The Colorado Springs Business Journal, sister paper of the Express, recognized 15 women this year with the Women of Influence award program. Meet two of those women who are involved in Southeast: Patricia Cameron and Yolanda Avila.
When Yolanda Avila moved home to Colorado Springs in 2011, she was struck by the lack of public transportation, sidewalks and businesses in the Southeast. So she jumped in to make a difference and give back to her community.
Avila now serves as the representative for District 4, the Southeast region, on Colorado Springs City Council. Avila’s efforts have led to increased bus routes, planned bridges and parks, and economic development in the Southeast.
“I love being able to make an impact on this community. I know what it means to the residents in my district,” Avila said. “Even though I was already connected to a certain degree with my constituents, I’ve enjoyed becoming even more connected with them and serving them. I see how appreciative they are. They are so appreciative of the investments finally being made in this district, and it is so rewarding.”
Avila grew up in Colorado Springs, graduating from Colorado College in 1985 with a degree in political science. After college, she worked with nonprofit organizations in Denver and in 1990, she landed her “dream job” as an investigator with the Orange County Public Defender’s office in California.
In 1998, Avila was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disorder that left her with a prognosis of blindness. Slowly losing her eyesight, Avila stopped driving in 2000.
So Avila decided to be a voice for her district. As someone who doesn’t drive, Avila recognizes the importance of public transportation. She became proactive in the transit sector, and within three years of her return to Colorado Springs, the Southeast area had transit service seven days a week including evening routes, Avila said.
“I could see that I could push things and they would happen,” she said. “I thought I could be effective as a city council member and actually have my district represented.”
She first sought office in 2015, but she said she tried to hide her eye condition, failing to complete surveys for different groups and ultimately losing the election. She ran again in 2017, fully embracing herself, she said. She was elected to serve District 4.
Avila says women and those with disabilities should know there are no boundaries to success.
“I’m at the intersection of being Mexican American, I’m a woman, I’m going blind. I am really grateful for all the opportunities I have been given,” she said. “I do think it’s important that people know, especially women because we’re so underrepresented, you can do it no matter what your situation is. Our five senses are only the tip of what we are. The depth and breadth of what we are is huge. When you are authentic and carry forward as your true self, you can do anything.”