Looking Back, Paying It Forward: Reflections from Liz Hamel

From Liz Hamel, Director of Programs

Dear Community,

With a full heart I’m announcing that I’m leaving my position as Building Bridges Director of Programs as of August 20.  As I make this change, I’d like to share some of my many emotions and thoughts with you.

Reflective & Grateful

Image with a quote from the blog post, overlaid on a background of the northern lights.
  • When I joined Building Bridges as a Summer Facilitator in 2014, I was at a crossroads in my life. I was questioning where I fit in the social justice world, my naturally conflict-avoidant self wasn’t fully aware of how powerful cross-identity spaces could be, and I wanted to be a part of social change rooted in empathy, healing, and inclusion, not shame, denial, or dismissal.
  • In Building Bridges, I found that healing community—I could be myself and all my identities were embraced, and I was also challenged and pushed to grow. A place where power dynamics and tension were named so that systemic inequality and oppression weren’t just “society’s” fault, but were playing out in the room for us (and me) to own. A space where youth were the experts on their own lives and weren’t fed the “right” answers, but instead encouraged to speak their truth, question, disagree, and explore the line between difference and injustice. I built connections with the most amazing people I may never have met otherwise, who shared so vulnerably and listened so intently, even in the most painful moments when developing empathy is the hardest. I knew I’d found a place like no other I’d experienced and one that represented the world I want to live in.

Passionate & Honored

  • Since 2014, I’ve been honored to be a part of these Building Bridges milestones:
    • Pilot and expansion of Building Bridges: Transform (formerly known as Building Bridges Colorado), now in its 4th year and Metro-Denver wide
    • First ever multi-generational Colorado Alumni Fellowship, which included an immersion trip to Selma, AL and professional development projects
    • Launch of Building Bridges: Shift, which has reached over 500 people through community-based workshops in less than a year.
    • Increased leadership and decision-making power of our participants, alumni, and facilitators, including our first high-school alumni Board Member position, Lead Summer Facilitator roles, and new accountability structures.
  • The real accomplishments are the impacts of these milestones; time and time again I’ve witnessed and felt the authentic change in and across individuals and groups who go through our programs. Those moments of breakthroughs, emotions, connection, laughter, growth, inclusion, and “Wow—the model DOES work somehow!” are what it’s all about and I’ll take those incredible memories with me.

Inspired & Committed

  • I’ll continue to be motivated by the courage, strength, and wisdom of Building Bridges’ past, present, and future leaders and the vision they are making into a reality. The critical need and public desire for what we do has grown stronger, and I have full confidence that the next passionate Building Bridges generation will take this work to the next level.
  • Change takes time and I am committed for the long haul (just like Building Bridges) to continue to challenge myself and be challenged, ask tough questions, learn from my mistakes, and remain vulnerable and open to change while also staying grounded in who I am at my core. Building Bridges alumni take their awareness and skills with them to create ripple effects wherever they go, and I’m excited to multiply my ripples as I move on too.

Building Bridges has truly changed my life. What we do is SO hard and also SO worth it on individual, group, and societal levels. I want to deeply thank those who came before me and those I had the honor to work alongside–facilitators, staff, alumni, interns, mentors, community partners, families, board members, donors, and of course the youth participants who transformed me more than I would have ever dreamed. I’m excited to take your lead into the future as we continue to build a more just and inclusive world together.

With love and appreciation,

Liz Hamel

Join me in honoring Building Bridges and its impacts on my life and so many others’ by making a donation for our Fall Boost! My goal is to raise at least $750 by September 8. Will you invest in the next generation of leaders and put your $ where your is?!  Donate here:

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