Mi Casa Honored at Mayor's Diversity Awards

Mi Casa was honored to be present at the second annual Denver Mayor’s Diversity Awards on Oct. 11 where we received an award from the Mayor’s Women’s Commission.

The Mayor’s Diversity Awards are hosted by the GLBT Commission and honor individuals and organizations for their work to advance issues related to diversity and equal access in our community.

“The Diversity Awards honor outstanding community leaders for their work toward our ultimate vision for Denver – a world-class city where everyone matters,” said Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.

The Diversity Awards were scheduled for October 11 to coincide with National Coming Out Day, an internationally observed civil awareness day celebrating individuals who publicly identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

Each of the Mayor’s commissions, including the African-American, Aging, American Indian, Asian-Pacific American, Latino, Office of Strategic Partnerships, People with Disabilities, and Women’s commissions presented an award.

Perhaps the most moving moment of the evening came when the Denver Commission for People with Disabilities presented the award to Linda Chism Andre, the only surviving member of Denver’s Gang of 19.

The Gang of 19 led protests in the 1970s and began a nationwide movement to obtain equal access to transportation for individuals with disabilities.

Here’s a little bit more about Denver’s Gang of 19 from the ADAPT Youth Summit Blog

In 1979, 19 youth with disabilities in Denver Colorado, parked their wheelchairs in front of two inaccessible city buses to stop them from moving, They wanted not to be put in the back of the bus, but to get ON the bus in the first place. Their protest started a movement that made public transportation accessible for people with disabilities across the country. This group of young people is now known today in our community as the Gang of 19. Today the movement has grown into ADAPT.

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Survey, Forum Analyze Latino Voters' Priorities

Latino voters – especially in political swing states like Colorado – are getting a lot of attention this election season.

In anticipation of the first debate between the presidential candidates tonight at the University of Denver, Mi Casa and CLLARO (Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy and Research Organization ) conducted a survey of Latino voters to identify the issues and sub issues that matter most to Colorado’s fastest growing population group.

At a community forum on October 1, Mi Casa presented the results of a statewide survey and hosted a discussion with five distinguished panelists:

  • Guillermo “Bill” Vidal, Denver Hispanic Chamber
  • Grace Lopez Ramirez, Mi Familia Vota
  • Olivia Mendoza, CLLARO
  • Mauricio Palacio, Office of Health Disparities, CDPHE
  • Richard Garcia, Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition

The results of the survey identified three key priority areas for Latinos in the state. These priority areas remained consistent across gender, age, political affiliation, language preference and immigrant status.

1. Education: within Education, 58% of respondents prioritized access to high-quality pre-K-12 education. Ensuring funding for low-interest student loans and Pell grants was the next highest ranked issue area under education.

2. Jobs and the Economy: there were two top priority issue areas within Jobs and the Economy – providing more training and assistance to the unemployed (32% ranked this highest) and increasing assistance (e.g., loans) to small business owners to help them create jobs (28% ranked this highest).

3. Health: Health was the third most important issue identified in the survey. Respondents overwhelmingly favored preserving the Affordable Care Act at 64.9%.

Click here to review report of survey findings.

“As an issue, immigration relates directly to the three priorities of Education, Jobs and the Economy, and Healthcare that Latinos identified in the survey,” said Olivia Mendoza of CLLARO. “Comprehensive immigration reform would lift the barriers to allow millions of undocumented immigrants to participate in the economy, obtain jobs, and access healthcare. And the passage of the DREAM Act would support expanded educational opportunities for undocumented Latino youth.”

Mendoza continued, “The results of the survey didn’t surprise us at all. Education, Jobs and the Economy, and Health are the three most important things to a community’s stability. “

Grace Lopez Ramirez of Mi Familia Vota stressed the feeling of survey respondents that they are tired of political gridlock and empty rhetoric. “These are not new priorities for the Latino community. These have been our priorities for a long time, and we are ready to see some action,” Lopez Ramirez said. “We are going to turn out to vote in record numbers this year. But it won’t end there. We aren’t going to just turn out to vote, we are going to hold our elected officials accountable.”

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Digital Connectors 2012 Launch

The 2012 Digital Connectors launched this week, with a group of 16 fantastic youth who will be starting on a 9 month journey of technology learning and career development.  The Digital Connectors program is a free after-school program that prepares students to be successful in the digital world of the 21st century. The program includes advanced technology classes, leadership development opportunities and community service projects.

“We are so proud of you and excited for all you will learn this year,” Executive Director Christine Marquez-Hudson told the Connectors. “You are an important part of the Mi Casa family.”

Sponsored by Comcast, the Digital Connectors is a national program for groups of young people, aged 14 to 21, from diverse, low-income backgrounds.  Mi Casa’s program is one of many located throughout the country.  The Connectors meet each week, as well as one Saturday per month, to learn important digital literacy skills.  In addition, they perform 60 hours of community service to empower their community with the same digital literacy skills. In the program, students will learn to become a strong leader and professional, become Cisco authorized in preparation for the Comp TIA A+ Certificate, receive an EverFi Financial Literacy Certificate, and build a multi-media portfolio.

“You will be miles ahead of your classmates after completing this program,” Andrea Herrera Moreno, Assistant Manager of the Neighborhood Center at North High School, told the group.

At the kick-off event, the Connectors and their families learned about the expectations of the program, as well as the many benefits they will receive.  Not only will they have strong experience for their resumes and college applications, they will also develop important leaderships skills and receive various technological tools, including a computer and camera.

“I am so excited to be working with this group over the next nine months and can’t wait for all that is in store for us,” said Alex Cisneros, coordinator and instructor of the program.

Good luck with your journey, Digital Connectors, and welcome to the Mi Casa family!

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Career Development: Samuel's Story

Samuel enrolled in Mi Casa’s Workplace Skills and Bilingual Bank Teller career training programs with the desire to break into a stable and growing industry with strong potential for advancement.  Prior to Samuel’s time at Mi Casa, he worked as a phone surveyor but felt unfulfilled in his job due to a lack of career advancement opportunities, and Samuel longed for more interpersonal contact with coworkers and customers.

Samuel was born in Miami to a Spanish-speaking family but moved to Denver at a young age.  According to Samuel, he barely graduated high school, lacking the credits he needed to graduate on time.  The jobs he held after high school were dead-end and did not allow him to earn an income sufficient to make ends meet.  After hearing of Mi Casa’s Bilingual Bank Teller career training program from a friend, Samuel decided to enroll.  He found Mi Casa’s two-week Workplace Skills course, in particular, to be life-changing both personally and professionally.

“Through Mi Casa’s programs, I not only learned about the banking industry, but also how to behave in a work environment, how to sell myself as the best candidate for the job, and how to present myself in a professional way – Mi Casa gave me the confidence I needed,” said Samuel.

Mi Casa gave Samuel the support he needed to secure a job in the financial services industry.  Not only did he learn important technical skills to apply to his work as a teller, but also important interpersonal, professional, and communication skills, which he will draw on in any position he holds throughout his career.

Thanks to Mi Casa’s Bilingual Bank Teller program, Samuel was able to land a full-time job at Chase Bank as a teller, which he greatly enjoys.  He is learning more every day and enjoys working with his coworkers, managers and customers.   In the future, Samuel hopes to become a banker, with the goal of eventually moving up to a manager position.

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Mi Casa Honors its Founding Mothers (and Father)

On June 27, Mi Casa’s friends and supporters came together to honor the seven women and one man who founded Mi Casa 36 years ago.

These individuals had a vision to create a safe place for women to go for education and employment training to help them achieve economic success and a better life for the next generation.

At the event last month, Mi Casa permanently renamed our largest training space the Founding Mothers Room. Now all who come to Mi Casa seeking new opportunities will learn how the agency began over 35 years ago.

Mi Casa started in the basement of a Mennonite church and today is a $2.5 million organization and one of the oldest and largest Latino serving organizations in the state – and the nation.

At its inception, Mi Casa offered job-training programs for workers to help them break into higher paying jobs.  Mi Casa expanded in the 1980s to include bilingual business training to nurture the entrepreneurial spirit thriving in Denver’s Latino communities. And in the 1990s, Mi Casa launched academic and enrichment programs for youth during the afterschool hours.

Today, thanks to the legacy of our Founding Mothers – and father – Mi Casa continues to offer these great programs that offer Latino and working families pathways to lasting economic stability.

With their vision and leadership, Mi Casa is able to help families thrive for generations.

Mi Casa’s Founding Mothers:

  • Katherine Archuleta
  • Lena Archuleta (deceased 2011)
  • Juana Bordas
  • Carol Hildebrand
  • Donna Lucero
  • Adolfo Gomez, Jr.
  • Martha Guevara
  • Chaer Robert


Top – Juana Bordas recounts memories of her time as Mi Casa’s Executive Director

Center – From left: Martha Guevara, Chaer Robert, Donna Lucero, Carol Hildebrand, Adolfo Gomez, Jr., Juana Bordas, and Christine Marquez-Hudson (Mi Casa’s CEO) pose with the dedication plaque

Bottom – 1980s Mi Casa graduate Elizabeth Munoz recounts the inspiration she derived from Mi Casa and its Founding Mothers

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Mi Casa's Ladder of Leadership Allows High School Students to Develop Workplace & Leadership Skills

Mi Casa’s Youth & Family programs are designed on a trajectory: helping students move from academic achievement and career exploration/readiness to ultimately, success in post-secondary education and employment.  An important component of realizing this goal is Mi Casa Neighborhood Center’s Ladder of Leadership, offered to past participants of the middle school program, along with other high school students.  This unique program allows high school students to further develop their own leadership and workplace skills, while also providing much-needed support and assistance for Mi Casa’s Youth & Family Development programs.

The Mi Casa Neighborhood Center is based on the Beacon model, an evidence-based practice in which a public school is transformed into a community center for youth and their families during out-of-school time.  The Ladder of Leadership is an extension of this model, allowing past participants to continue engaging with the school and their community, while developing important leadership and workplace skills to be used during high school and beyond.

There are three positions within Mi Casa’s Ladder of Leadership program: Youth Volunteer, Youth Aide, and Youth Leader, designed in a sequence.  A high school student may hold each of these positions for one year.  While the program is open to any interested high school student, it is planned particularly for past participants of the middle school program, with the ultimate goal of assisting these high school students in reaching their educational and employment goals following graduation.  While in the program, participants receive career development and post-secondary education support and coaching to realize these goals.

Ladder of Leadership participants assist with Mi Casa afterschool programs in a range of ways, including acting as role models and mentors for middle school participants, assisting with afterschool activities and administrative tasks, and planning and leading activities for Family Night and other special events.  They are also mentored by Mi Casa staff, in order to ensure they are reaching their goals and developing important skills.

“My experience at Mi Casa has definitely helped my resume, but it also helped my confidence,” says Cherivona, a past participant of the Ladder of Leadership program.  “Leadership is about community engagement and helping youth realize they are valuable and contributing members to this society. I recognize that in myself and want to help other kids recognize it too.”

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Broncos Wide Receiver Eric Decker Visits Mi Casa!

On June 25, the youth in Mi Casa’s summer camp welcomed Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker for a visit and a lesson in competitive four square!

As part of the Popchips Game Changers program, Mi Casa competed with many other  worthy charities in Denver for the opportunity to have Eric come and visit. The five organizations with the most votes were then presented to Eric, and guess what? He chose Mi Casa!

Eric started the morning by talking to the kids about the importance of positive decision making and setting goals. Then he took questions.  Though he was asked three times if he preferred playing with Tim Tebow or Peyton Manning, Eric skillfully dodged the question!

“Every choice you make, even in middle school, has a consequence,” Eric told the kids. “If you’re going to do something, do it to the best of your ability, and think about what you do before you do it.”

Through their questions, the kids got to know more about Eric as a person: his first job was a paperboy; he earned a 3.9 GPA in high school; he played both football and baseball at the University of Minnesota; and he earned a degree in business and marketing.

“Football only lasts so long, so going to college and getting your degree is really important to have a career and provide for your family,” Eric said. “Make sure you stay involved in school and afterschool programs like Mi Casa because you are learning things that will help you in your career and in your life.”

Then it was time to hit the black top for some four square action.

Sergio, Mi Casa’s 8th Grade Student of the Year, explained the rules to Eric and then it was game on.

Each Mi Casa student had an opportunity to play a round of four square with Eric before gathering for a group picture. Then Eric signed a few autographs before he set off for his next engagement.

“There will always be people who doubt you, people who don’t believe in you, but all that matters is that you believe in yourself,” Eric told the kids.  “Don’t let anyone cut you down from the dreams you want to live.”

Click here to view more photos from the event.

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Mi Casa featured in Denver Business Journal as Kellogg Foundation Grant Recipient

Denver Business Journal

Date: Friday, June 8, 2012, 4:00am MDT

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation gave a two-year, $350,000 grant to Mi Casa Resource Center to support its career training programs. These programs include technical training in health care, customer services and banking, and are for workers with limited skills, education and income. The foundation is based in Battle Creek, Mich.

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Business Development Success Story: Marnie

Marnie has been a performer her entire life and it has always been her goal to become financially self-sustaining through her art.  Her first step to achieving this was founding Reveille Entertainment LLC in 2009, a musical theatre production company that focuses on the life, times and music of the 1940’s and WWII.  As a new business owner, Marnie realized she was operating Reveille Entertainment LLC in a reactive—as opposed to proactive—manner.  “I had an overall sense that I wanted and needed some help in growing my business, but didn’t know exactly where to start,” Marnie says.

She found the support and guidance she needed to strengthen and develop her business through Mi Casa’s Business Success program.  Through the process of the Business Success course, Marnie shares: “I learned to prioritize my goals for my business and was connected to the resources and information I was in need of.”  She also noted that the support system formed by her fellow Business Success students has proven to be an invaluable source of help and encouragement to this day. “I learned how to do smart business from Mi Casa’s Women’s Business Center,” she says, reflecting on the positive impact the program has had on her business and life.

Since graduating from the Business Success course, Reveille Entertainment has expanded its services and facilities to include vocal coaching, pageant coaching and an adaptive arts program, which have all transitioned from taking place in Marnie’s home to taking place in an external teaching and rehearsal space.  She recently began coaching three new voice students and the number of shows that her company’s musical theater group, Reveille 3, performs each year has grown from just nine shows to 60+ shows scheduled so far for 2012.

Amidst her business’s increased popularity and success, Marnie has certainly not lost sight of giving back to the community.  Reveille 3 volunteers their performance time to the Rocky Mountain USO and various events for members of the US Military and their families.

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Vote for Mi Casa in Citywide Bank's $5,000 Hand-Up Charity Donation

Citywide Banks has nominated Mi Casa as one of five charities in the running for $5,000 as part of its Hand-Up Charity Donation and Facebook Fan Vote being held from June 1st – June 14th.  The winning charity will be determined by the local community’s votes on Facebook, so make sure to cast your vote beginning on June 1st by “liking” Citywide Bank’s Facebook page and then clicking on the ”Charity Fan Vote” tab.  Citywide Banks aims to raise awareness about local organizations and their work through their quarterly Facebook Fan Votes.

Read Citywide Bank’s charity spotlight story about Mi Casa here.

Anyone that casts a vote can be entered into a drawing for a $100 dinner at Littleton’s Opus Restaurant, $25 Starbucks gift cards, and many other prizes!

Mi Casa thanks you for your votes in advance and looks forward to sharing the results with you next month.

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