Children are at the center of Consuelo Gutierrez-Crosby’s life. After years of studying and advocating children’s rights in the Twin Cities community, Gutierrez-Crosby has recently had her first child. Being a new mother has made protecting the rights of children even more important; “As a neighbor, as a family member, it’s crucial to be able to talk about what your belief system is or why you believe certain rights are important. For me, those rights are the rights of children.”
Gutierrez-Crosby’s passion for children’s rights began with her studies at Macalester University in St. Paul. A double major in International Studies and Sociology, she was especially interested in children’s and women’s rights.
“Reading about the Convention on the Rights of the Child is what really sparked my interest in Children’s rights,” she said. For her senior thesis Gutierrez-Crosby examined the United Nations Convention more closely, focusing specifically on child prostitution and pornography. Her final paper was a case study of child exploitation in four different countries, including Brazil and the United States.
After graduating in 1998, Gutierrez-Crosby looked for a career that would allow her to bring her academic experience in children’s rights to a position in local children’s rights advocacy. She helped design the “What’s Up? Youth Info Line” at the St. Paul United Way and became the info line’s associate coordinator. It was during her time at the United Way that Gutierrez-Crosby first met Kristi Rudelius-Palmer, co-director of the Human Rights Center. The two talked about creating a new group called the Children’s Human Rights Alliance, and Rudelius-Palmer suggested that Gutierrez-Crosby apply for a fellowship to supervise the project.
In the summer of 2000, Gutierrez-Crosby received a fellowship at the Human Rights Center working to recruit people interested in contributing to the Alliance and more generally promoting the Convention on the Rights of the Child. She also attended the National Youth Leadership Conference in Florida, “The conference focused on how to include youth in the decision-making process, and that was one of the things that we wanted to do with the Alliance: to include youth on a fifty/fifty basis in the discussion of their rights.”
She and Rudelius-Palmer also gave a presentation at the conference on ways to incorporate the Convention on the Rights of the Child into the activities of a group or organization.
Following her work at the Human Rights Center, Gutierrez-Crosby began working at the local chapter of Big Brothers/Big Sisters. She continues to advocate for the voice of youth through her involvement with this organization, where she serves as a mentor coordinator; “I mainly support the mentors and kids in the program. That means listening to how things are going and providing suggestions for problem solutions. A lot of it is guiding adults to listen to kids.”
Gutierrez-Crosby’s involvement in children’s rights advocacy has changed a great deal since her time as a Macalester student. A student, educator and administer, her commitment to children’s rights may have reached its most intimate manifestation in her new position as mother. All these experiences occurred to her as she spoke of the state of children’s rights in our society; “Children’s rights are so often ignored, and they need to be acknowledged. Here in the U.S., children are provided for in so many different ways, but in so many other ways, the rights of a child are very much ignored. There are so many different areas to improve the lives of children: education, health, public policy… there needs to be a framework for new policy.”