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Elisa Rodriguez Mejia, Community Advocate. 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.
Katia Curbelo, Community Advocate.
Katia Curbelo-Del Valle is our Mesa county representative for HAP. She’s completing her BIA accreditation, to begin serving our communities together with Marketa Zubkova, early in 2019. Katia comes to us from Garfield County, where she worked as outreach with various immigrant groups and organizations through the school districts and in higher education, through all of the Colorado Mountain College locations. She has a background facilitating the connections between community and education to social and cultural justice. She has mostly worked with youth, in areas such as SIJS, DACA, as well as with families in the Roaring Fork valley seeking assistance as they go through the asylum process in the USA. During that time, she helped bring to her organizations the collaboration from other Colorado non-profits such as CIRC (Know Your Rights training), RMIAN (for legal consultation through their youth program), and the Mobile Mexican Consulate. Katia is excited to be part of HAP, and the ability she will have to partially represent clients in immigration processes, as they seek to stabilize their status, and eventually move to naturalize.
Katia has a PhD in Cultural Studies in Communications and Media, from the Institute of Communications Research, University of Illinois (Urbana), where she researched on media and the construct of US citizenship. Her Master’s was in Romance Languages, Literatures and Cultures in Italian from SUNY at Stony Brook, NY, and her Bachelor’s in Modern Languages from the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras. Before embracing social justice efforts within her communities, Katia taught various college level courses at the University of Illinois, and Colorado Mountain College. She’s a life-long learner, educator and researcher.
John Arenas, 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.