Julie Ramirez is the first to say she has big shoes to fill.
Her father, Julio Cesar Ramirez, was a formidable advocate for Fayetteville, North Carolina, until his death in 2016 at age 54. The senior Ramirez, a native of Linares, Mexico, and a retired Green Beret, elevated Fayetteville’s Mexican-American contingency in the annual International Folk Festival Parade of Nations and launched its annual Cinco de Mayo 10K race and the local Special Olympics Run.
His example is part of what inspired Julie Ramirez, 28, to carve out her own legacy of leadership — although the community coordinator for the Council of Neighbors and Organizations and startup entrepreneur wouldn’t exactly phrase it that way.
“I was basically planning my own [community advocacy] program, only with high school students,” Ramirez said. “Once I got onto the local planning team and saw there were all of these different organizations doing things I was like, ‘All right. I need to be a part of this.’”
Ramirez was born on Fort Bragg in North Carolina, but she moved while very young to Pikes Peak Park in the heart of Southeast Colorado Springs after her parents separated.
“We lived on Monterey Road when [there] was still a ditch in the middle,” she said. “I spent 25 Christmases in that house and now I’m raising the third generation in that same house my Grandma bought in the ’70s.”
A graduate of Harrison High School, Ramirez holds a bachelor’s degree in history with a minor in secondary education from Metropolitan State University Denver. She is entering her fourth season as an assistant track coach at Harrison, and will graduate her first freshman class this spring.
She sat on the Transforming Safety local planning team, charged with determining everything from the boundaries of Southeast Springs to how roughly $1.5 million in state funds would be most efficiently distributed; helped with the Circle Bridge Ambassadors program, which gave Harrison High students a professional view of what it will take to replace the namesake bridges; and manages a slew of hyper-local social media outlets, including Facebook’s The Real People of Southeast Colorado Springs, Southeast Colorado Springs Community and, lately, Thrive Colorado Springs.
As CONO community coordinator, Ramirez is responsible for program implementation throughout the city. She coordinates the Neighborhood Pride Program, which partners volunteer teams and contractors with homeowners whose properties need cosmetic TLC, and she was critical in coordinating Monterey Elementary school, artists, the city and the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region last fall on a street beautification project that culminated in a series of murals drawing attention to stormwater safety.
But it is arguably the Grow Your Own: Community Advocate Training program that has had the greatest impact on the community she embraces. Over two years, Ramirez has taught more than 50 Southeast residents how to take leadership roles as grassroots advocates for their immediate neighborhoods. The 10-week program, funded by the Transforming Safety program, challenges students to identify a social or economic problem related to the southeast quadrant of the city and explore solutions. A cohort of 15, slated to graduate in March, is exploring the area’s food inequity and the role of youth-adult mentoring.
Ramirez, a graduate of the Thrive Network’s entrepreneurship training program, is already eyeing her next project for the Southeast — the area’s only local coffee shop. By the end of 2020, she plans to open Stompin’ Groundz. It’s expected to offer meeting and coworking space, a stage, internships and employment for students, a space for gatherings and, of course, great coffee.
Her whole journey, she said, comes down to one question.
“I was thinking, ‘Why is our community so different?’” she said. “When I came in and met the [CONO] team I was like, ‘All right, I can’t pass this up.’ I have a team that is like, ‘Go blossom.’”