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Eight Latina leaders to be honored at luncheon

Denver gathering will raise funds for scholarships, programs


Eight Colorado Latina leaders will be honored at the seventh Latinas First Foundation luncheon May 4 at the Seawell Ballroom at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

Participants and sponsors will network with more than 750 of the state's Latino leaders, and the foundation will award nine scholarships to Latina high school, college and graduate students.

“Each year we honor incredible Latina leaders who have done remarkable things in their respective fields. This year we build on that legacy and will honor women in diverse fields from education, public affairs, telecommunications, government and media,” said co-founder Meshach Rhoades. “We are excited to honor these women as they continue to blaze a trail for our future Latina leaders to follow.”

The 2018 honorees include Dr. Patricia Baca, Maria Garcia Berry, Belen DeLeon, Sandi Mays and Carmen Morales.

Baca was the deputy superintendent of Denver Public Schools. She is a longtime advocate for improving education and services to youths.

Garcia Berry is the founder and board chair of public affairs firm CRL Associates. She chaired the FasTracks Yes campaign in 2004 to gain public acceptance of the mass-transit expansion.

DeLeon is a meteorologist for NBC4 in Los Angeles after recently leaving her six-year role at Denver's 9News. Prior to her career as a meteorologist, she was a Latin Billboard Music Award winning artist performing with the band La Onda.

Mays is a founder and executive vice president of Zayo Group, a leader in global telecommunications.

Morales is the CEO of Santiago's Franchise and Santiago's Distribution Inc. and the first Latina CEO restaurateur in Colorado. She owns eight restaurants and has trained the other franchise owners.

“We look forward to honoring our trailblazers for their vision and drive. We are also thrilled to honor our Unsung Heroines for their passion and extraordinary contributions to the community,” said co-founder Juanita Chacon.

The 2018 Unsung Heroines are Marcela de la Mar, Dusti Gurule and Michelle McDaniel.

De la Mar is the executive director and president of the board for the Mexican Cultural Center and served with the Consulate General of Mexico in Denver for 23 years.

Gurule is the executive director at the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights. Prior to that, she was a regional representative for U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis in Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska, and executive director of the Latina Initiative.

McDaniel is an at-risk intervention and mentoring program manager at Denver Health and has spent her career performing outreach and violence intervention for at-risk youth.

The Latinas First Foundation celebrates and mobilizes the Latina community, while focusing on the cultural and historical contributions of Latinas to Colorado.

DeLeon will serve as mistress of ceremonies for the 2018 luncheon. All proceeds raised from the luncheon will support the organization's scholarships and programs.

Since the organization was founded in 2011, the nonprofit Latinas First Foundation has honored more than 60 women and awarded 43 non-traditional scholarships.

To learn more, go to www.latinasfirstfoundation.org.


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