Bernie Valdez Awards Honors Leaders Who Empower Others


Photos by James Baca for Latin Life Denver Media (See photo gallery below)

Every year, the Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy and Research Organization (CLLARO) hosts an awards event and fundraiser to honor the first Chairman of CLLARO’s board, Bernard “Bernie” Valdez, as well as the long-lasting efforts of community leaders who are improving the lives of Latinos across the state.


This year’s 2016 BVA Luncheon held on September 23rd at the Mile High Station in Denver brought out more than 250  participants to celebrate this year’s Bernie Valdez Award recipients and the 52nd anniversary of CLLARO: Empowering Latinos through leadership development, advocacy and research to strengthen Colorado.

Christine Alonzo, Executive Director of CLLARO said she was pleased with the turnout and the diversity of the people who attended. “There were people from a variety of walks of life, from politicians, to community advocates, business leaders to family and friends of the recipients,” she told Latin Life Denver.

The Lena Archuleta Education Award is presented to an individual who works to educate our community through research which guides policy, increases awareness, and stimulates action. Hon. Arturo R. Jimenez Arturo Jimenez was elected to the Denver Public Schools Board of Education and served from 2007 until 2015. As a member of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials’ Education Leadership Institute (NALEO/NECI), he served on its National Task Force from 2010-2015. Throughout his career, Mr. Jimenez has worked to educate our community about our nation’s immigration laws. As an attorney, he has practiced federal immigration law for over 17 years. He represents immigrant families for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, naturalization, asylum, family petitions, victim’s visas and deportation defense at the Immigration Law Offices of Arturo Jimenez P.C. He is a founder of the Immigration Clinic at Catholic Charities in Pueblo and served as the President of the Colorado Statewide Parents Coalition,

A founder of the Labyrinth Arts Academy, Mr. Jimenez’ volunteer activities include the Ya Es Hora Citizenship Campaign; Parent Leadership Coordinator/Los Padres/Las Madres, Academia Sandoval, 2004 to 2006; Strengthening Families Parent Trainer, Latin American Research and Service Agency 1998; former Board Member of College Path Inc. at North High School, 1993 to 1995; and the Multi-Cultural Regional Prevention Center, Alcohol Abuse Prevention, 1994 to 1996.
Mr. Jimenez received an award for Outstanding Contributions for the Advancement of Chicano/Chicana Students in Higher Education at the 13th Annual Colorado Statewide Parent Learning Institute 1993 and the Education Champion Award from Escuela Tlatelolco in 2011. He is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Colorado Law School.


The Sheldon Steinhauser Community Service Award is presented to an individual that works for a more equitable balance of leadership through exceptional personal leadership and actively contributes to the development of future Latino leaders. Mr. Mannie Rodriguez Throughout his career, Mannie Rodriguez has worked to bring about a more equitable balance of leadership through the political process. In 2004, he was elected to one of three seats on the Democratic National Committee (DNC) after having served as the second vice chair of the Colorado Democratic Party. He was re-elected to the DNC in 2008. During his term, he raised $20,000 to support the election of the first Latino from Colorado to the United States Senate, the Honorable Ken Salazar. He also supported and raised funds for the Congressional campaigns of Congressmen John Salazar and Ed Perlmutter.
As a member of the Democratic National Committee, Mr. Rodriguez was active in the DNC’s Hispanic Caucus and was a suDSC_0179perdelegate to the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Democratic National Conventions where he was a loyal supporter of Secretary Hillary Clinton for President of the United States. After Senator Barack Obama became the Democrats’ presumptive nominee for President in June 2008, Rodriguez declared public support for Obama, and in September 2008, he was named to the Colorado Latino Advisory Council for Obama’s Presidential campaign.
Mr. Rodriguez founded the Independence House in 1976, an adult community corrections program that operates residential and non-residential facilities in the Denver region for clients referred to them by criminal justice agencies. He remains the owner of this privately run program. Mr. Rodriguez and his wife, Corinne, have two grown children: Robert and Rose Marie.


The Roger Cisneros Public Policy Award is presented to an elected official who devotes their time to advocating for Latinos in Colorado through public policy and by engaging decision – makers in the public and private sectors. Senator Leroy Garcia State Senator Leroy Garcia was elected to the State Senate in 2014, representing Pueblo, Pueblo West and part of Salt Creek. He previously served in the State House of Representatives and on the Pueblo City Council.

During his time in the state legislature, Sen. Garcia sponsored legislation to make higher education more affordable for all Coloradans, co-sponsored SB 33, the ASSET bill, to provide in-state tuition rates for undocumented Colorado college students, and co-sponsored SB 251, which authorizes the issuance of a Colorado driver’s license, instruction permit, or identification card to undocumented Coloradans. Sen. Garcia serves on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), working to promote the participation of Latinos in the American political process.
From 2001 to 2007, Sen. Garcia served in the Marine Corps and was deployed to Iraq as a mortuary affairs specialisDSC_0250t. He’s a member of the Pueblo Veterans Council, VFW Post 15006, American Legion Post 2 and the League of Marines Home of Heroes Detachment. One of his hobbies is playing the piano for Christ the King Church in Pueblo.
Sen. Garcia is a first-generation college graduate, with a master’s degree in organizational management from Ashford University in Clinton, Iowa; a bachelor’s in management from the University of Phoenix and an associate’s degree in emergency medical services from Pueblo Community College. He lives on Pueblo’s south side with his wife, Michelle Randall Garcia, and their two children, Jeremiah and Xan.


The Federico Peña Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to an individual recognized for the remarkable contributions they have made throughout their lives. Hon. Ken Salazar Ken Salazar is a partner at the global law firm of WilmerHale and founded the firm’s Denver office. He is the former U.S. Secretary of the Interior, U.S. Senator and Colorado Attorney General. As a U.S. Senator, he led a successful bipartisan effort on comprehensive immigration reform, the enactment of the 2005 Energy Policy Act, the 2006 Gulf of Mexico Security Act, the 2007 Farm Bill, and the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act. Under his leadership, the most significant energy legal framework in U.S. history was created.
As Secretary of Interior from 2009 to 2012, Sec. Salazar helped create the nation’s energy independence framework. As part of this effort, he opened up public lands for renewable energy, permitting more power than the equivalent power generation of more than 30 standard power plants. He also managed the crisis concerning the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and led the reform efforts concerning oil and gas exploration and development on America’s public lands. As a lifelong leader in conservatioDSC_0209n, he helped create ten new national parks and ten new national wildlife refuges. As Attorney General, he served as Colorado’ chief legal officer and head of the Peace Officers Standards and Training Board.

While Attorney General, he oversaw the investigation of numerous civil and criminal matters, including the Columbine High School shooting and the University of Colorado football team sexual misconduct case. Prior to becoming Attorney General, Sec. Salazar served as the state’s natural resources director and chief legal counsel to the Governor of Colorado. During this time, he authored the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund and became its first Chairman. Today, he is a member of the Board of Directors of the Target Corporation and the Mayo Clinic Board of Trustees.


The Polly Baca Social Justice Award is presented to a n individual recognized for their never – ending advocacy for social justice impacting o ur most vulnerable communities. Hon. Rosemary Rodriguez Rosemary Rodriguez has been an advocate for social justice throughout her career, as a member of the Denver Public Schools Board of Education (2013-2017), as a member of the Denver City Council where she served as Council President from 2005 to 2006, and as Clerk and Recorder for the City and County of Denver from 1997 to 2002.

She is a member of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) and the founder of Grupo de Café, a weekly intergenerational Latina breakfast gathering that shares networks and experiences.
Ms. Rodriguez currently serves as the director of Senator Michael Bennet’s Colorado office. As State Director, she is charged withDSC_0232 the responsibility of overseeing the day-to-day operations of Senator Bennet’s eight regional offices located in Denver, Fort Morgan, Fort Collins, Grand Junction, Durango, Pueblo, Alamosa and Colorado Springs.
Prior to joining Senator Bennet’s staff, Ms. Rodriguez served on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) from 2007 to 2009 and served as its chair in 2008. She was appointed to the EAC by President George W. Bush and was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Prior to this appointment, she had served on a 15-member panel assembled by Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper investigating faults within the Denver Election Commission that may have contributed to problems in the 2006 elections. She has supported an all-mail ballot election for the City and County of Denver

The CLLARO Alianza Award is presented to organizations that exemplify the power of alliances by building and nurturing effective partnerships and coalitions in the Latino community. Raza Development Fund The Raza Development Fund (RDF) has provided capital to Latino serving organizations nationwide building and nurturing effective partnerships and coalitions. These Latino serving organizations have received technical assistance and loans, which have helped leverage nearly $2.5 billion in private capital for education, affordable housing and healthcare projects serving low-income families and individuals.
RDF is a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation and a registered Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) under the United States Department of the Treasury. Established in 1999 as a 509(a)3 support corporation, RDF provides National Council of La Raza affiliates and other Latino-serving organizations access to capital. It is the largest Latino Community Development Financial Institution in the nation with more than $250 million in total assets under management,
RDF’s mission is to invest capital and create financing solutions to increase opportunities for the Latino community and low-income families. Service for the love of family is the foundation of RDF. With a focus on lending capital, with business discipline and charity serving poor communities, RDF helps tailor project loans with community leaders and organizations that serve Latino and poor communities. Its focused community development model keeps RFD close to the real issues that low-income families face and enables it to anticipate future needs.

The CLLARO Alianza Award is presented to organizations that exemplify the power of alliances by building and nurturing effective partnerships and coalitions in the Latino community. MillerCoors MillerCoors has a long history of building and nurturing effective partnerships and coalitions in the Latino community. The company has invested millions of dollars in several separate philanthropic efforts supporting the educational and economic success of Hispanics in Colorado and across the country.
MillerCoors is a founding supporter of the U.S. Adelante Education Fund, dating back to the early 1990s and continuing today. Since Adelante’s inception, MillerCoors has invested nearly $5 million in Hispanic students to help them reach their full potential, half of which provided scholarships for Hispanic college students across the country. Through their highly valued partnership with Adelante, MillerCoors has connected more than 500 Hispanic college students to work-based internships and prepared more than 3,000 Hispanic college students for careers and graduate school through Adelante’s Leadership Institute.

Marking its 10th anniversary this year, the Coors Light Lideres Program has highlighted the achievements of national and local leaders within the Hispanic community. Twelve leaders are selected each year, each of whom is provided a $25,000 grant to develop a community leadership project benefiting the Hispanic community. MillerCoors Lideres have included motivational speakers, environmentalists, community organizers, mentors, and volunteers from various organizations who were nominated by national and local nonprofits.
MillerCoors is also a founding corporate supporter of the Hispanic Association for Corporate Responsibility (HACR), one of the most influential advocacy organizations in the nation representing 16 national Hispanic organizations in the United States and Puerto Rico.