Colorado College Activism Institute

This .25-credit mentored internship program is an opportunity for students to engage in activist and/or advocacy work that aims to confront escalating surveillance and criminalization of BIPOC (Black, indigenous and people of color) communities by collaborating directly with community-based organizations in the U.S. Southwest (Denver, Albuquerque, and El Paso, Austin, and San Marcos, Texas).

The program is open to all current first-years, sophomores, and juniors at Colorado Colleges, all schools in the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, and other select colleges. Application and interview are required.

This program requires full-time work commitment. Students in the program cannot have other work commitments during the program

Program Dates: May 28 - July 14, 2024

Program Director:
Dr. Eric Popkin
Department of Sociology, Colorado College


Application Information

Program Application Deadlines:
First round: Friday, December 1. Interviews will be conducted in early December
Second round: Friday, January 29. Interviews will be conducted in early- to mid-February

Specific student placements will be finalized in the Spring


Program Description

This .25-credit summer intensive institute offers students an opportunity to engage in activist and/or advocacy work focused on one of two tracks – Immigrant Detention Work and Movement Lawyering (working with attorneys representing immigrants in detention; research on immigrant detention center conditions; advocacy/organizing work to shut down immigrant detention centers) or Community Organizing (campaign recruitment, event planning, op-ed writing, protest training, policy research, public speaking, criminal justice accountability, case advocacy). During the program, students learn skills to engage in activist projects, consider anti-racist approaches to community engaged work, participate in discussions focused on conceptions of social change, and explore activist/advocacy career possibilities.

The 6-week program begins with one week of orientation on the Colorado College campus led by the program director and activists representing community partner organizations participating in the program. This orientation will incorporate multi-disciplinary reading and discussion that focuses on the criminalization of BIPOC communities (the racial dimensions of carceral capitalism and immigrant detention), community organizing theory and practice (additional training provided by the Midwest Academy), immigration policy, and movement lawyering practices. Following the orientation, students will travel by groups to their designated community partner sites in Colorado College vehicles. Throughout the program, the program director will travel twice to each program site to reflect on the experience with students – these visits are supplemented with zoom sessions with the students and community partner organizations. At the end of the program, students present their work to their host community partner organizations and then reconvene at Colorado College for a one and half day program debriefing.

Program Outcomes

  1. Students will demonstrate an understanding of how community-based knowledge structures organizational analysis and initiatives, and shape student collective project work. 
  2. Students will demonstrate the ability to evaluate systemic inequality and power relationships for effecting social change.
  3. Students will practice cultural humility through reflection on their own cultural wealth and their assets as team members to gain awareness of their own strengths and limitations as community change agents. 
  4. Students will demonstrate an ability to delineate and utilize appropriate strategies/mechanisms for effecting social change through reflection on how their civic commitments align with their career aspirations. 

Cost, Credit, and Funding

There is no Program Fee for Colorado College students. Housing, food/incidental expenses, transportation, and all other program costs are covered through generous support from the Colorado College President’s Office Anti-Racism Fund, Colorado College Department of Sociology, and The William P. Dean Memorial Fund. CC students who receive need-based aid from the College will get a $500 stipend upon successful completion of the program.

The cost for non-Colorado College students is $5,000.

All program participants will be enrolled in the GS199/198 Internship. CC students on an F-1 visa will receive a transcript notation applied to their summer transcript in compliance with their Curricular Practical Training (CPT).  CC students who do not require work authorization will receive .25 units applied to their next fully enrolled semester. Non-CC students will be admitted as a non-degree seeking student and receive .25 units of credit (equivalent to approximately 1 semester unit at another institution). Non-CC students on an F-1 visa should consult with their primary DSO regarding the CPT process.

International Students

Students studying in the U.S. on an F-1 or J-1 visa must obtain employment authorization BEFORE participating in an off-campus internship (any training experience away from the campus of the institution that holds their SEVIS record).  Students on an F-1 visa will pursue Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT), while students on a J-1 visa will pursue Academic Training. Students on an F-1 or J-1 visa must contact the international student services office holding their SEVIS record in advance for details regarding CPT, OPT or Academic Training.

Partner Organizations

Community Organizing Track

Mijente – No Tech for ICE Campaign (Southwest location TBD)

Mijente is a political hub for Latinx and Chicanx people who seek racial, economic, gender, and climate justice through organizing and advocacy campaigns. Over the past several summers, students working with Mijente conducted strategic research focused on ICE reliance on data broker information (LEXIS-NEXIS) to access police booking information in Denver and a project documenting new upgraded technology systems facilitating surveillance in the US-Mexican border region. In summer 2023 students will engage in more directly in organizing campaigns in the US Southwest. (Spanish language fluency required, southwest location not yet determined)  

Grassroots Leadership (Austin, Texas)

Grassroots Leadership is an Austin, Texas based group focused on building a world without carceral systems. Last summer, students engaged in strategic research and participated in an organizing campaign focused on Operation Lonestar, the Governor of Texas’ campaign to extend state authority over immigration via the state criminal system leading to extensive criminalization and exploitation of immigrants. In summer 2023, students will engage in active organizing campaigns and conduct research tied to these campaigns.  (High level of Spanish proficiency required for some positions)

Colorado Jobs with Justice (Denver, Colorado)  

Colorado Jobs with Justice is a coalition of labor, community, faith, and youth organizations working on fair labor, just wage, and equitable working environments in a way that crosses lines of sector, race, and class to win concrete victories for working people. In summer 2023 students will work on active organizing campaigns including local minimum wage campaigns, empowering women and non- binary folx in building trades, and confronting wage theft campaigns. (High proficiency Spanish language required for some positions)

Border Network for Human Rights, (El Paso)

Border Network is a leading human rights advocacy organization engaged in documentation of abuses committed by law enforcement agencies operating in the El Paso-Southern New Mexico region. The organization trains human rights promoters who establish local committees that organize to expose and confront law enforcement abuses. In summer 2023, students will participate in the human rights documentation project and conduct research tied to this effort. (Some Spanish language proficiency required for all positions) 

Mano Amiga, San Marcos, Texas

Mano Amiga works with and organizes alongside communities impacted by criminalization and/or immigration to push for systemic policy change at the local level. We work directly with impacted community members to amplify their lived experiences and identify solutions to change systems and improve material conditions. We have a vision of creating a corridor of resistance between Austin & San Antonio against racist and anti-immigrant policies. In summer 2023, students will be given the opportunity to be cross-trained across many aspects of grassroots community organizing: case advocacy, policy research, police/prosecutor/judicial accountability, op-ed & other writing, public speaking, protest training, and more. (High proficiency Spanish language required for some positions)


Immigrant Detention Work and Movement Lawyering Track


New Mexico Immigrant Law Center, Albuquerque, New Mexico

The New Mexico Immigrant Law Center empowers low-income immigrant communities through collaborative legal services, advocacy, and education. In summer 2023, students will have the opportunity to assist attorneys representing immigrants in the Torrance, Cibola, and Otero detention centers in New Mexico and engage in local detention center shut down campaigns. (Spanish language proficiency required for some positions)

Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, El Paso, Texas

Las Americas is an El Paso based legal clinic that provides free and low- cost legal services to immigrants and refugees in West Texas and New Mexico and in Juarez, Mexico at the US-Mexican border. The clinic also serves detention centers in this region. In summer 2023, students working with Las Americas will conduct intake and other interviews with immigrants in detention and engage in the community outreach program. (Spanish language fluency required for most positions)

ACLU of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico

The ACLU of New Mexico is the state affiliate of the ACLU, the nation’s premier civil rights and civil liberties organization. The New Mexico office engages in extensive work aimed at reigning in the militarization of border communities and abuse in immigrant detention centers in the state. In summer 2023 students will conduct research on projects focused on these issues. (Spanish language not required)

Report an issue - Last updated: 01/24/2024

Partner Organizations


Border Network for Human Rights

Colorado Jobs with Justice

Grassroots Leadership


Las Americas

Mano Amiga SMTX