Executive Director

angell pérez, M.A.

Angell Pérez has been with CCFC since January 2012 and has extensive experience in youth development, community organizing and intentional anti-racist approaches to non-profit work. Angell served as the Director of Teen and Outreach Programs at Girls Inc. of Metro Denver for 5 years and previous to that she was the Program Manager for Denver City and County’s Youth Opportunity Girls Empowerment Program for 5 years under Mayor Wellington Web’s Administration. Angell has also worked at other local community organizations in the Denver area such as Mi Casa Resource Center and Denver Area Youth Services.

Under her leadership she has been responsible for growing the capacity of these organizations and leading equity and inclusiveness initiatives to meet the needs of youth and families in the Denver community. Angell brings strong passion for community, youth empowerment and intentional anti-racist approaches in community organizing. She received an independent bachelor of arts degree in Equity and Social Justice from Metropolitan State University of Denver with a Certification in Non-Profit Management and a Master of Arts in Ethnic Studies from Colorado State University with a Certificate In women’s Studies. Angell is also an alumni of the Community Resource Center’s Non-Profit Leadership and Management Program, the Spirit In Action; Standing In Our Power Transformative Leadership for Women of Color Program, The Denver Foundation’s Executive Directors of Color Institute and is a Transformational Leadership for Change Fellow.

Angell has a personal connection to CCFC’s mission as both her parents were incarcerated when she was a child and she also witnessed her brother become a target of the school to jail pipeline being arrested and detained at the age of 12. During the time CCFC founders were convening to combat the infamous summer of violence in Denver, Angell was a teen heavily entrenched in the violence that plagued communities of color in Denver and the police response that followed. Angell witnessed many friends and family members suffer from gang murders and incarceration. These incidents transformed her life and inspired her to fight for justice in poor communities of color that experience violence and criminalization. Angell believes in the beauty of healing, intergenerational community building, the resilience and strength in her community and is committed to providing opportunities for youth to reach their full potential and to heal, dismantle violence, stay out of criminal justice system and reach their full potential.

Operations & Program Manager

Itzel Santos

Itzel is a very proud first generation Mexican Amercian with both parents being from Zacatecas, Mexico. Being the oldest and the first one to graduate from high school in her family, she wants to be the exemplary role model for her younger siblings and other young people in her community. Itzel is an alumni of Denver East high school and grew up in Denver’s Park Hill neighborhood where she says she witnessed the school to jail pipeline affect many of her peers. She witnessed firsthand the inequities in discipline policies and how Brown and Black students were often targeted for harsher disciplinary actions. She feels strongly that she has a responsibility to her community and especially to the youth by participating in leadership programs such as Colorado Uplift, Readig Partners and as a Balarat counselor. Her activism has given her many skills to be an exemplary role model which she takes personally. During high school Itzel was encouraged to complete an internship which led her to one of CCFC’s partners, The Colorado Juvenile Defender Coalition in which she interned. This experience further opened her eyes to the need to support youth to stay out of the criminal justice system. Itzel joined the CCFC family because of the way CCFC supports youth and provides space for them to be empowered and have a voice to combat the criminalization of youth. CCFC will also be a great place for her to grow as a professional while she attends Metro State in the fall to pursue her dream of being the first one in her family to go to college and achieve her goal of becoming a social worker. CCFC is ecstatic to have her join the CCFC family!

Program Coordinator

Frida Fernanda Soto Leyva

Frida migrated to United States along with her mom when she was eight months old from Durango, Mexico. She was first generation to graduate high school from York International High School and with great efforts continued on to Metropolitan State University of Denver despite being ineligible for financial. Frida grew up, and lives in Globeville, Colorado. As a Mapleton Debate Alumni at Denver Urban Debate League and now debate coach at Denver West High School, Frida has fought to make space for youth of color in under resourced neighborhoods experiencing violence and incarceration. At an early age Frida witnessed many of the youth in her community experiencing unjust treatment in schools and in the neighborhood. She soon was able to connect the injustices of being a person of color to the school to prison pipeline and criminal justice system. As a student at MSU Denver she is active in connecting academia to grassroots work for justice. Frida began as an intern for Colorado Circle of Change where she wanted to learn more about healing harm caused by injustice, provide alternatives to the juvenile justice system for youth and reclaim her ancestral medicine. Frida has had a significant impact on youth who come through the doors of CCFC and upon completion of her internship she was hired as a Program Assistant which has furthered her impact. Frida has played a significant role in developing and implementing the Hueliti girls leadership Program, a program specifically for girls of color with the purpose of raising the consciousness of girls by equipping them with historical knowledge of their ancestors and elders, inspiring healing justice through a connection of ancestral cultural traditions, and developing skills so they can organize around issues impacting them. This experience has further opened her eyes to the need to support youth to stay out of the criminal justice system and become empowered, self-determined while embracing the medicine of their ancestors. Frida expects to graduate from Metropolitan State University of Denver in May 2020 and use this tool to continue to fight for the youth of Denver.

Program Coordinator

Frida Fernanda Soto Leyva

Frida migrated to United States along with her mom when she was eight months old from Durango, Mexico. She was first generation to graduate high school from York International High School and with great efforts continued on to Metropolitan State University of Denver despite being ineligible for financial. Frida grew up, and lives in Globeville, Colorado. As a Mapleton Debate Alumni at Denver Urban Debate League and now debate coach at Denver West High School, Frida has fought to make space for youth of color in under resourced neighborhoods experiencing violence and incarceration. At an early age Frida witnessed many of the youth in her community experiencing unjust treatment in schools and in the neighborhood. She soon was able to connect the injustices of being a person of color to the school to prison pipeline and criminal justice system. As a student at MSU Denver she is active in connecting academia to grassroots work for justice. Frida began as an intern for Colorado Circle of Change where she wanted to learn more about healing harm caused by injustice, provide alternatives to the juvenile justice system for youth and reclaim her ancestral medicine. Frida has had a significant impact on youth who come through the doors of CCFC and upon completion of her internship she was hired as a Program Assistant which has furthered her impact. Frida has played a significant role in developing and implementing the Hueliti girls leadership Program, a program specifically for girls of color with the purpose of raising the consciousness of girls by equipping them with historical knowledge of their ancestors and elders, inspiring healing justice through a connection of ancestral cultural traditions, and developing skills so they can organize around issues impacting them. This experience has further opened her eyes to the need to support youth to stay out of the criminal justice system and become empowered, self-determined while embracing the medicine of their ancestors. Frida expects to graduate from Metropolitan State University of Denver in May 2020 and use this tool to continue to fight for the youth of Denver.

Program Assistant & Youth Justice Apprentice

Maya Padilla

Growing up, Maya has always been drawn to activism and making her voice heard. As a young Native woman, Maya acknowledges that she, and others like her, has an exceptional target on her back. Because of that she considers her heritage to be a blessing and wants to help guide youth to finding where they come from is as well. Being a graduate from North High School and now a student at CCD, she has directly observed the harm that’s been done to her community and is on a mission to fight that harmful system. She embraces both of her identities, being a part of the Northern Arapaho tribe and also a Chicana. She grew up primarily in North Denver but often visits her home on the Wind River reservation in Wyoming. She believes her experiences of living both on the reservation and living in an urban environment have shaped her view of the world greatly. All of these experiences have informed her passion for helping her community and standing up for social, environmental, and economic justice. She was brought on the team as a Youth Justice Apprentice in January and felt drawn to the organization because of its values of cultural healing and dismantling white supremacy. She wants to continue to guide other youth like her and pursue her passion for activism through her work with CCFC.

Youth Justice Apprentice

Arturo Villa

Arturo Villa, born and raised in Denver, Colorado, is the son of immigrants from Chihuahua, Mexico. Having been fortunate to watch a couple family members attend and complete a higher education, Arturo followed in their footsteps and attended the University of Denver. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in both Psychology and Spanish. There, Arturo experienced multiple challenges, like culture shock, discrimination, and tokenization, that helped him understand how little resources and support are available to underrepresented students in the higher education system.

In light of that, he is committed to helping underrepresented youth, like him, accomplish their goals either during high school, after high school, or in higher education. Arturo excels in being a role model and leader, and he is motivated to share the knowledge, wisdom, and resources he has to support future youth. Being aware of the inherent racism that exists in society and its negative impact on communities of color, he hopes to work towards true equity and liberation for and alongside his community. Arturo believes that by working with CCFC to achieve transformative justice for youth impacted by the school to prison pipeline, we can create opportunities for youth to share their stories and live their lives free of criminalization.

Youth Justice Apprentice

Lacee Winn

Lacee is an African American and Creek native born in Chicago. She moved to Colorado when she was eleven years old. When she started middle school, she immediately realized how differently people treated her based on her race. Lacee also noticed how racism and lack of resources impacted her close and distant relatives.This played a huge role in her joining organizations and extracurriculars that focused on healing and empowering the BIPOC community, and it opened her mind to more opportunities to help the community.Lacee joined the CCFC community to push her understanding of anti-racism even further and help BIPOC youth like herself to survive and thrive in a country built to support only one majority. Working at CCFC is a great way for her to gain leadership skills, teamwork skills, and make a difference while working towards studying Criminal Justice at CU Denver this fall and eventually becoming a defense lawyer. When she’s not working or finishing up her senior year at DSST: CGHS, she enjoys reading and writing short stories.

Youth Justice Apprentice Manager

Ashly Villa

Being the oldest daughter of two Mexican immigrants and growing up in the Northside of Denver, Montbello, and Green Valley Ranch, Ashly is profoundly influenced and fueled by the love she has for her communities. Her experiences being raised in these communities have shaped her into the relentless advocate she is today. She is a mindful and visionary leader that works to make transformative change by using a racial justice lens in all the work she does. While at the University of Colorado Boulder, Ashly studied International Affairs and Ethnic Studies while earning a minor in Arabic and began to intentionally seek out ways to understand and dismantle systems of oppression in every part of her life. Her education and personal experiences have allowed her to understand that policy has historically not been accessible for her communities and many others, and she is dedicated to changing that reality. Currently, Ashly is a first year, first generation law student at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. With her law degree, Ashly hopes to be able to do her part to make the law more accessible and equitable to her communities. No matter where she goes, her goal is simple — to empower and uplift the stories of those who have historically been ignored, and she aims to continue that work in her role as the Youth Justice Apprenticeship Manager at Colorado Circles for Change.

Lead Volunteer

John Perez

John has been working with the Colorado Circles for Change Program (CCFC) for the last 5 years.

He understands and believes in the mission at CCFC which emphasizes La Cultura Cura (The Culture Cure) and supports youth in marginalized communities dealing with generational trauma. In John’s many years of serving youth, his social awareness has changed to a more culture centered approach filtered through his own lived experiences which requires the reclaiming of cultural identity. John is a Denver Chicano native and his sacred ancestry allows him to support not only his community, but other communities to reclaim a sense of lost cultural identity. John has over 24 years of experience working with youth in various systems which includes the Department of Youth Corrections, Probation, Diversion, and residential treatment programs.

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