by Sarah Rimmel
This past semester I had a chance to sit down with CU Boulder students Topaz Hooper and Sarah Rush to talk about activism, CU’s INVST program, and life in general. Topaz is a Geography major and dance minor. Sarah is a Political Science major. They both are getting certificates in Certificate in the Study and Practice of Leadership with CU’s INVST Community Leadership Program. Topaz recalls her first time meeting Sarah: “We’re besties. I saw Sarah and said that was going to be my best friend. At the beginning of the INVST cohort, you choose someone as a thought partner, or someone who has your back through the program, and I fought for Sarah. Now we’re roommates too and live in the Lighthouse Collective Co-Op.”
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SELF-CARE ACTIVITY?
Topaz: Dancing and writing poetry
Sarah: Reading keeps my mind sharp and playing piano relaxes me
WHERE DO YOU CALL HOME? WHAT DOES THIS PLACE MEAN TO YOU?
Topaz: I was raised in Denver, which encompasses the meaning of diversity to me. There are many demographics represented and it has helped me to be exposed to and accept a variety of people.
Sarah: Cypress, Texas. My family is there. I feel free and at one with nature – we have horses and I live on a ranch. It’s special. Riding horses taught me bravery from a young age.
WHAT SPACES DO YOU FIND COMMUNITY AT ON CAMPUS?
Topaz: African Student Association, Black Student Alliance, and the CU Environmental Center, which teaches: “sustainability is sexy.”
Sarah: We started a running club – it is a student running club where we run in rain, sleet, and snow, everyday but Friday. Also, we live in Lighthouse Collective Co-Op – it’s a good community where we host couch surfers and host events. We have free music concerts in a variety of genres: folk punk, acoustic guitar, a DJ playing mushroom jazz. To find out about our next events email: email@example.com
WHAT IS AN ITEM OF CLOTHING THAT MAKES YOU FEEL POWERFUL/FABULOUS WHEN YOU WEAR IT?
Topaz: Colorfully patterned scarves make me feel beautiful and are so much fun
Sarah: I have a jacket with shoulder pads from my mom – it is a “big shoulder” badass look
WHAT DOES ACTIVISM MEAN TO YOU?
Topaz: Not just see and complain but to engage-community building, creating a force that can be reckoned with, finding something inside you to care about that is bigger than self
Sarah: The word “active” in it is telling- you have to be active, to try and fail and keep doing it. How INVST has shaped my activism? Well, it has basically CREATED my activism. Before INVST, I honestly didn’t really have activism on my agenda, but summer trip with INVST gave me such a wide range of knowledge of and experience with social and environmental justice issues across the southwest and even in our own backyard that I had never been exposed to before.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT INVST?
Topaz: Travel. Uprooting myself and going to a new place to join together for a cause. We ask what can we do together for you instead of what can I do. It’s about sustainability and being uncomfortable. One month of traveling with 13 students.
Sarah: I like the opportunity to find a community, gain an internship, and build connections. Just saying the name INVST connects you to a community and helps you to get an internship. One of the most powerful experiences on our trip was when we had the opportunity to live with a traditional family on the Diné (Navajo) Reservation. Hearing their story of how their family is resisting relocation and how oil and gas companies want to unearth their home because of the coal embedded in their land really opened my eyes to all of the work that needs to be done to achieve equality in this world we live in. The fact that the family was also so willing to share their sacred cultural traditions with us, such as the sweat lodge experience, really made my own cultural awareness of myself as a woman of color come alive. I now want to expand my cultural awareness to include many other kinds of people.
About INVST: The INVST Community Leadership Program is a 2-year training program for students who are interested in social justice & environmental sustainability. The small-group experience combines academics, community service and leadership skills training. For more information: http://communitystudies.colorado.edu/about-invst/about-invst