Meet the CLLARO Staff
Mike Cortés is Scholar in Residence and Special Community Member at the DU Graduate School of Social Work, where he previously served on the faculty and taught graduate courses in public policy analysis and social policy advocacy. His continuing research interests include (1) income security and care for disabled Latino elders, (2) policy analysis and advocacy by public charities, and (3) improvement of policy practice curricula in schools of social work.
Mike's previous faculty and administrative appointments have been at the University of Colorado Denver, the University of San Francisco, and the University of California, Berkeley.
Today, Mike spends most of his time volunteering for nonprofit organizations. Formerly a member of the board of directors of the Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy, and Research Organization (CLLARO), he now volunteers as executive director. CLLARO is a non-profit organization in Denver established in 1964 to help Latinos in Colorado solve problems facing their communities. Until 2007, CLLARO was known as the Latin American Research and Service Agency (LARASA).
Leadership Program & Communications Manager
Alejandra Colmenero has been in the non-profit sector since 2011 –– both as a professional and a volunteer.
Her journey began when she got involved with UNICEF USA in efforts to fight human trafficking and educate others on the global issue. Alejandra's passion for UNICEF's work led her to launch the first UNICEF college chapter in Denver: UNICEF at MSU. She then became founder of the first UNICEF Unite team in Colorado, formerly known as the Congressional Action Team (CAT). The first two years as a CAT/UNICEF Unite leader Alejandra focused her efforts on advocating for children's rights with Congressmen/women, both in Washington D.C. and in-district.
Her passion to make the world a better place led her to seek local involvement in non-profits advocating for Latinos. She joined the Colorado Latino Leadership Advocacy Research Organization (CLLARO) managing the CLLARO Capitol Fellowship Program (CFP) –– a leadership internship consisting of college students interning with Colorado legislators and other public policy makers.
Aside from the non-profit work, Alejandra also enjoys her talent role as actor in commercials for television, social media, and print modeling for different businesses.
Alejandra obtained her B.A. from the Metropolitan State University of Denver in Hospitality Management, focusing on hotel administration and sustainable tourism.
Education Programs Manager
Zarah Levy manages CLLARO’s Parents Advocating for Local Schools (PALS) program. In addition, she manages CLLARO policy advocacy for fair wage, affordable housing and other issues.
She has extensive professional experience in community organizing and public policy advocacy, parent engagement and empowerment, nonprofit grants management, research and evaluation, group training and facilitation, social media, project management, and leadership development and mentorship.
Prior to CLLARO, Levy was the Clayton Early Learning Policy and Grants Specialist and Parent Ambassador Program Denver Project Lead. At Clayton, Levy supported and managed the building of a new statewide Coalition service Pregnant People, Expecting Families, Infants and Toddlers, alongside two co-conveners.
At Colorado Network to End Human Trafficking she was the Hotline Supervisor and Advocate Backup. In addition to hiring and managing advocates, she developed and delivered content for more than 50 hours of in-depth Human Trafficking training for all incoming advocates.
In Greater Los Angeles, Levy was on the Community Organizing/Leadership Team of A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition where she created a large grassroots community action network with over 200 local coalitions in Southern California to stop war and end racism. She worked to engage specific communities in direct action, targeting youth and women for leadership in the movement.
Zarah is a graduate of Metropolitan State University of Denver where she has taught courses in human trafficking, women’s studies, and political science. She received the Spirit of Service Award from the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking and the Denver Public School Volunteer Award.
Policy Research and Analysis Manager
Emily was born and raised in El Paso, TX. For the past 20 years, she has called Denver home. She lives in Southwest Denver and loves being in a neighborhood that reminds her how beautiful her culture is.
Emily studied poetry at the University of Colorado Denver and graduated summa cum laude with a BA in English writing. After a year in law school, she decided that a career in law was not for her and redirected her studies towards a master’s in public administration.
Emily has worked as a banker, a childcare worker, a retail manager, a school administrator, a small business owner/artist, a health policy research analyst, and program manager. While her careers have all enriched her skills, her most satisfying role is her current role as a public policy research and analysis program manager at the Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy, and Research Organization (CLLARO). In this role, Emily is able to do work that benefits the Latino community and is truly impactful and fulfilling.
As the mother of two tween/teen daughters, Emily is passionate about getting youth involved in advocacy and empowerment. Along with her husband, she works to empower young Latinas and their parents. In her free time, Emily takes care of her extensive plant collection and does home improvement projects. She hopes that she can be an outspoken advocate for the Latino community.
Vicky is originally from California and has called Colorado home for the last 20 years. She graduated from the University of Northern Colorado in 2005 with a degree in Spanish and a minor in Mexican American Studies.
Vicky is currently a dual Master’s student enrolled at University of Denver’s Graduate School of Social Work and the Colorado School of Public Health. She has focused her studies to work with the Latino Population in Colorado and hopes to impact policy changes to be inclusive of her community.
After a year's internship working with CLLARO, Vicky has returned to CLLARO to contribute her knowledge of working in health care and resource information to work as a Resource Navigator for the Colorado community.