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[14 to Watch in 2014]

Robert Hoo, Community Organizer

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Robert Hoo and Nevadans for the Common Good are tackling seniors issues in the Valley.
Photo: Bill Hughes

“I grew up feeling pretty marginalized,” Robert Hoo says matter-of-factly. It’s hard to picture the confident 37-year-old with small silver hoops in each ear as an unengaged kid, but the child of Chinese immigrants says he didn’t really find his voice until attending Yale. That’s where Hoo got involved in the institutions that would shape his future, an Asian-American student organization and a New Haven, Connecticut, community group that mentored at-risk kids from the city’s tough neighborhoods. “After class, I would sit with these kids and think: This is really important. For the first time I realized people spend their lives doing this.”

Today, Hoo is one of those people. The community organizer moved to Las Vegas 18 months ago to work for Nevadans for the Common Good, a then-new interfaith organization that addresses local needs and gets everyday Nevadans engaged in their community. As organizer, Hoo is the rudder, steering the group toward issues where they can make an impact, identifying the best way to do so and teaching people to find their own voices and “participate in public life and in this democracy.”

In 2013, Nevadans for the Common Good successfully lobbied for the passage of Assembly Bill 67, which toughened Nevada’s sex trafficking laws, and this year, the group has turned its attention to issues affecting the Valley’s seniors. In May, the group will hold a community assembly, where some 2,000 members will be invited to share their research and develop an agenda—under Hoo’s watchful eye and calm direction, of course. “For me, it’s really about when I see people learning the habits and skills of participation in public life. It’s fun to see when people have that experience of creating change.”

NEXT: Alisha Kerlin, Art-World Independent

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