2017 LEADERS FOR LANGUAGE ACCESS

2017 Leaders For Language Access

We are excited to announce our 2017 Leaders For Language Access. These individuals have truly fought for language access for limited English proficiency (LEP) individuals, whether through ensuring interpreters and translations, advocacy, or helping someone to learn English.

Each individual was nominated by community members and organizations who believe they represent the leadership in the language access movement. All immigrants and refugees deserve the right to access public and private services and to pursue successful integration, despite the language they speak.

Thank you to the following individuals for your hard work and passion!

Other Nominees:


Dr. Barbara Medina, Denver, CO

Picture of recognee, Dr. Barbara MedinaFrom her first position as a educator serving students in a rural migrant summer program to her leadership at the Colorado Department of Education as Assistant Commissioner, Dr. Barbara M. Medina has been actively involved at the district, state and national levels in the areas of language and literacy for diverse populations, cultural and linguistic diversity, qualitative research methods, and school reform. She holds a doctorate in Educational Policy from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Grounded in K-12 practice, Dr. Medina began her career as a social studies classroom teacher she served as Coordinator of Secondary Second Language Programs in Boulder Valley Schools. As Professor and Chair of the Department of Teacher Education at Adams State University, Alamosa, Colorado, she accessed federal grants to serve rural districts through graduate programs in Literacy, Special Education, and English Language Development. In 2006 Dr. Medina was appointed as Director of the Office of Language, Culture, and Equity at the Colorado Department of Education.

Dr. Medina’s most recent administrative position was as Director of English Language Acquisition, Denver Public Schools. Dr. Medina worked to re-negotiate the modified consent decree with the Office of Civil Rights. In the spring of 2013, Dr. Medina began work as an Educational Consultant. Her consulting is known as 3milagrosconsulting, appointed as an adjunct faculty she has worked with the University of Denver, University of Colorado at Boulder, Regis University, Aurora Public Schools, DELTA schools a charter school incubator firm. Beginning in 2013 to the present she consults with IMEC, the Interstate Migrant Education Council on issues and policy development for Migrant students on several projects including reauthorization of ESEA and “Promising Practices in Migrant Education”. She is also currently affiliated with MPI, (Migration Policy Institute, Washington DC) as an MPI Associate on migration policy issues, the education of immigrant and refugee students, teacher professional development for students learning English as a second Language.

Barbara has been a key player in pushing for language access in Denver and Colorado as a whole.

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Blanca Cordero Islas, Sterling, CO

Colorado 13th Judicial District

Leader in Language Access: Blanca Cordero IslasBlanca has been working with the judicial system since 2000. She first started out as an independent contractor, but in 2009 she was hired as a managing court interpreter in the 13th Judicial District.

Since then, Blanca has become Head of the Office of Language Access Continuing Education Committee. In this role, Blanca organizes and facilitates the Continuing Education classes for Spanish and Language Other Than Spanish (LOTS) interpreters. This training educates interpreters so that they are better court interpreters and are complying with the Department of Justice’s fair access policy.

Blanca’s work is vital to language access. On top of providing interpreting for the courts in her districts as well as scheduling other interpreters to meet the daily demand, she provides bi-monthly educational classes for the interpreters to learn about the legal system, all parties involved, and strengthen their vocabulary skills.

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Chris Duran, Commerce City, CO

Adams County School District 14

picture of Chris DuranSince the beginning of Chris’ career in education you knew that he was the type of person that genuinely cared about all of the students he served because he has always looked for ways to enhance programming and access points for marginalized students. Chris is always the first to address inequities in programming by educating professionals on ways to create more equitable learning environments that welcome all types of learners. Chris started off his career in Adams 14 school district as an Avid tutor and after-school assistant during college working with language minority students for two years. Adams 14 is not just a job but a place he calls home. He attended Adams 14 schools from elementary through high school and now works for the district that afforded him the possibility to enroll in higher education.

Following graduation from the Metropolitan State University of Denver, he applied and was offered a position as an adult basic education instructor. Not knowing much about adult education at the time, he knew his calling was to support marginalized students in any capacity possible. He taught for three years before applying for the Coordinator of Adult Education position. In January 2014, Chris was offered the position as Coordinator and has been in that role ever since. As the Coordinator of Adult Education, Chris continues to support language minority student’s access to equitable learning opportunities so they can enhance their English skills and enter the workforce feeling confident as ever. He has teamed up the Adams County Workforce Center to develop programing that is seamless for adult students as they transition from the Adult Learning Center into post-secondary education and/or workforce training. He currently serves on an equity team that brings together professionals to continue the work towards creating learning environments that are inclusive of all learners, especially those who identify as culturally and linguistically diverse students. Chris is a proud graduate from the University of Colorado Boulder’s Master of Arts program in Educational Equity and Cultural Diversity. This degree has fostered his professional development and has given him the tools to be change agent that he aspires to be!

Chris has worked endlessly to provide adult education courses in a range of subjects that help immigrants and refugees integrate into the community.

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Danny Quinlan, Durango, CO

Companeros – Four Corners Immigrant Resource Center

picture of Danny QuinlanDanny began working with the non English-speaking population of Southwest Colorado in 2010 as a volunteer at the Durango Adult Education Center’s ESL program. In 2011, Danny joined the La Plata Unity Project, a Durango-based non-profit set up to support Immigrant and Refugee Families, as the Volunteer Interpreter Coordinator. In this role, he earned certification as a Spanish Medical Interpreter and managed and trained a group of volunteer interpreters to increase language access in medical, legal and community settings.

Danny worked closely with medical providers in and around Durango to build awareness of providers’ responsibilities and build networks of support for non English speaking patients. He also performed over one thousand hours of interpretation for the community.

Since 2014, Danny has been Executive Director of Compañeros: Four Corners immigrant Resource Center,  where he has worked to help community members navigate legal and medical systems while advocating for greater interpretation and translation access in Southwest Colorado. Danny is currently pursuing certification as a Legal Interpreter for the Colorado Court System.
Mr. Quinlan and the other staff and volunteers at Companeros have been a consistent and strong support to the immigrant community — Spanish speaking, as well as other languages.  They have coordinated “Know Your Rights” presentations in Spanish and English, collaborated with “Cooking Matters” and other community initiatives to help multi-lingual families.

Diana Higuera, Aurora, CO

Aurora Welcome Center

Diana Higuera is the Executive Director of the Aurora Welcome Center where she oversees all aspects of the development of the center, which is a shared space for services that support limited English proficient immigrant and refugees.

Previous to her current position, Diana worked as a program manager of the Colorado Welcome Back program at Spring Institute. This great program helps foreign-trained healthcare professionals reestablish healthcare careers in Colorado.

Diana was born in Venezuela and immigrated to the U.S. in 2005. She received her MA in International and Intercultural Communication from the University of Denver and holds a BA in Mass Communication and a BS in Business Administration from the Universidad Catolica Andres Bello in Caracas.

Diana has worked hard for refugees and immigrants and has truly bridged the community through the Aurora Welcome  Center. She is a strong advocate and is valued by the community.

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Lee Ann Gott, Denver, CO

Colorado People’s Alliance

Nominee, Lee Ann GottStarting out Kenton Elementary School in Aurora, Lee Ann taught a majority of immigrants and refugees for 20 years. She also taught adult ESL to their parents after school. Through those parents, she learned about Rights for All People, an immigrant rights organization, and became an active member in 2003.

Lee Ann began teaching bilingual citizenship classes in 2008 and also taught classes to help people get their driver’s licenses under CO SB251.

The citizenship classes are now sponsored by Colorado People’s Alliance. The goal of the program is to help provide wide access to U.S. citizenship and to promote community involvement and active engagement in the political process.

She doesn’t want people to just be citizens; she wants people to be advocates and engaged in voting and making one’s voice heard.

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Libby Baumchen, Durango, CO

Durango Adult Education Center

Picture of recognee, Libby BaumchenLibby has been teaching English language at the Durango Adult Education Center (DAEC) for more than 13 years. Prior to teaching in Durango, she taught English in Chiapas, Mexico and Tokyo, Japan. Over the years, she has worked with immigrants from many different countries and developed programs and activities for community integration.

In 2014, Libby took over management responsibilities of DAEC’s ESL program and has successfully implemented some innovative strategies to integrate ESL learners into the community. One success is the establishment a citizenship program to help individuals to pass the citizenship exam. Additionally, Libby has partnered with with Compañeros, a Durango immigrant resource center, to provide presentations on the rights of every person living in the United States and brought health insurance information and screening to the students. Libby also developed Conversation Partners, where students can practice speaking English with a native speaking volunteer.

Another way Libby has helped immigrants integrate is by working with the DAEC Career Counselor to provide translation services for immigrants who have a degree or certification from their home country.

She has helped immigrants gain greater benefits in education by gathering data through student-immigrant interviews in collaboration with a local middle school. Her commitment to education also includes participating on regional work groups to narrow the minority achievement gap and assist immigrant families navigate the U.S. school system.

Libby Baumchen at the Durango Adult Education Center has worked hard and collaboratively with Durango Public Library and other community resources to give our English language learners access to library materials and resources (digital and material).

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Other Nominees:


Carrie Cisneros, Denver, CO – Bruce Randolph School, English Language Development

Carrie is a vital member of the school community, and she makes such powerful change in her classroom and beyond.

Dr. Kathy Escamilla, Denver, CO – BUENO Center for Multicultural Education

Dr. Escamilla’s research and passion has had a huge impact on increasing awareness of the limited English proficiency community and their struggles.

Dr. Manuel Escamilla, Denver, CO – BUENO Center for Multicultural Education

Dr. Manuel Escamilla’s leadership in the early education for immigrants has been important agent of change in the community.

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