The Latino Leadership Institute at DU has reached a splendid achievement in establishing an homage to the Latino leaders who have made significant contributions to the State of Colorado for centuries. The Colorado Latino Hall of Fame's first members were inducted Tuesday evening, October 18, 2016.
The evening provided many highlights, first as Governor John Hickenlooper marveled at the great leaders to be inducted, including honorable Federico Peña. Hickenlooper said, "There has not been anyone of any ethnicity, who has done more for Colorado than Federico Peña."
As the awards were presented, we learned more about each inductee through video tributes, In one, Dr. Joe Vigil, honored for his seven decade coaching career and as the professor of altitude training said, "I was only coaching human performance, I became a mentor."
Federico Peña acknowledged, "I was able to see the value of my work every day, and that was very rewarding."
The Colorado Latino Hall of Fame seeks to honor Latinos from all sectors, who have contributed to the betterment of Colorado and it's citizens. The inaugural inductees include;
- Honorable Federico Peña, first and only Latino Mayor of Denver, Secretary of the Departments of Transportation and Energy, for Public Service
- Rod Tafoya, enterprising businessman known for his restaurants and shops in the concourse of first, Stapleton Airport, then Denver International Airport, for Business, Innovation, Science, and Technology
- Dr. Joe Vigil, pursuer of success, and coach at Adams State, who coached 425 All American Athletes, and 21 Olympians, for Arts, Entertainment, Media, and Sports
- Susana Cordova, champion for education, whose four decade career in Denver Public Schools spanned every level of K-12 education as teacher, department chair, principal and currently as Deputy Superintendent, for Unsung Hero
- Salazar Family Foundation, starting with Rob and Lola, success business owners and philantropic leaders. The couple founded the Salazar Family Foundation in 1999 with a mission to encourage Denver-area students to achieve their educational dreams, for Philanthropy and Community Service
- Las Animas County Senator Casimiro Barela, inducted posthumously, was the Father of the Colorado Senate, serving for 40 years in the Colorado State Legislature, he ensured that the Colorado Constitution was printed in English, Spanish and German for the sake of all citizens participation in Government, for Legacy
After honoring all six inaugural inductees, Joelle Martinez, Executive Director of the Latino Leadership Institute, spoke of the inspiration in her own family. She was specifically inspired by her grandmother, Ramona Martinez, who served as the first Latina President of the Denver City Council. She quoted, "It's important to be the first but our real obligation as leaders is to ensure that we are not the last."
Joelle lives up to those words through her work with the LLI and the Colorado Latino Hall of Fame.
There may be Latino Halls of Fame in other states, but none are backed by a program like the Latino Leadership Institute, which promotes Latino representation in leadership roles. The Institute is a rigorous nine-month certificate program for professional and executive Latinos. The Institute is supported by the University of Denver, which helps to offer a robust curriculum and practical application for the LLI Fellows, where they receive instruction in business, government, civic and non-profit leadership. In December 2015, the Institute graduated 19 fellows, thus far two-thirds of that Alumni have been promoted or appointed to a leadership position.
There are currently two cohorts of Fellows in the program, and applications are being accepted for the Winter 2017 Cohort.
Most inspiring was seeing both the graduated and current Fellows line the stage at the end of the evening. These Fellows represent the future of Colorado's Latino Leaders, and the mind races to consider what they will accomplish in coming years.