by Chanel Ward
Colorado Governor Jared Polis launched an inaugural gathering for ‘Latinos At The Table’ hosted by Regis University on last Friday. Nearly a hundred people from the community and many community leaders, new and retired, gathered for lunch and community dialogue with the Governor.
Father John P. Fitzgibbons, S.J., the 24th President of Regis University introduced Governor Polis with a “challenge coin” to which he explained, “if you know the tradition in the United States Military and other service organizations, the coin is given to the one we hold in highest esteem; it’s an engagement, it’s a hope that we work together. You have something of us, we welcome your presence in our community.”
Governor Polis started by thanking Nita Gonzales and Rosemary Rodriguez for facilitating and moderating the event, Nicki Gonzales, Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion and Father Fitzgibbons for hosting as well as the community for coming out to dialogue.
“Two months ago, when I was inaugurated, I pledged a bill, Colorado For All, I can’t believe it was only two months ago it feels like a long time in this job. We’ve had teacher strikes, we’ve had avalanches and it’s only been the first two months,” quipped Gov. Polis. “Colorado For All really means a state where everybody can not just struggle to get by, but get ahead and that means regardless of race or religion or who you are or who you love or your disability status or your country of origin. Truly a Colorado for those whose families have been here thousands of years as part of our Native American heritage, a Colorado for those who are descendants of Spanish settlers over 500 years ago that had América come to them through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. A Colorado for those like me who are first generation, my parents moved here in 1978, and I was born a few years later. A Colorado for those who arrived last week from China or from México or from another state and that means addressing specific needs from specific communities and celebrating how we do more working together and focusing on what we share rather than focusing on our differences.”
“A one size fits all model simply doesn’t work,” expressed the Governor. “Before I was an elected official, I saw how challenging it was for new Americans and English language learners, I started as Superintendent of the New América School that Polly Baca was chair of for a number of years in Colorado and New México,” Governor Polis looked upon Polly Baca in the crowd who made it out even while recovering from surgery. “There’s nothing more exciting, and I’m sure Polly shares this, when we run into a former student from five years ago or eight years ago, who says, ‘wow, I have the job I have’ or ‘I’m attending college’ or, ‘I have a good job because I’m literate and fluent in English and I have my high school degree and I wouldn’t of had it without New America School’, really showing the importance of education in helping people achieve the Colorado dream.”
As for his administrations perspective goals and focuses he said, “We are focused on the biggest gaps in education and that is early childhood education, our state only funds half day kindergarten. We are focused on filling the commitment that every child could go to free full day kindergarten no matter where they live in our state and that’s our goal.”
Governor Polis explained full day kindergarten as, “preventing achievement gaps that persist that are based on income, race or geography from being created in the first place and making sure that every child gets a strong start,” he also added that, “by funding full day kindergarten we also free up over 5,000 Colorado preschool program slots and we’re recommending funding of an additional $3,000. So, we’re hoping to transform the early childhood landscape. This is important for everybody, it’s important for working families, this is $300-$400 a month that many people can’t afford and if you squeeze to do it, that’s money coming out of a college saving fund or camp for your kid.”
“I want to update you on some of the work we’ve done in just the last two months to support our newest arrivals in our great state, we have been pushing to expand driver license programs for undocumented residents, we included in our budget an additional office in Durango and I support legislation that would extend services to 10 DMV offices,” said Governor Polis.
Governor Polis is also concentrating on affordable health care. “We are adding end-stage renal disease as an emergency medical condition, allowing undocumented residents to free standing dialysis centers.”
“We’re also very excited to be working on, hopefully establishing an immigration office at the highest level of the Governors administration,” he added.
Chanel Ward is an Independent Reporter for The Weekly Issue/El Semanario.
For updates on Gov. Polis’ Latino’s at the Table, visit: ELSEMANARIOCOLORADO.COM