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The Community Immigration Initiative

Sidebar by Nancy Hiemstra

Immigration – September 2006 – Colorado Central Magazine

In 2004, a local non-profit organization in Leadville, Full Circle Youth and Family Services, applied to join the Colorado Trust’s Immigrant Integration initiative. After an intense selection process, Leadville was designated as one of the Trust’s ten Immigrant Integration Communities. Consequently, the Trust is giving Lake County $75,000 each year through 2009 to foster integration.

Logo of the Community Integration Initiative
Logo of the Community Integration Initiative

As part of the initiative, Leadville’s Community Integration Collaborative was formed, made up of a range of native-born and immigrant residents, including local political leaders and representatives from business, health care, and education. The Collaborative’s four major goals, determined after a series of public forums, are to: increase participation among all community members; increase opportunities for all people to interact; increase knowledge of laws, business opportunities, second languages, documentation requirements; and encourage cultural sensitivity.

The Collaborative hasn’t wasted any time. Last winter, in order to give all residents a broader view of their community, it produced a newspaper insert for the Herald Democrat, “A Week in the Life of Leadville,” which included photos of various residents going about their daily routines. A number of workgroups have been formed to study how the community can become more integrated in various areas. Targeted trainings have aimed to get information out to all residents on a variety of topics.

Another first for Leadville is the recent opening of the Community Integration Resource Center. Mayela Guerrero runs the center, and her understanding of both Mexican and U.S. culture makes her approachable by all residents. She explained, “The Center acts as a clearinghouse, so people can bring in questions or needs and we help or figure out who has the answers.” As part of this, it provides free translations from English to Spanish and vice versa. Mayela said, “We’re trying to figure out what we can do here in Leadville to make things better for everybody.”

Alice Pugh, the director of Full Circle and the person who spearheaded Lake County’s application for the Integration Initiative, remarked, “Two things have been really exciting. One is really being able to create an atmosphere where we’re seeing some Latino leaders come forward, find their voice, and start to participate. The other thing is the potential to figure out how to truly conduct integrated business, or training, or working with parents, or kids, whatever it is — [by] giving space for some of the different ways that people approach issues or ideas.”

The Community Integration Center is located at 113 East 5th Street in Leadville. The phone number is 719-486-1690.