Roxana Franco doesn’t like being in the spotlight, but one of her primary responsibilities at Nuestra Casa is to encourage traditionally underrepresented community members to become more confident, outspoken environmental justice and equity leaders. While more comfortable supporting others to take the mic, she’s working on it. This is even more important now that she leads Nuestra Casa’s water justice community engagement work through climate-change partnerships with Youth United for Community Action and the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission.
A member of the Green Foothills Leadership Program 2020 cohort, Roxana credits the program with giving her a real boost in her recent professional development. “The Leadership Program helped me find a stronger voice as an advocate, to believe that my voice mattered to others,” she explains. “It was my first time doing an environmental justice project that I was really excited about. I so appreciated the opportunity to present in front of my cohort and to receive words of affirmation. I loved hearing that what I said resonated with people from other backgrounds. Speaking up more has been working out really well for me!”
In addition to building her confidence, Roxana learned important skills in the Leadership Program that have been invaluable to her current campaign planning and to achieving her community goals. And though the training program is over, she’s continuing to work on her capstone campaign project with her cohort partner, taking it into the real world.
Roxana is currently advocating to assure community voices are heard and their expertise is acknowledged. This is no easy task given the many barriers to civic engagement faced by immigrant communities, low-income communities, and communities of color. What has become clear to Roxana about the traditional conservation movement in the United States is that people from communities of color and low-income communities are seldom included despite having been engaging in sustainable practices for a lot longer than the term itself exists. “We’re forcing a lot of terms and ideas on our community that don’t fit them. The word ‘sustainability’ doesn’t work in Spanish — it just doesn’t translate.” It took Roxana a while to realize that she and her family were already experts in “sustainability” practices out of necessity and culture: wearing hand-me-downs instead of buying new clothes, and saving electricity by drying clothes on a drying rack and using a molcajete.
Roxana seeks to be a good role model to her newborn daughter by showing that women of color can be powerful and effective leaders in advocating for their communities, particularly when it comes to environmental justice.
All of us at Green Foothills are so glad that Roxana went through the Leadership Program and is now a member of the Alumni community. We are honored to have the opportunity to work in solidarity with Roxana and have so much to learn from her leadership journey!