Recognizing and acknowledging Latina founders and program alumni were one of the themes at this year’s Mi Casa Women’s Empowerment Fund Luncheon. 7NEWS Anchor Anne Trujillo, a former Mi Casa board member, welcomed more than 150 guests for the 2nd Annual Women’s Empowerment Luncheon at Mi Casa offices in Denver’s historic Baker neighborhood.

Executive Director Christine Marquez-Hudson reviewed the history, achievements and challenges during her six-year tenure and announced a new 3-year $690,000 grant from the Kellogg Foundation to integrate business and career training programs.

Marquez-Hudson recognized early founders and directors including Carol Hildebrand and Ermalinda Monge. Among others in attendance were: Veronica Barela, Patricia Barela Rivera, Angelena Gleason, Roweena Naidoo, and Mary Ricketson, Teri Chavez, Jeri Barajas, Martha Rubi Byers, Angela Montoya Bricmont and Mi Casa board members Benita Duran, Amy Kahn, Debbie Trujillo.

Keynote speaker Kim M. Rivera shared her immigrant journey from Latin American orphan to global Fortune 500 corporate executive.

Needless to say, it wasn’t easy. Without friends or family with intimate knowledge of higher education scholarships, grants and student loans, she had to figure things out for herself. Arriving fresh off an airplane in North Carolina the wide-eyed freshman asked the cab driver to drop her off at Duke University. The driver scoffed and explained that the 9,000-acre campus was comprised of more than 200 buildings.

Thanks to family support and many helpful mentors along the way she navigated the campus, class work, and workload to compete with the best of the best, eventually graduating from Duke and Harvard Law School.

Today, Rivera serves as the Chief Legal Officer for DaVita Healthcare Partners, and has remembered the men and women throughout her life who helped her through the undergrad and law school maze of competing priorities. Rivera told the audience to learn quickly how things work, set goals, and strive to “pay it forward” and lend others a helping hand when possible.

Mi Casa works to advance the economic success of Latino and working families by expanding opportunities for educational, professional and entrepreneurial advancement. For more information on Mi Casa visit www.micasaresourcecenter.org