversifying the next generation of civic leaders.
"Even if you’re an intern or an aide, just having your cultural experience and your language be represented in the capitol is something that we need," said Gerado Silva-Padron, a CLLARO fellowship alum from 2018.
The paid internship pairs students up with policy makers during the legislative session. Students work closely with them for up to 20 hours a week and could end up being hired on as legislative aides after their internship.
Silva-Padron hopes to become a state legislator one day to help address systemic disparities that affect communities of color. He said many of those disparities were present in his own household, like lack of access to healthcare resources, language barriers, and higher education opportunities.
"I think the best way to really weaken those barriers or even dismantle them are to be a part of policy making," he said.
Like most students in the program, Silva-Padron is a first generation college graduate and is now on a path to obtain a Master's degree in public health policy.
The program manager for CLLARO's fellowship program, Alejandra Colmenero, works with seven different universities throughout Colorado to recruit new fellows every year. The program started with a focus on the Hispanic/Latino community, but has opened up to serve more diverse communities.
"When we help other communities, we’re also helping ourselves, and we are making Colorado better overall," she said.
The program focuses on pairing students up with state senators and representatives, but Colmenero said CLLARO has been receiving requests for fellows from other nonprofit organizations.
"We have to turn some (nonprofits) down because we unfortunately don’t have enough to pay that many fellows," Colmenero said.
The program is funded based on grants and donations in order to compensate student fellows.
"We want to make sure that we alleviate that financial stress because most of our fellows, they are going to school full time, they are already working a part time job, and then doing our fellowship program," said Colmenero, "So it’s very important for us to have that stipend and make sure that we are helping them financially."
CLLARO is currently accepting applications for the Spring 2022 legislative session. The deadline to apply is Sept. 30. You can find the application here.
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