Lupita’s Story: Paying It Forward

If you have ever visited Sister Carmen Community Center (SCCC), chances are you’ve crossed paths with Lupita. She has been one of our most active and enthusiastic participants ever since she first walked through our doors over a decade ago. Although in recent years, she’s usually the one giving help rather than receiving it.

Originally from Durango, Mexico, Lupita first came to the United States as a teenager in the late 1990s. She left a province with a lot of poverty and violence in search of a better life.

This mother of nine children, ranging in age from 2 to 22, has had her share of hardships, particularly toxic relationships with abusive and alcoholic partners. For 14 years, she did her best to raise her children as a single mother.

Lupita in front of the food bank mural she helped commission as a member of SCCC’s Participant Advisory Committee

Friends told her about SCCC in 2011, and she started taking classes here. First, it was the exercise (Zumba, yoga, walking club) and healthy cooking classes, then she learned about our parenting classes (Nurturing Parent, Active Parenting, and Circle of Parents), and finally she moved on to our computer-literacy (Bridging Digital Divides) and leadership (Family Leadership Training Institute – FLTI) classes. In addition to these programs, Lupita found that Sister Carmen offered resources that could help her. Our Advocates provided financial assistance for rent, utilities, and transportation when she had nowhere else to turn. They also connected her with our food bank and thrift store, as well as other agencies located within SCCC—like Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence (SPAN), which helps survivors of domestic violence; Mental Health Partners, which provides therapy, and the Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition (CSPC), which strives to ensure that children in marginalized communities have the same access to education as any other child.

After making the most of every opportunity provided by Sister Carmen, Lupita was eager to give back to SCCC and pay it forward in her community. She started by joining our Participant Advisory Committee (PAC), which provides feedback to improve SCCC programs and services, and also plans events, like Community Fun Nights, and special projects, like a recently completed mural in our food bank and an upcoming playground project. She’s also the first to volunteer whenever a need arises—whether it’s filling in for a class facilitator or speaking at an event.

She uses the leadership skills she learned at SCCC outside of our walls as well, in her professional life and as an advocate for her community. Lupita recognizes that, “There are a lot of barriers for people in my community—language, skin color, education. They have a lot of skills, but can’t grow because of these barriers.”

So she helps remove the barriers. She asks her community members about their needs and learns how she can offer support. If they’re uncomfortable calling various agencies on their own, she calls on their behalf. She helps her friend run a catering business. She advocates for other small business owners as well. She volunteers with the Family, Friend, and Neighbor (FFN) network of child-care providers and the Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition (CSPC) to promote the importance of early childhood education. She also provides child care for the Boulder Valley School District’s Families and Educators Together (FET) program. She helps facilitate lactation classes at the OUR Center in Longmont.

Two years ago, she started volunteering with Promotores Verdes (PV) —“Green Promoters”—a nonprofit that immerses families in nature and environmental activities. Lupita’s leadership skills were noticed at PV and she was hired by WRS Restoration, a company that plants trees to reforest mountain woodlands lost to wildfires, to lead the Spanish-speaking volunteers. She’s also involved with the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Commerce City and with Nature Kids at Thorne Nature Experience. Lastly, she’s an activist speaking up for the rights of immigrants. Lupita is not yet a U.S. citizen, but plans to apply as soon as she’s eligible next year.

This 40-year-old powerhouse wears a lot of hats—mother, teacher, volunteer, advocate, activist. And she’s grateful to SCCC for giving her the support and skills she needed to fulfill all of these roles, especially as a single mother and immigrant.

“Sister Carmen is my second home,” she shares. “It has always been a warm, welcoming, non-judgmental place where I could turn for help. It brought tranquility to my family in stressful times and gave me hope that everything would be okay.”

After living in Boulder County for over 25 years, Lupita recently moved out of our service area to live with her new partner and the father of her two youngest children. He’s been on the scene since 2015 and has opened his heart to Lupita and her whole crew. He purchased a home for the family in Dacono. He works hard to provide for them and supports Lupita in all her pursuits. Initially Lupita was sad to leave Boulder County because they couldn’t afford to buy a home here, but now she sees that Dacono may be where she’s meant to be. There are a lot of plans to improve the growing community, and of course she wants to help. We’re just grateful she still has the energy to keep giving back at SCCC as well!

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