How does your cultural background and heritage inform your life and career?
Ah, culture and heritage. It is who I am! Growing up one of eleven children in a small rural town, Ignacio, Colorado, to Hispanic parents, who instilled in their children a strong sense of who we are and where we came from, culture and heritage is DNA in my blood. It was the traditions of various holidays like biscochitos, midnight mass, and the anticipation of La Posadas at Christmas. It was the food we ate like homemade tortillas with melted butter as a snack. It was going camping, fishing, hunting and being outside every possible moment. It was the music of Antonio Aguilar or Al Hurricane that we woke up to or fell asleep to.
It was a strong sense of family, both immediate and the very large extended family. It was hard work as a strong and valued work ethic. It was a respect for the military as so many members of my family, including my father and three of my brothers, served. It was a very deep and committed sense of community and giving back. It was growing up loving God and the traditions that revolved around being Catholic/Christian. It was living in a community where you could be a cheerleader, brainiac and jock all at the same time. It was being the descendant of complete badass women such as my mom as well as my great great grandmother who was a Pony Express rider for Northern New Mexico/Southern Colorado. (C’mon…delivering the mail on horseback toting a pistol!). By growing up in the middle of the Southern Ute Tribe Reservation, it was also an appreciation and love of other cultures and peoples.
My culture and heritage were also the challenges…
Challenges of having to turn to welfare to help us get by, and the challenges of simply growing up poor. Challenges that included an alcoholic father who turned to violence when under the influence of alcohol. That violence turned mostly on my mother, but a couple times on me. The challenges of at times a teacher or counselor here and there having expectations of me that did not match my dreams.
Who we are, who I am is a mixture of ALL of these beautiful facets of culture and heritage. Both the ones that put a smile on my face as well as the ones that were challenges and motivated me to do better or live differently. We learn and are shaped by both.
What is your “why?” and how does that make you passionate about your work and/or community contributions?
My “why” is truly to try to make this world a better place. Whether that change be through work, family, play, and especially to the giving to the community …local, regionally, and globally. And whether that is through my work in the areas of leadership, women’s empowerment, commitment to people of color especially my fellow Latinas/Latinos, education or children, the passion and fuel are there.
My “why” is an outflow and in alignment to my amazing mother’s life and all she was. Even though we had very little growing up, somehow she still found a way to always provide food or a few dollars to a new family to town and in need. With only an 8th grade education, at the age of 35 she was determined to get her GED and then taking 15 years one class at a time, traveling back and forth to Fort Lewis College with her best friend in tow, and between working full time and raising a load of children, attaining her bachelors degree. Trying to be a fraction of the woman she was and continuing her commitment to making the world a better place is my why.
What is one of the biggest challenges that you have overcome, and how did you overcome it?
Challenges. Like every person has most likely experienced, I have had a number of challenges to overcome. However, for good or for bad, the good Lord blessed me with an innate ability to not see said challenges as insurmountable or “big”. They are simply challenges and opportunities to crush them and learn from them. Over the years to name a few, they have spanned from being courageous enough to leave the comfort of the amazing small community I grew up in to go to college, OR being lonely and apart from my family when I was not able to come home for holidays while I was in college because we simply did not have the money to allow this, OR facing the ignorance of those who spoke mean and at times racist comments intended to demean, threaten or sway the path, OR being the only woman or Latina in the room. All challenges, all overcome. But who knows, maybe my “biggest” challenge is yet to come, and if it is…hopefully those I’ve endured thus far have prepared me to handle and crush the one around the corner.
What is your personal motto or favorite quotation?
If I were to have a motto, the one that comes to mind is, “Work hard, play hard”. I am a bit of an adrenaline junkie and so the “play hard” side is what fuels me to do the “work hard” side.
As for quotations, I am a gatherer of quotations. If you were to visit me in my office at Children’s, it is filled with funny, inspirational and yes some irreverent quotations. Words to fill the mind and soul. One that I use rather frequently is:
Advice for others in business based on what you have learned on your journey?
Do not doubt yourself. Surround yourself with people who you trust, who will love you when its most hard to love you, who will be your biggest advocates but will also be the most truthful with you when you need it most, and work your ass off. If you have a dream, put the plan together, pivot when you need to, and keep committed to the goal especially when it gets tough. And remember to ALWAYS take care of your mental and physical health and to celebrate the successes, no matter how small.
What are you most proud of?
Personally, without question, it’s my three children, Jordan, Alex and Noah. They each are wonderfully different and are finding their own path.
Professionally, it’s the amazing and brilliant people who became friends that I have worked with over the years. In the community, a moment that will forever be etched in my mind is when in 2012 as a member of the Trustees for Metropolitan State University of Denver, we voted to establish a special tuition rate for undocumented students.
And globally, earlier in 2022, along with two amazing lawyers in Papua New Guinea, we drafted a law that would be signed into National law by the Papua New Guinea National Parliament intended to prosecute those involved in sorcery accusation-related violence where 90% of the victims are vulnerable women and children. I’m hoping there are lots more “most proud” moments to come!