About Us

CLLARO is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization located in the Montbello neighborhood of northeast Denver. Established in 1964, we serve our community as a resource for data-driven research which informs our leadership development and grassroots advocacy training programs. Our Mission is to empower Latinos through leadership development, advocacy, and research to strengthen Colorado, because we are working toward our Vision of a Colorado where Latinos are achieving their fullest potential. We do this because we believe that improving the lives of Latinos in Colorado improves the lives of all Coloradans.

CLLARO was established in 1964 (as LARASA) to be the first Latino-serving nonprofit in Colorado.

However, the concerns of Colorado Latinos have evolved; there are now over 1.1 million Latinos in Colorado, making up 21% of the population, yet: 25% of that population lives below the federal poverty level. 26% of that population lacks equitable access to affordable healthcare options. 33% of that population is incarcerated.

Major community concerns include: Access to affordable housing Access to quality healthcare Access to healthy, natural foods Access to quality childcare, pre- and post-secondary education Access to leadership development education Equal representation at both the local and national political level.

Our Story

In the face of discrimination, economic disparities, and a lack of political representation on local and national levels, Latinos in 1960s Colorado were determined to impact their communities for the better. With support from what is now known as the Mile High United Way, 27 local community leaders banded together to form the Latin American Research and Service Agency (LARASA) on March 13, 1964 – the first Hispanic/Latino-serving 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in the United States. Now known as the Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy and Research Organization (CLLARO), the organization has been working to serve as an advocate for the rights, concerns and successes of Colorado Latinos for over 50 years.

Our Mission

In line with the vision of the original founders, CLLARO’s ongoing mission is to empower Latinos through leadership development, advocacy, and research in order to address disparities in education, health, job readiness and social justice, with the goal that when Latinos are achieving their fullest potential, it strengthens Colorado.

Board of Directors

Leslie Colwell

Leslie Colwell

Board Member

Leslie Colwell serves as the Vice President of Education Initiatives at the Colorado Children’s Campaign, leading the organization’s work to improve education outcomes in Colorado. Prior to joining the Children’s Campaign team in August of 2014, Leslie was an associate at the Keystone Policy Center, where she initiated and facilitated the first education-focused stakeholder engagement work that Keystone had ever done. Leslie returned to her home state of Colorado in 2011 to work with State Senator Mike Johnston, managing his policy portfolio in the areas of education, immigration and transportation, successfully managing his office’s sponsorship of and work on SB13-033, the ASSET bill that allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at Colorado colleges and universities, among other legislation. She also established and directed the Urban Leaders Fellowship for three summers, a program that is now in its eighth year. Leslie worked on Teach For America’s national team supporting alumni interested in policy, advocacy, and running for office. Immediately after college she taught sixth grade math and Earth science as a TFA corps member in Los Angeles. Leslie holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from American University in Washington, D.C. and a teaching credential from the University of California – Los Angeles. She has served on CLLARO’s Board since 2016 because she believes the Capitol Fellowship Program is a powerful lever for preparing and developing the next generation of Colorado’s civic leaders.

Chris Martinez

Chris Martinez

Treasurer

Kirsten Vermulen

Kirsten Vermulen

Board Member

Kirsten is Program Director for the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation (Leadership Foundation) where she oversees issues-based leadership development programs for business and civic leaders and partnership initiatives. The Leadership Foundation, an affiliate of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, is focused on preparing and connecting leaders from the business and civic communities to strengthen Colorado. For over 40 years, the Leadership Foundation has been creating unique learning experiences for leaders throughout their careers to gain the networks and knowledge to lead more effectively in their communities and inspire a better future for Colorado.

Prior to joining the Leadership Foundation, Kirsten served as the Director of Education and Member Programs for Housing Colorado, an education and advocacy organization advancing safe, decent and affordable housing for all Coloradans. She began her nonprofit career at the Colorado Chautauqua Association in Boulder, Colorado, managing membership services and donor development initiatives for the historic cultural institution.

Kirsten is a graduate of Ohio University (B.A. in English and Theater) and Northpark University (Master of Nonprofit Administration). She currently serves on the CLLARO (Colorado Latino Leadership Advocacy and Research Organization), Dance To Be Free, and B:Civic board of directors and the advisory board of the Colorado Civic Health Network. Her past service includes the Human Services Network of Colorado board, Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver associate board, National Philanthropy Day in Colorado steering committee, and Mile High United Way literacy partner. She lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband, Scott. In their spare time, Kirsten and her husband lead an award-winning performance troupe that travels internationally promoting Denver’s reputation as a cultural hub.

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