Denver—More than 150 people gathered in the community hall at the Mi Casa Resource Center for Women in September to celebrate the official launch of the Kellogg Leadership for Community Change fellowship here. The festivities included food, speeches, music and dance performances by Mi Casa staff, elected officials, community leaders, volunteers and local performing artists.
‘Hear My Voice’ Group Performs
“It was wonderful to see so many people from the community and partnering agencies,” says Gayle Warner, KLCC project lead and Mi Casa vice president of programs. “There was a sense of hope, excitement and pride amongst the crowd.”
During her remarks, Lucia Guzman, an elder in the community and director of the Denver Agency for Human Rights and Community Relations gave homage to the ancestors and elders who have paved the way for the new opportunity KLCC presents for youth and elders to walk side by side in advancing justice. Later, local activist Tony Robinson gave an impassioned speech about the importance of uncompromising commitment to social activism.
“The launch was an amazing experience, where all age groups came together and realized that change really is possible in this community,” says Zara Snapp, a youth leader at Mi Casa and a KLCC co-coach. “A sense of friendship, camaraderie, and energy was felt throughout the whole room. People came away from the event with the feeling that they are not alone in wanting to create positive social change.”
By including traditional as well as non-traditional leaders in the launch program, the event clearly reflected Mi Casa’s commitment to making space for divergent perspectives as its fellows aim to bring about social change.
“Mi Casa has been extremely thoughtful in putting together their fellowship,” wrote Dale Nienow, Elayne Dorsey and Karma Ruder of the KLCC Coordinating Organization in their memo recapping highlights from a recent Denver site visit. “They have included youth, adults and elders. Although a number are known by and/or committed to Mi Casa, many are new to the organization.”
The Mi Casa KLCC fellows include: Lisa Bardwell, Rose Ceja-Aragon, Jazmin Chavez, Rafael Arvizu Derr, Xochilt Diaz, Kathy Garcia, Dino Garduno, Sammy Granados, Louis Hartman, Jose Jimenez, Perla Jimenez, Maria Lopez, Miguel Loya, Larry Left Hand Bull, Danielle McGuire, Adam Roybal, Armando Samoza, Melina Somoza, Estephan Tovar, Gerald Trujillo, Katheryn Valdez, Arturo Vazquez, Lisa Volpi, Cheyenne Walker, and Evan Weissman.
Ballet Folklorico Mestizo
Mi Casa also has created a community advisory group that will assist the fellowship in the coming months. Members of the group include: Martha Lee from the Kellogg Fellows Leadership Alliance; Ricardo Garcia and Raydean Acevedo, both of whom are alumni of previous Kellogg Foundation Leadership programs; and representatives of the Rose Community Foundation, First Data Western Union Foundation, Denver Public Schools, Office of Economic Development, a local television station, and the Center for Multicultural Excellence at the University of Denver. This group is expected to meet during October to get better acquainted and become more familiar with their role in the KLCC process.
Overall, the CO team reported that the launch was well received and marks a good first step for the site.
“People were generally enthusiastic about Kellogg Leadership for Community Change and interested in helping in any way they could. The launch event generated a great deal of community support for this work.”