“The most important ingredient for community organizing is passion,” says Iris Hodge, the newest addition to Stand’s field team. “If you don’t know what you stand for, how can you ask others to stand with you?”
Iris should know – she’s been organizing and advocating for vital changes since the days of her youth growing up in Southeast Portland. At 13, she organized a student walkout from her middle school to protest for women’s rights. At 16, she volunteered with NARAL and Planned Parenthood to support women’s reproductive rights, female empowerment and gender equity. As a student at Portland State University, she was Chair of the Reproductive Rights Action Committee, organizing monthly events to engage the student body on reproductive choice and equity, as well as the need for more inclusive practices with healthcare providers.
When Iris completed her bachelor’s degree of Science in Women and Gender Studies in 2012, she dove head-first into civic engagement. She became the government liaison with the New American Voter’s Project, registering voters at immigrant naturalization ceremonies. “The diversity of people who registered with us was unprecedented,” she recalls. “When four out of five new citizens choose to register with you – many of them for the first time in their lives – it just makes you eager to get up each day and do it all over again. I had the privilege of helping women in their fifties who were arriving from countries where women can’t vote finally have their voices validated. It was an absolute honor.”
At the same time, Iris ran a pilot project in the country to register members of marginalized communities and federally funded healthcare recipients to vote. Over a four-month period, she partnered with places like Central City Concern, Multnomah County Health Clinic, and HIV day clinics throughout the state to offer voter registration at patient intake. The project registered hundreds of the most vulnerable people among us to vote. When the pilot program concluded, the work had demonstrated its tremendous value, and Multnomah County Health Clinic hired a Civic Engagement Coordinator to carry on the effort.
Most recently, Iris worked with the Main Street Alliance of Oregon, a national network that engages and empowers small business owners to advocate for policies that benefit their communities, including expanding educational opportunities for high school aged children, access to affordable healthcare, increasing the minimum wage, retirement security, paid sick time and paid family and medical leave. “To me, this was the same work in a new context,” Iris explains. “Small business owners are moms, dads, immigrants and community members. Working with the Main Alliance of Oregon was my opportunity to pay attention to local economies and help community members invest in one another. It’s all about the greater good.”
Iris continues to work for the greater good at Stand for Children. She joins our organizing team to help parents better support their students, and help students find the value of their own voices. We can’t wait to see the impact she’ll have!