Youth Changemaker: Joseph Soto

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Why I think it is important for Kansas government officials to operate in the light of day, rather than in secret, behind closed doors: 

"Joseph's incredible ability to balance numerous his many interests while achieving meaningful results speaks to his incredible organization and talent—skills sure to carry him far in his shining future."


- The Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council

Joseph Soto, 19, has immersed himself in the fabric of Colorado government over the past few years, serving as one of the leaders in the fight for legal same-sex marriage in Colorado. His work began in 2010, where he was the lead proponent for an initiative to get same-sex marriage on the ballot. While the initiative failed, the clout Joseph had gained during the process propelled him into a position to advocate for equality across Colorado.

The attention Joseph brought to the issue of marriage equality in Colorado helped lead to Colorado’s passage of a civil union bill this year—an historic move for a traditionally divided state.

Joseph was so instrumental in these efforts that OutFront Colorado, one of Colorado’s leading advocacy organizations for marriage equality, awarded him with an OutFront Power Award in 2012, where he was recognized alongside state Senators and other prominent policymakers.

Additionally, Joseph provided extensive testimony on the ASSET Bill, just passed this year in Colorado, which opens pathways for undocumented immigrant children to gain in-state tuition in Colorado’s institutions of higher education. Joseph’s testimony and leadership on this legislation has turned him into a well-recognized face in the state capitol.

As Chair of the Colorado Youth Advisory Council, Joseph jump-started and presided over an effort to write legislation to combat teen suicide. This legislation, which added suicide prevention training as a means for teachers to attain relicensing credit, was passed unanimously by the state legislature of Colorado and marked one of the first times in the U.S. that statewide legislation was shepherded into law by a youth advisory council.

In addition, Joseph has written two policy memoranda for intra-White House offices on same-sex marriage and the DREAM Act. He has been a strong advocate of greater resources for voter registration and civic engagement.

Currently, Joseph is working on strengthening gun safety legislation, education reform, and economic policy as national priorities while balancing his studies in Economics and International Affairs at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Following a surgery, as well as his community's tragic experiences with gun violence, Joseph has taken a greater role in helping ensure that mental and preventative physical health care can be more readily available to vulnerable populations in Aurora and throughout in Colorado.

His efforts have paid off: This summer, Joseph is serving as an intern at a high-level administration office in Washington, DC—a rare honor for someone who has only completed one year of college.

"It is important to have a Presidential Youth Council because young people are this nation's currency," says Joseph. "The United States will rise and fall based on what young people do, the kind of education they get and how they get involved. Their relationship with each other and with their government will largely determine that—and I think I can affect that.

"I was, and am still thrilled to be named a top Changemaker Under 24. This is a really cool thing that I can't wait to be a part of!" he says.

This profile is one of the Top 24 Under 24 Youth Changemakers, a series hosted by SparkAction and the Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council to recognize young changemakers influencing policy and practice at the local, state and national levels.

The members of the youth-led Campaign chose the 24 youth who are featured in this series, from entries submitted by peers and mentors. Read about the selection process.

We’re always looking for more profiles of young people making a difference, so submit one of your own!