| Dru Falco

Alumni Spotlight: Jacob Smith

Jacob SmithCottonwood Institute’s community partnerships allow us to meet thriving young professionals doing inspiring work in the fields of education, conservation, and equity. We recently caught up with Jacob Smith (he/she), a social justice community organizer, fundraiser, and international speaker.

Jacob Smith is a diehard black queer feminist and abolitionist organizer fighting for a joyful and pleasurable future without oppressive systems. Through his/her experience as an organizer, activist, and strategist, he/she understands that all historical youth power movements have required a vision for liberation while embracing a culture of abundance, not scarcity. We sat down with Jacob to hear what he/she’s been up to!

What was it like working with Cottonwood?

As a member of the Johnson & Wales University Student Government Association, I partnered with Cottonwood Institute to host our sixth annual Sustainability Summit in 2016. The conference was focused on planning and executing sustainability initiatives around campus. Working with Cottonwood was one of the most memorable experiences of my college journey. Having the opportunity to work with well-recognized organizations and partners (Denver Green School, Mo’Betta Green Marketplace, etc.) provided an early understanding of how partners and organizations can help sustain communities.

Jacob SmithWhat are you working on these days?

I am thrilled to be the Director of Community Giving at Youth on Record. YOR designs and implements music-centered programs to equip young people from historically under-resourced communities with the skills needed to find success in life by advancing their academic success, increasing their economic opportunities and career skills, and strengthening their community connections and networks. In my role, I work to engage various communities across Colorado to give creatively to support our anti-racist, trauma-informed programming and mission-based work. I believe in abundance and know that the local community can support and sustain the work of YOR, as well as many other community nonprofits. 

Prior to joining Youth on Record, I traveled internationally as a Global Road Safety activist, primarily spearheading advocacy, partnership, and policy efforts for safer routes to school and mobilizing young people to lead in transforming mobility access in their communities. 

How has your Cottonwood experience helped you create positive change in your community?

Learning about rapid prototyping focused on sustainability efforts in local communities has been so valuable in my career journey – especially in my Global Road Safety advocacy and policy areas. The ability to assess community needs, ideate, develop a project, and implement it is an essential skill for my work. From creating youth mobilization efforts in local communities, to advocating for effective local policies – the opportunities given to me at a young age for leadership development is something I will always cherish.  

Based on your Cottonwood experience, what advice would you give to other students?

Young people have always been at the forefront of social, political and environmental change. Never doubt the power that you can have to transform your own communities. All it takes is an idea to be developed, advocated for, tested, and launched.

Thanks so much for spending time with us, Jacob, and for your amazing work in youth advocacy! 

Looking for other ways to connect with fellow Cottonwood alums?

  1. Follow us on FacebookLinkedIn, and Instagram
  2. Join our Facebook CI Alumni group
  3. Send us your stories of what you have been up to since CI! Email us to get connected!
Jacob Smith

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