Article & Photos by Joe Contreras, Latin Life Denver Media, Bio profiles taken from event program (see two photo galleries below)
This so, so inspiring! That was the general sentiment at this years anniversary of the Latina Legacy Circle Celebration as the astounding accomplishments of this year’s inductees were recognized and honored .
More than a hundred supporters came out August 24th to the Rudolfo “Corky” Gonzales Library in Denver celebrate this year’s amazing recipients. The Latina Legacy Circle honors the spirit of Lena Archuleta and recognizes outstanding Latina leaders.
The audience was a who’s who of community leaders and activists. Even Denver Mayor Michael Hancock dropped by to offer his congratulations. Most everyone in attendance was in awe as the bios of each of this year’s inductees was read.
Speaking on the legacy of Lena Archuleta, Juana Bordas said, ” Lena was an educator, community activist, librarian, and a founder of many early Latino organizations in Denver. She was the first Latina principal in the Denver Public Schools (DPS) and has an elementary school named after her in Montbello. For over 70 years, she served our community leaving a legacy of service and leadership. Bordas, herself an accomplished leader, author and activist for Latina leadership added, “The Latina Legacy Circle will continue recognizing Latinas who are in their sixties for their life-long contributions. A legacy is a gift – a bequest handed down from the past for future generations.
A legacy inspires hope and opens doors for others to follow – and a legacy represents our past, the roots that give us identity, culture and purpose. It is our vision that many, many years from now young Latinas will walk in this room and see pictures, read stories, and yes even watch videos of the community of Latinas that worked together to build a better and more inclusive future for them. Latinas who exemplified that leadership in our community is something we do together. JUNTOS!
More than that we want them to look at these pictures, identify with us and believe they can accomplish great things as well. Like Juanita Chacon a young Latina at North high student a can say I too can become a successful business woman and start a foundation Or I can become president of one of the largest Colorado Foundations and head up state agencies like Irene Ibarra. Maybe I can follow in the footsteps of Yolanda Ortega and be on stage as an award winning actress and be an educator and activist as well. Or be on corporate boards and build a successful business Like Anne Padilla while giving back to our community.
A young Latina from rural Colorado can aspire to be like Margarite Salazar who built the largest rural health system in the country right here in Colorado. Some young Latinas will be inspired to become educational reformers like Dr. Martha Urioste and make sure young people have access to a great education Young Latinas are going to look at these pictures and hear these stories and say Yo tambien – Me too! Yo puedo – I can do it!”
Bordas finished sayiing “Si ellos haceron este – nosotros puedemos hacer mas. If they could do what they did when our community was just beginning to advance – when Latinos weren’t even a recognized ethnic group; when few Latinos went to college or were in leadership roles –then we can do this and even more.
Asi progressaramos – Juntos – al future – leaving a legacy and paving the way for those who come after us that is the kind of leadership bequeathed by Lena Archuleta and carried forward by the women in the Latina Legacy Circle.
This year’s inductees are:
Juanita Chacon, Presented by Juana Bordas
Juanita Chacon is a graduate of North High School and a lifelong community activist and volunteer on housing, education, women, and children’s issues. Her civic engagement includes being a former RTD Director, a Commissioner for the Denver Urban Renewal Authority and Chairwoman of the State Housing Board. She is a Broker Associate with RE/MAX Alliance Central and a real estate agent for over 30 years.
In 2007 Juanita was appointed Co-Chair of the Democratic National Convention Host Committee, resulting in Denver hosting the convention. She has held leadership positions on over 27 nonprofit boards and her political involvement includes candidate fundraising and serving as treasurer for John Hickenlooper’s 2003 Mayoral race. In 2012 she co-founded the Latina First Foundation with the vision that “girls cannot be what they cannot see.”
The Foundation honors Latina trailblazers and unsung heroes and raises scholarship funds for young Latinas pursuing a college education. The goal of Latinas First is to connect young Latinas with role models they can emulate. Juanita sets the standard for a successful business woman using her talent to benefit Denver and the Latino community.
Irene Ibarra, Accepted on Irene’s behalf by Patricia Barela Rivera
Irene Ibarra served as the President and CEO of The Colorado Trust, a grant making foundation dedicated to achieving access to health for all Coloradans, where she led development and implementation of a strategic roadmap to support policies, programs and services that expand health coverage and improve health care.
Irene had over 25 years experience as a chief executive, public policy leader and health advocate prior to her 2010 retirement. She has devoted her career to improving health for low-income children, families and individuals, and to developing policy solutions for complex health problems. Prior to The Colorado Trust, Irene served as Executive Vice President of The California Endowment. Her accomplishments included working with a broad-based coalition to develop the Children’s Health Initiative, to provide health coverage for all children in Los Angeles County.
Irene served as CEO of the Alameda Alliance for Health, a nonprofit health plan in the Bay Area, that was the first local health plan to provide health coverage for uninsured, low-income children and their parents. She also practiced law at Hillis Clark Martin & Peterson, a Seattle firm. In Colorado, Irene served in Governor Romer’s cabinet as Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Social Services and prior to that was Deputy Manager for the Denver Department of Social Services as an appointee of Mayor Federico Peña.
Yolanda Ortega, Presented by Florence “Flo” Hernández-Ramos
Yolanda Ortega has been a Denver resident since 1972, the same year she began working at Metro State University of Denver. She was the first Hispanic woman to serve as MSU’s Vice President of Student Affairs. Since retirement, she has remained active in the community and at MSU, serving on the MSU President’s Community Cabinet.
Yolanda also works with community groups including Escuela Tlatelolco, a Latino Montessori K-12 private school, Clínica Tepeyac, CHAC LARASA, and The Color of Justice, Inc. Yolanda is the Governor’s appointee to the Auraria Higher Education Center Board of Directors and an appointee for the Denver Mayor’s Commission on Cultural Affairs and the Denver Latino Commission.
Yolanda has been an actor, director, and musician with Su Teatro Cultural & Performing Arts Center and Company, based in Denver, for 40 years. She was the first actress to portray Última in the play adaptation of Rudolfo Anaya’s seminal novel Bless Mi, Última. Her work with Su Teatro has allowed her to have a voice about those issues she feels passionate–education, access to health, the arts and justice and equality for all groups.
Mary Ann Padilla, Presented by Patricia Barela Rivera
Ann Padilla was the owner and founder of Sunny Side Inc./Temp Side, one of the region’s larger privately owned staffing services. She started the business with a chair, a card table, a telephone and telephone book, and 31 years later, she sold the business to an international staffing company. She took a personal interest in the career counseling that the company provided to all its applicants and employees, believing there is dignity in all people and all work.
Ann has a lengthy history of community volunteer, board and trustee involvement. She is currently a member of the Circle of Latina Leadership, a trustee of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, and a board member for Senior Housing Options. Previous involvement includes Greater Denver Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and Executive Committee, Mile High United Way and Women’s Chamber of Commerce. She served as President of the Women’s Business Owners Association, producer of the Hispanic Community Affairs program for KCNC TV, delegate to the White House on Small Business, host of the World Congress of Women Business Owners, and Director at Young Americans Bank. Ann also served on the State Personnel Board, appointed by Governor Romer.
Marguerite Salazar, Presented by the Honorable Ramona Martinez
Born in the beautiful San Luis Valley in 1953, Marguerite has made her mark on healthcare from the lettuce fields, working with migrant farmworkers, to the federal level, implementing the Affordable Care Act under President Obama. Recently, Governor Hickenlooper named her Executive Director of the Department of Regulatory Agencies.
Between 1984 and 2010, Marguerite took a struggling three clinic primary care clinic system and turned it into a thriving 26 primary care clinic system that included 10 dental sites, three physical therapy departments and one Alzheimer’s day care program. She also established the first licensed infant day care in the San Luis Valley for her employees. Under her direction, Valley-Wide became the largest community/migrant health care system in the United States with clinics along the Western Slope, Eastern Plains and Canon City, headquartered in Alamosa, CO.
In 2010, President Obama appointed her as Regional Director for Region 8, Health and Human Services. She worked in CO, UT, WY, MT, ND and SD with broad outreach into tribal nations including 33 federally recognized tribes. She accompanied Secretary Kathleen Sebelius into the Navajo Nation and Rosebud, SD to work on healthcare issues that mirrored those of the migrant farm workers. Marguerite was called upon in 2013 to assist Governor
Hickenlooper in creating the State Health Exchange in Colorado. Before she was able to assist, she had to deal with forest fires in Colorado Springs and the great flood of 2013.
Martha Urioste, Presented by Dr. Arlene Vigil-Kramer
Martha M. Urioste, Ph.D. is a Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame Inductee as the first Denver Public School Montessori Citywide Magnet School Principal. Dr. Urioste continues with Montessori implementation in public and private Montessori schools and is a Family Star Montessori School co-founder, Board and Education Committee member. Dr. Urioste is co-author with Amy Clarke Moore of The Family Star Story book, published in 2016.
Her Denver Public School assignments between 1958 and 2003 included: teacher, Channel 6 Hispanic Television lesson writer and teacher, handling citywide elementary school Spanish curriculum writing and implementation, counselor, coordinator, supervisor, assistant principal and principal, bilingual education, and Holding Power Anti-Dropout High School Action Plan and Implementation. From 1980, and as of 2017, she is a Congress of Hispanic Educator member of the English as a Second Language Consent Decree with Denver Public Schools.
Special Recognition of Flora Rodriguez Russel, Remarks by Dr. Arlene Vigil-Kramer
Flora Rodriguez Russel, a native of Española, NM, has lived in Denver for the past 55 years where she and her hus- band Dan raised eight children. She is a graduate of Metropolitan State College in Denver, which she attended after the birth of her eighth child. She went on to earn a Master of Social Work from the University of Denver and began a 25-year professional career with the Denver Department of Health & Hospitals (now Denver Health), as a psychiatric social worker, health administrator and Director of Risk Management/Legal Affairs. While working and raising a family, she completed a Juris Doctorate from the University of Denver and completed coursework for a Doctorate in Social Work Administration.
Flora’s community, political and professional involvement has focused primarily on Hispanic Women’s reproductive health and education. She ran for State Legislature and City Council, believing that the political process is enhanced by the addition of qualified, diverse candidates. She believes that individual, community and world peace can be achieved if we work toward the goals of reducing stress and conflict, eliminating community and racial strife and tension, assisting persons to achieve their potential and participating in children’s rearing and education.
2016 Latina Legacy Circle Inductees:r. Patricia Baca, Patricia Barela Rivera, Florence “Flo” Hernández-Ramos,
Honorable Deborah Ortega, Dr. Arlene Vigil-Kramer
Other Latina Legacy Inductees….(click on image to enlarge)
Photos by Joe Contreras, Latin Life Denver Media