While civics is a subject that high school students learn about, Mitchell Mauro embraced the topic so wholeheartedly that his dedication to public service and raising awareness about mental wellness for young people in Pueblo caught the attention of Colorado Governor Jared Polis. On Jan. 26, Mauro will be honored during a celebration held at the Colorado History Center as the recipient of a Governor’s Citizenship Medal in the Emerging Community Leader category, just as the changemaker is starting his second semester at CU Denver.
The Governor’s Citizenship Medals were modeled after the Presidential Medal of Freedom and, since 2015, have provided an opportunity to showcase Coloradans whose contributions inspire engagement and public service in their communities. In addition to Mauro—who is the youngest awardee—this year’s ceremony will include former Denver Mayor Federico Peña and former U.S. Representative Ed Perlmutter.
The awards are announced by the Governor’s office and CiviCO, a nonprofit organization that focuses on leadership. Jennifer Landers, the executive director of CiviCO, says that one of the reasons that Mauro was selected was because of his interest in making an impact and his courage to do so—attributes that help inspire others. “Everybody can make this impact,” Landers said. “Everybody can strive to make their communities better. That’s just a powerful message to be able to share with citizens across Colorado.” Each of the honorees will become part of What’s Your Story?, an exhibition at History Colorado Center. “It’s really powerful for young men and women from rural Colorado, to walk through and say, ‘Hey, that honoree, that hero, is from my town,’” Landers said.
As a student at Pueblo Central High School (he graduated in 2022), Mauro took on leadership of the school’s Branch Out Mental Health Club during the pandemic at a time when national attention was focused on mental health. He wanted the community and fellow students to know that “it’s OK not to be OK.” He felt it was important for fellow students to understand that it’s hard to know what someone else is going through but that it is important to reach out. It is a perspective he’d continue to share as a member of the Pueblo Mayor’s Youth Council and Pueblo Health Department’s Youth Advisory Board.
On the Youth Council, Mauro was able to see civics in action. “That was my first chance of seeing how the city government was able to operate and include the people of the city and the community—and how just a few voices can make a big difference,” Mauro said. Participating in the Health Department’s Youth Advisory Board allowed Mauro to drill down on a subject and help create a website to promote mental health and reach out to the community in positive ways. “Those [two] were the most impactful and influential programs that I was able to be a part of, because not only was I able to work with my community, but I was able to work with community leaders,” Mauro said.
Mauro also found time to serve as Student Council Class Treasurer and National Honor Society President, while volunteering, working, and staying involved with more activities. He also earned a four-year scholarship from the Hurliman Scholarship Foundation, an award for students from Fremont, Custer, and Pueblo counties.
Recently, Mauro completed his first semester at CU Denver. He picked the university after visiting a friend who was a student and taking a tour of the campus. The downtown location connects students to the city’s urban fabric with jobs, internships, and amenities in the heart of the state’s capital.
His days are busy with business classes—he hopes to become a Certified Public Accountant—and exploring the city. He lives with roommates and can walk to campus (one of his favorite spots is the North Classroom’s sun-filled Atrium). He’s hoping to get even more involved with campus activities, like in high school, now that’s he’s settled in. Because, ultimately, he’s seen firsthand how individuals can create impact and, as he says, “have an opportunity to make a difference.”