LAFAYETTE, Colo. — One evening last December, a 20-year-old college student raised her right hand inside the chambers of Lafayette City Council and repeated words spoken by a judge.
"I do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States of America and the state of Colorado and the charter and ordinances of the City of Lafayette and faithfully perform the duties of the office of city council member to the best of my ability," Enihs Medrano said.
"Congratulations, you are now sworn," the judge said, smiling behind her mask. The crowd gathered inside the chambers applauded for the newest and youngest-ever member of Lafayette City Council.
“I think I just feel really blessed for this opportunity especially at such a young age, and I think I’m almost in a little bit of shock," Medrano said.
Age and experience don't go hand in hand for Medrano. Finding her place inside city council chambers is just the latest step in a journey for a first-generation Mexican-American.
“I would hate to grow up and forget, you know, where I come from or the struggles that my family has made to get here," Medrano said.
Medrano's family immigrated from Torreón, a city in the Mexican state of Coahuila. Her parents made their home in Lafayette, where Medrano was born and given a unique name.
“My name is Enihs and it’s ‘shine’ backwards," Medrano explained. "I love my name, and I think even now, like it just resembles so much of what I do, and it’s who I am.”
Medrano lives with her parents and younger brother at Boulder Ridge Mobile Home Park in Lafayette. She said her family's home is where her roots are most planted and where she's able to recharge.
“I come home, and I get to be with my family, and I get to hear cars passing by blasting Spanish music," Medrano smiled. "I get to hear kids running around. On the weekends, I get to smell the barbequing that’s happening.”
Family gave Medrano energy to find her place even when she felt out of place in school.
“My middle school time was super rough," Medrano said. “Being a Latina, I didn’t feel comfortable enough to speak out and share the answer of a math problem because I didn’t think Latino people were smart, or people of color, because I never got to see that with my own two eyes."
Medrano admitted she struggled as a student. She said she ditched classes, smoked weed behind the school and her grades suffered.
“The moment that it changed for me was the first time that I got to go back to Mexico," Medrano said.
She met her relatives in-person and saw her own potential.
"This is my grandma," Medrano said, swiping to a photo on her phone from her 16th birthday. In the photo, Medrano dances with her grandmother as a band plays in the background.
"She grew up super poor and still was able to make it to college," Medrano said. “And then I had to reflect. Like, 'what am I doing?' Like, I literally go to school and like ditch half the time, probably all the time.”
Conversations with her grandmother sparked something inside Medrano. She wanted to do better and do more. She wanted to make her family proud.
“I think I just really just felt the weight of like, ‘this is important, and I need - I want to remember these stories, and I want to continue the legacy,’” she said. “I think it clicked. Like, oh, I can be successful, and I am worthy enough of being smart.”
Medrano put in the work, and it paid off. She's now a junior at CU Boulder.
“I just feel like I’m another student who shows up and does what they have to do to graduate and be here and then continue on with life and keep impacting like whoever’s around me and my community," Medrano said.
Medrano may see herself as a typical student, but her friends see a leader.
“Everyone's always looked up to [Enihs]," said Rachel Koeller. "She’s just always looking to better her community, and I think that’s always something that stood out, even in high school.”
Between classes at CU, Medrano also helps mentor kids in their faith during her part-time job with Young Life, a Christian youth ministry.
"We just try to spend as much time with middle school and high school kids as we can," Medrano said. "We do everything with intentionality to go to them and go to their turf.”
Medrano gives back to kids in other ways, too. She tutors students at the school in Lafayette she once attended, Angevine Middle School.
“She not only sympathizes with these students, but she can empathize with them," said JD Mangat, a teacher at the school. "She understands a lot of the struggles that they may be going through.”
Mangat is one of Medrano's mentors. He used to hold the title as Lafayette's youngest city councilmember. Now, he's the mayor.
“We’ve blazed this path where it’s now becoming a norm to grow up here, become invested, run for office at the highest level and continue to give back to the community that raised you," Mangat said.
The imperfect path Medrano has followed in life has led her to politics. Lafayette's city clerk checked the records on file and confirmed Medrano is the youngest city councilmember in recent memory.
“You know, it’s always good to have every perspective at the table," Medrano said.
The young council member wants to be a voice for her community and families at the Boulder Ridge Mobile Home Park.
“Ultimately, people on city council can make decisions for communities like this, but how much better is it to have somebody that’s in the community that can directly speak and have a personal experience with this part and get to represent that well?” Medrano said.
Enihs Medrano will serve a two-year term on Lafayette City Council where she hopes her best self will shine.
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