Ricardo helped found the Hispanic Affairs Project in 2006. He has over thirty years of experience working as a community organizer and leadership development trainer for community projects and social justice institutions in El Salvador, Guatemala and the United States. Ricardo was born in El Salvador where he actively participated in the social movement to advocate against oppressive systems and in favor of equality for the Salvadoran community. Before coming to live in the US, he worked for 8 years as a technical coordinator for an NGO On local/regional projects working on national reconstruction. He gained a great deal of experience in municipal government, public administration and program implementation for social, economic, infrastructural and environmental projects. His educational background includes a Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy and a Master’s Degree in the Latin-American Theology with other studies in social planning, social research methodology, popular education and local sustainable development. In 2011, he received the Immigrant Liberty Award from Colorado Chapter of the America Immigration Lawyer Association, AILA for his commitment to the immigrant rights movement. Currently, he collaborates with other regional, state and national boards and committees working for social justice.
DOJ Accredited Immigration Legal Representative
Marketa comes from the Czech Republic and she has been enjoying her life in the mountains of Crested Butte for more than a decade. Her primary role with HAP is to provide immigration legal assistance to low income families as a BIA Accredited Immigration Legal Representative. She has been a HAP leader since the beginning of the organization working with the immigrant population in Gunnison. She is currently the President of local immigrant committee Inmigrantes Unidos de Gunnison which she helped found in 2006. In her work she has focused on diversity of the immigrant population and immigrant integration. She has done an extensive research about the Cora Indians, an indigenous group from Nayarit living in Western Colorado, and their integration as a minority culture. Marketa is also a member of HAP team that visits H2A visa sheepherders in the isolated areas in the mountains and provides them not only with food and other necessary resources but with other valuable things such as friendship and human contact. Marketa holds a Magister of Czech & English Philology degree from the Palacky University, a Bachelor of Arts in to Spanish from Western State Colorado University and a Master of Arts in Cultural Studies with Emphasis on Latin America from Prescott College. In 2012 she received HAP’s John Kiernan award for solidarity and commitment to the immigrant community. In 2013 she received the 8th Immigrant Liberty Award from Colorado Chapter of the America Immigration Lawyer Association for her extensive volunteer work with the immigrant community and the outreach with H2A range workers.
Elisa Rodriguez Mejia
Elisa, born and raised in Mexico, has a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Minot State University. Elisa is in tandem with the struggles of the immigrant community as a first-generation immigrant herself. She moved to Montrose Colorado in the late 1990’s and alongside with her husband was actively involved with HAP from 2006 to 2012, helping HAP to find success in the project’s early stages. They moved to North Dakota for five years and now have returned to Montrose, a place they call home. During Elisa’s time in North Dakota she had the privilege of working with the Native American community, learning about their culture, values, customs, and centuries of struggles. In 2016, Elisa was elected President of the Native American Club (NAC) at Minot State University, helping to organize the annual Powwow and also helped recruit and organize other Native American events. During her time in North Dakota she visited Standing Rock and witnessed the oppression, prejudice, and racism towards those who were here prior to any other people. She volunteered for Saint Leo’s, a local church, serving hot meals to less fortunate people and for the Minot Domestic Violence Crisis Center/Shelter where she became aware of the physical, psychological, emotional, and social impacts and distress that battered women endure with their children. Elisa was part of the North Dakota Center for People with Disabilities and for the cultural Diversity Advisory Committee to communicate and understand the diverse groups with disabilities and how as a diversity group they could contribute to teaching about other cultures, customs and different ways of understanding disabilities. Elisa fell in love with HAP’s work and decided to pursue a degree in social work. Her primary role with HAP is to be a community advocate and provide awareness and prevention against sexual violence, domestic violence, and human trafficking. Elisa is excited to be able to apply the concepts and theories of social work to her work in several areas including policy, communications, and human relations. One of her goals is to create awareness to end the culture of domestic violence.Elisa is passionate about social justice, civil rights and human rights for all especially for underserved communities.
Karen Sherman Perez
Civic Engagement Coordinator
A Montrose native, Karen has been connected with the immigrant and migrant farmworker communities for over 15 years. After graduating from Fort Lewis College with a degree in environmental biology, Karen left for El Salvador as part of the U.S. Peace Corps where she worked on environmental education and agroforestry projects in rural communities. After Peace Corps, she continued to work in San Salvador as an ESL teacher until returning to Montrose in 2003. Since then, Karen has advocated for immigrant families including coordinating Project Common Ground, a Mesa County community and immigrant integration effort from 2006-2009, as part of the statewide Supporting Immigrant and Refugee Families Initiative. Following this effort, Karen worked with the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC) for nine years as a regional organizer to engage local communities in policy and advocacy campaigns focused on advancing local, state and federal policies that protect immigrant families. She later transition into the role of CIRC’s first development director, helping to build the necessary fundraising infrastructure and capacity to ensure sustainability of the coalition and the movement. Karen’s newest role on the HAP team is focused on creating opportunities for building relationships with and engaging Montrose’s diverse Latino community and the City of Montrose, Montrose Recreation District and other key stakeholders with the goal of building a more welcoming and inclusive community. When she is not working on other local community issues, Karen can be found digging in her garden, spending time with friends and family, or out hiking across the beautiful Western Colorado landscapes.
Communications Coordinator and Development Assistant
A native of Baltimore, John arrived in Montrose to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Hispanic Affairs Project in February 2019. His primary role is coordinating HAP’s communications, and he will also be assisting with development. He is looking forward to expanding the efforts of HAP to engage with the communities it serves. Prior to coming to Montrose, John worked as a teacher in Spain, Argentina and Baltimore. His communications experience includes working as a copywriter for Adventure Web Interactive in Baltimore, an internship as a general assignment reporter at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, and a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the University of Maryland. In his free time, John is looking forward to exploring the natural beauty of western Colorado.
Community Outreach Coordinator
Gabriela is HAP’s Community Outreach Coordinator based in Mesa County. She was born and raised in Grand Junction by first-generation immigrants, and attends Colorado Mesa University as a Criminal Justice major.
Growing up as a Hispanic woman, Gabriela saw the disadvantages her community faces every day. She chose to pursue a degree in Criminal Justice due to the lack of Hispanic representation in this field. She has witnessed the community’s reluctance to reach out to law enforcement or other legal services, whether it be due to fear or a lack of institutional understanding. Gabriela feels strongly that more members of the Hispanic community need to pursue careers in criminal justice fields in order to give future generations the representation and access to resources they deserve.
Gabriela’s criminal justice studies have played a significant role in furthering her interest in social justice. She was struck by the rates of incarceration of Hispanic women, and the history of abuse and lack of availability of resources that have lead to them being behind bars. She has worked to make bilingual resources available for the community, which continues to struggle to overcome the taboo surrounding domestic violence and sexual abuse. Social justice goes hand in hand with criminal justice, and she hopes that she can help provide these resources and more for the Hispanic community.
Having actively volunteered from a young age with various non-profits throughout the valley including Roice-Hurst, Key club, and Danza Azteca, Gabriela is excited to continue helping her community through HAP. She is looking forward to getting out and immersing herself in her community in the Grand Valley, and making significant relationships within the Hispanic population of Mesa County.