Glenwood Springs-based nonprofit trains future Latino leaders across Western Slope
Local nonprofit Voces Unidas de las Montañas kicked off its 2022 leadership program in February with a selection 14 Latino and Latina community leaders from the Western Slope.
Voces Unidas President and CEO Alex Sanchez said this year’s courses could provide participants with insight into systemic and structural racism, equity vs. equality, white fragility and power- and community-building.
“Voces Unidas is the first Latino-created, Latino-led and Latino-serving advocacy nonprofit in the entire central mountain region,” Sanchez said. “Our vision is to elevate the voices of Latinos and Latinas to help create opportunities for leaders to lead.
“We want to see our voices represented at every table.”
Governed by a board of directors, Voces Unidas was founded in 2020 out of a need for developing leadership in the Latino community, he said.
Dubbed the Latino Network, the leadership program is a year-long development course for Latinas and Latinos already practicing leadership in their communities in the central mountain region. Program participants meet once a month and participate in several full-day retreats to share, learn and grow as leaders, a news release states.
Participation is limited to eight to 14 participants to ensure everyone receives quality training time, Sanchez said.
While candidates are selected from across the Western Slope, many of this year’s participants are from Garfield County.
The Latino Network 2022 class members are listed below:
Carbondale: Gabriela Alvarez Espinoza, Brianda Cervantes, Monica Perez-Rhodes, Ana Vega Terrazas, Patty Torreblanca and Luis Yllanes;
Glenwood Springs: Maribel Obreque;
Rifle: Steven Arauza and Erick Perez;
New Castle: Cinthia Nevarez Ruiz;
Silt: Gerardo Gomez;
Snowmass Village: Olivia Martinez;
Avon: Renata Araujo and Evelyn Corral.
“These are individuals who are practicing leadership within their community,” Sanchez said. “Through our curriculum, we expose them to questions, topics and initiatives that are relative to their journey as leaders, so they walk away with more confidence, a tight network of peers and even more leadership skills.”
Erick Perez, a 28-year-old Rifle business owner, said he’s applied to participate in the Latino Network multiple times, but being selected was worth the wait.
“I think there’s something unique about leadership,” said Perez, who grew up in the Aspen/Snowmass Village area. “If you’re a leader, you’re listening to people’s stories and giving people direction. As a cafe owner, I hear a lot of people’s stories.”
His first dive into entrepreneurship, Cafe Kape Panaderia, opened in 2021.
Though busy juggling the daily tasks associated with opening a new business during the pandemic, Perez is keeping his eyes on the future. The Latino Network is an opportunity for him to connect with other business leaders, but he said politics could be in his future, too.
“I’m more focused on the business side,” Perez said, adding with a knowing smile, “but I’m not closed off to a future in service to the community.”
For more information about the Latino Network, visit http://www.vocesunidas.org/leadership.
Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.