Difference Maker: Norma Gurrola
Norma Gurrola moved to the Valley from Durango, Mexico, 14 years ago. She was a tenth-grader navigating a language barrier, her separation from family, and the pressures of growing up. On top of that, her peers bullied Norma. Norma did not give in to the bullying. It propelled her on a journey to find the bright side in every situation and to help others in any way she could. Norma’s approach and commitment to the community led her to start studying for an Associate in Early Childhood Education at Colorado Mountain College. Norma worked at Edwards Elementary School as a preschool Specialist, before being asked to volunteer at Neighborhood Navigators. This nonprofit organization is dedicated to building an inclusive environment where Eagle County's Hispanic population is empowered. Norma was thrilled to be invited to join this organization, forging a new route to serve the community more effectively. Norma understood personally how difficult it is to succeed when you lack access to resources, feel like your viewpoint is not valued, and a language barrier exists. She recognized this as a chance to give her community a voice, share resources, provide access to education, and create a space where all perspectives are valued.
Norma's first initiative with Neighborhood Navigators began with her knocking on every door in Dotsero to establish relationships with her neighbors and inquire about their needs and how she might assist them.
Her favorite community improvement project began after meeting a 13-year-old girl who was so passionate about reading that she would trek from Dotsero to the Gypsum library whenever she desired a new book. Norma was well aware that something needed to be done. She began conducting other neighborhood surveys and getting feedback on a bus route. Norma had numerous doors slammed in her face, had terrible things said to her, and was even laughed at for attempting this project. As with the bullying she faced, she sought out the positive in every scenario and used skepticism to propel her forward. She was adamant about establishing a bus route to Dotsero to help her community. She also wanted to demonstrate to her children that anything is possible and they can be leaders; no matter what, there will always be someone who doesn't believe in what you are doing, but you keep fighting to make it happen. That is precisely what Norma did. After seven years and continued work with Neighborhood Navigators, Eco Transit, and the Town of Gypsum, a bus route was established in Dotsero.
Norma's work did not stop there! With community input and observing the conditions of the Dotsero Mobile Home Park, a new project started! The current playground's slide had a large hole, had only one working swing, and was dangerous. Her vision was to see a safe working playground. She helped develop a partnership with Mountain Recreation, Eagle County Public Health, and KABOOM made it a reality. Two hundred and fifty volunteers joined together for one day to build this park!
These are a few examples of the impactful work Norma has accomplished to build a safer, healthier community. Our community inspires her; she is thankful to learn from and about needs and eagerly supports in every way she can. Norma recently joined the Mountain Youth team as a Community Liaison where she will leverage her determination and networking to boost opportunities for youth and families, especially those in vulnerable situations. Her passion and dedication to the LatinX community is an incredible asset to the Mountain Youth team.