| Bordas named 2009 Unique Woman of Colorado - By William Porter of The Denver Post|
From her stint as a young Peace Corps volunteer in Chile to her role as head of Mestiza Leadership International, a company that pushes corporate diversity, Juana Bordas has devoted her adult life to the Latina community.
That's why she has been named the 2009 Unique Woman of Colorado.
"It was a real honor to be singled out, but the thing I want to emphasize is that the work I do is really collaborative and involves so many women," Bordas said. The award, presented Monday, recognizes those whose work has benefited women and girls in Colorado.
Bordas moved to Denver in 1971. Six years later she co-founded the Mi Casa Women's Center. She served as first president and chief executive of the National Hispana Leadership Institute. And in 2001 she started the Circle of Latina Leadership, a program that to date has trained 130 women for community leadership roles.
Her book, "Salsa, Soul and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age," won a 2008 Latino International Leadership Award.
"Part of the award is for the ripple effect of her work," said Susan Walters of the Women's Foundation of Colorado. "She not only has done a great job with her own work and mentoring, but in spreading it out through the community makes it bigger than herself."
Bordas, 66, grew up in Tampa, Fla. Her parents brought her from Nicaragua when she was 3 years old. "We literally sailed up on a banana boat," she said.
Her mother, who scrubbed floors and worked in a lunchroom to help make ends meet, managed to wrangle her youngest child a scholarship to a Catholic high school. Bordas excelled academically and eventually earned degrees at the University of Florida and University of Wisconsin.
She heard President John F. Kennedy speak when she was 19. It set off a spark in her.
"You can't imagine the reaction in my soul to see this man who talked about public service," Bordas said. "What was going through my mind was how to give back what I'd been given."
From 1964 to 1966 she served in the Peace Corps in Chile. There she reconnected with her Latina roots. "It was like a flower being given water," she said. "I'd never seen a person from my own culture in a position of authority."
Bordas, with three adult daughters who are college graduates, was proud to see Sonia Sotomayor's May 26 nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. "It's amazing how far we've come," she said.
Her advice to young women: "Don't try to do it all - at least all at once."
The Unique Woman of Colorado award is sponsored by the Women's Foundation of Colorado, Lockheed Martin and The Denver Post.
Also being honored by the Women's Foundation with an honorable mention is Audrey Friedman Marcus, an educator and publisher who has long advocated for women's rights.
This story originally appeared here at DenverPost.com.