Graphic containing three photos. Graphic text reads “How Community College Took Javier Mabrey from Dishwasher to State Representative”. All three photos are of Javier Mabrey.

Free time is hard to come by for state representative Javier Mabrey.  Headshot of Colorado State House Representative Javier Mabrey.

Now in his second year, the 32-year-old lawmaker is sponsoring more than a dozen bills while serving as treasurer of the Democratic Latino Caucus. During nights and weekends, he provides legal advice for Colorado tenants facing eviction. 

For most of his life, though, Rep. Mabrey wasn’t focused on policy but day-to-day survival. That all changed when he enrolled in the Community College of Denver (CCD) more than 10 years ago.  

“My experience set me on the path that eventually led me to attending law school, helping start one of the biggest non-profits in the state, and working as a state legislator,” he said.


‘I Can Do Something’  

Growing up, Rep. Mabrey said higher education was the last thing on his mind. After his mother survived a near-fatal car accident, his family lived off her disability benefit that barely covered expenses in southwest Denver. 

“Sometimes we didn’t know if we were going to make the rent or the electric bill. We dealt with housing instability,” he said. “Life was so unstable that I never really got to focus on school as a kid.”  

His family ended up moving to Norman, Oklahoma, where Rep. Mabrey attended high school for ten months before dropping out. He picked up a job washing dishes that paid just $6 an hour.  

“This was around the time that Barack Obama started running for president the first time, and I was inspired by his campaign,” he recalled. “I was like, ‘Maybe if I go to college, I can do something to help families like mine.’”  

Rep. Mabrey returned to Denver to earn his GED and later enrolled in CCD. While he struggled in his first few semesters, his grades picked up as he excelled in his government and law courses. 

“I eventually found a professor who saw potential in me,” he said. “Community college gave me the opportunity to find what I was good at and what I was passionate about.”  

Community college gave me the opportunity to find what I was good at and what I was passionate about.
Javier Mabrey


Discovering Potential 

After racking up credits at CCD, Rep. Mabrey transferred to the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) to continue his degree in political science. He was relieved to learn his poor GPA would reset, giving him a fresh start.  

“I decided that I wasn’t going to get a B again,” he said. “I really buckled down at CU knowing that the goal was law school, and I decided I’d try to go to the best law school that I could get into.” Javier Mabrey sitting on a stone wall that contains text. "Berkeley Law University of California"

That ambition led Rep. Mabrey to the University of California Berkeley School of Law. There, he specialized in housing law, leading tenants’ rights workshops and contributing to the La Raza Law Journal outside of class. Armed with his juris doctorate degree, he returned home to Colorado to help start the Community Economic Defense Project, where he still serves as a senior housing attorney.  

As evictions mounted during the COVID-19 pandemic, Rep. Mabrey wanted to make a bigger impact crafting policy at the state level. He launched his campaign for Colorado House District 1 in June 2021 and won the seat in November of the following year.  

When he looks back on his road to the state capitol, Rep. Mabrey says CCD made the impossible, possible. 

“We need to support community colleges because they are places for people like me, people who did not have a traditional educational background, to find themselves and discover their potential.”