KUSA – Juanita Chacon and Mesach Rhoades began Latinas First Foundation in 2011 to bring awareness of the accomplishments of Colorado’s Latinas through history.
They’ve spent hours of researching and documenting the stories of women who have paved ways for future generations of leaders.
“There are a lot of people who want those stories. They don’t just touch our community, not just Latinos, but the entire Denver Community. Their footprints and handprints are all over this city,” said co-founder Juanita Chacon.
The Foundation honors women like Amy Alonzo, who was the first female police officer in Denver in 1973. “What made that significant really is that she was treated so differently. She had to stand behind her counterparts. She had to wear a skirt,” said Chacon. “For a young woman who wants to enter a non-traditional occupation, how great is it to have an Amy as that person who broke that barrier.”
In May of 2012, the foundation held an awards luncheon at the Governor’s mansion to honor the trailblazers and unsung heroines. It was called Cafesito Alto, high tea, and the unique part of the event was that the women were required to wear hats. The hats were big, feathery, cultural, whimsical, funny, and elegant.
Support for the foundation grew so much in the second year that they needed a bigger venue for the women, and their hats. Among the honorees were Katherine Archuleta, national political director for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign; and Christine Arguello, the first Latina federal judge in Colorado.
In addition to recognizing these pioneers, the foundation also provides college scholarships to future leaders. Through partnerships with local business, in two years Latinas First has awarded seven women more than $2,500 dollars each to attend local colleges.
“I like to think of those scholarships as gap scholarships. They get women over the final hurdle, the final obstacle, and really make it easier for them to achieve their goals,” said Mesach Rhoades, co-founder of Latinas First.
This generation is closer to reaching their dreams, because of those who came before to blaze the trail. “We should take these role models that we’ve had and pass them down of stories of success,” said Chacon. “At the end of the day with Latinas foundation someone will say well sure, that’s the organization that celebrates and supports women. I’d be really happy if we can achieve those two items right there.”