Sister Alicia Cuaron, Ed.D., Trailblazer 2013

Sister-Alicia-Cuaron-300x300

One of the First Founders of Adalente Mujer and Centro San Juan Diego’s Bienestar Family Services
First Latina to speak at Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Harvard University

Just one look at Sister Alicia Cuaron’s impressive list of accomplishments is enough to prove she has dedicated herself to bettering the lives of others. From developing and implementing Denver’s first bilingual Head Start program to founding Adelante Mujer, an organization that promotes education and training of multi-generational Latinas.

Raised in El Paso, Texas, Sister Alicia credits her Mexican-immigrant parents for instilling in her a passion for education and service to the community. In fact, it was her mother who taught her that those who are privileged enough to get a good education have a responsibility to help those who are not. Sister Alicia has made that her life’s motto – and her mother would he very proud.

After moving to Denver in the early 1970s, Sister Alicia was one of the first Latinas in Colorado to receive a doctorate degree in education from the University of Northern Colorado. But even that type of higher education didn’t mean she had it easy in an era where there was rampant discrimination for Latinos/as and women in general. Undoubtedly, her own struggles made her strive to make a difference for those less fortunate. Around that time was when she traveled around the country conducting Leadership Programs for Latinas in the early 1970s and 1980’s, before it was in vogue.

As a Latina, Sister Alicia’s list of firsts includes several that are worth noting. She was the first Latina to serve as the Executive Director of the Colorado Economic Development Agency. She then became the first female Executive Director of the National Hispanic Contractors Association. She is also one of the founders of Circle of Latina Leadership and has chaired the Colorado Council on Working Women, where she designed a leadership program called EXITO.

Perhaps the project that has made the most difference is the Catholic parish ministry Sister Alicia founded after entering the Sisters of St. Francis of Penance and Christian Charity in the mid-1990s. First known as the Centro Bienestar San Jose, the center was dedicated to providing services and adult education to Spanish speaking families. In 2002, it became the Bienestar Family Center, a ministry of the Archdiocese of Denver’s Centro San Juan Diego. Today, the center serves more than 10.000 families per year by offering GED, citizenship, computer and English classes, and leadership programs for immigrant women and families. The center also offers access to pro bono legal services and provides supportive social services.

Sister Alicia has been instrumental in helping thousands of immigrant families transition into mainstream society by developing and implementing pioneer programs just for that purpose. This exemplary Latina has said she’d like to be known as someone who made a difference, and while there are lots of ways to describe her life’s work, this one’s certainly at the top.

Her passion has always been mentoring Latinas to fulfill and reach their full potential. Sister Alicia has been inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame and received the Women’s Chamber of Commerce ATHENA Award, National LARAZA Leadership Award, Macclovia Barraza Leadership Award, Americas Top 100 Hispanic Women in Communication, Who’s Who among Hispanic Americans, Community Leaders of the World. She has also spoken at Yale, Berkeley, and other major universities. She is a member of the National Speakers Association, serves on the Executive Board of the Colorado’s Women’s Forum and has been a member of the Colorado Supreme Court Nominating Committee.