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Following Her Dreams


Leticia came to the United States from Mexico when she was in her mid-20s along with her husband and infant daughter.

“We moved to America seeking better opportunities and jobs. I wanted to raise my daughter somewhere she could grow up and realize her dreams. That wasn’t possible in Mexico. There were no jobs, limited access to education, no basic services.”

Now at the age of 47, with her daughter having recently graduated college and her 11-year-old son doing well in school, Leticia is able to focus on her new beginning. *Leticia is a star client at Mile High United Way Center for Family Opportunity at College View Elementary in Southwest Denver. It’s one of two new Centers supported by Mile High United Way that are based on a proven national integrated services model of bringing together best-in-their-field resources in a centralized location.

“I’ve been a cook at a Mexican restaurant for 22 years. I’m grateful to be steadily employed, but I’ve always wanted more. Now, because of the Center for Family Opportunity, I can work on my goals.”

In its inaugural year, the Center at College View Elementary worked intensively with 200 clients to help support their needs and get them on the path to economic stability.

“Most of our participants are from right here from the neighborhood surrounding the school. In fact, a lot are parents of kids at the school. It’s convenient and there is a level of trust because the school is so well-respected in the community,” said Shaunay Vafeades, Manager of Adult Self-Sufficiency Services for Denver Public Schools, who manages the program at College View Elementary. “The Center has swiftly become a critical part of the community. All our services are free, and with 98% of students in this school on free or reduced lunch program, it’s a highly impacted neighborhood that benefits greatly from this support.” *Leticia has taken advantage of every class and workshop offered at the Mile High United Way Center for Family Opportunity including English language and GED, computer skills and financial literacy. In fact, she is the first client planning to take her GED test.

“Once I have my GED, I hope to apply to college. I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. The teachers in my children’s lives were so inspirational, and I want to be able to help young people discover the joy of learning. I finally feel like I have the chance to go after my dream.”

“She’d be an incredible teacher,” says Shaunay. “Leticia already serves as a role model and mentor for many of the other program participants. She has an incredible work ethic and is really enthusiastic about implementing what she learns. She is so positive and supportive of the other students.”

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