Staff Alumni Spotlight: Marissa Graciosa
1- What did you do at Community Change, and what do you do now?
I was first hired to organize the Heartland Presidential Forum in partnership with Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. Soon after that I became the co-lead for the Fair Immigration Reform Movement with Rich Stolz. I played that role in FIRM and with Reform Immigration for America until 2012. I am currently the Director of Strategic Initiatives at Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
2- How did your time at Community Change help prepare you for future endeavors?
During my time at Community Change I was able to take every advantage to learn and grow my experience. I went for every opportunity big and small. I was trusted to lead a Presidential Forum that was nationally broadcast; I learned how to do electoral campaigns in different parts of the country; I stuffed envelopes; I was a bus captain; and I even dropped everything to move to Alabama for four months. I was a road warrior and sponge, and every adventure helped me gain new insights into what it really takes to make change. I’ve been able to bring those varied experiences with me to new organizations and movements — the things I learned about movement politics and the pace of change from my work in immigrant rights, I have applied in the context of the reproductive rights movement. The things I learned about national campaigns I have used in crafting new tactics and training programs for Planned Parenthood. Community Change’s commitment to organizing methods and to centering the voices of our communities is unique in the broader progressive landscape, and I was able to bring that commitment with me to other spaces that need it most!
3- What is your favorite Community Change memory?
During our FIRM summit in 2009, we had a literal big tent that held hundreds of immigration leaders getting ready for the CIR fight with the new Obama administration. After several days of planning there was a huge thunderstorm, complete with gale force winds, rain, and lightning. At one point Rich Stolz was literally holding onto one of the columns of the tent behind the stage, and water was seeping into the electrical equipment that was fueling our sound system. The storm passed, and everyone was fine (although not dry), but there was a moment where I thought the whole movement could be taken out with one lightning bolt.
4- What advice do you have for individuals seeking careers in social justice?
Constantly be looking for mentors who can give you real feedback. People who are committed to your success and helping you attain more self-awareness and opportunities for learning.