Fabian Jimenez, a Lake County High School graduate who recently finished his first semester at Colorado School of Mines in Golden, was awarded the Colorado Governor’s Citizenship Medal in late 2021.
The award, which honored eight recipients throughout Colorado, cites Jimenez as an emerging community leader for his efforts to improve young voter turnout during the 2020 presidential election, when Jimenez was a senior at Lake County High School (LCHS).
Jimenez was joined by seven notable Coloradans who also received the award, including Jill Ryan, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, citizen journalist Jerry Gryglak, former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb and former Colorado General Assemblywoman Wilma Webb.
The ceremony has been rescheduled from January to March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Should the ceremony proceed in person in March, Jimenez will meet Governor Jared Polis and past Colorado governors who are still living.
Jimenez’s efforts to improve young voter turnout in Lake County began in 2019. At the time, Jimenez was a junior at LCHS and vice president of Student Senate, which sought to improve voter registration among young citizens in Lake County for the 2020 election. Cody Jump, a social studies teacher at LCHS, supervised the group and helped them achieve their goal.
In 2019, Student Senate organized a voter registration drive. They visited classrooms to present on the importance of voting and helped students register in school. In 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, Jimenez was elected president of Student Senate during his senior year. Unable to visit classrooms, Jimenez and his peers made videos with voter information and sent them to students.
“I think young people have been underrepresented in a lot of different ways. Not just in our community, but across the nation,” said Jimenez, who begins his second semester at Colorado School of Mines (CSM) this week. “In some ways, older generations are rejecting young people and their ideas, or at least not taking them seriously. But our generation will feel the brunt of policy decisions made today, so we should have a say.”
Jimenez added that there are several national and global issues that young voices should have more say on, including the education system and student debt. Jimenez advocates for student autonomy over financing for college and more alternatives to continued education after high school, such as trade schools.
Another issue of particular interest to Jimenez is climate change, a global conversation in which he thinks young people should be participating. Jimenez is currently studying civil engineering with an emphasis on sustainable materials and building solutions. One day, he wants to work in an urban setting, implementing natural materials in everyday infrastructure while repairing human relationships with the natural world. Jimenez said he’s noticed that many students his age are also pursuing careers in environmental protection.
Jimenez cites an appreciation of nature, which emerged in Lake County, as a primary driver behind his efforts to restore the environment. During cross-country practices in high school, where Jimenez clocked long miles in the mountains, he would often stop to take in the vistas. “That’s what I’m working to protect,” said Jimenez.
As a Latino, Jimenez also wants to make CSM a more inclusive place for students. Though Jimenez grew up celebrating his Latino heritage with family in Lake County, he said CSM is dominated by white male students. In the future, Jimenez hopes to join extracurricular groups at CSM to gain traction as a minority leader on campus.
“For me, this isn’t my award. I don’t want it to represent me,” said Jimenez. “I hope it represents all the work that people my age are doing. And as young people become more powerful, I hope the rest of the world realizes that we have something important to say.”