Servicios de la Raza

There’s Nothing Basic About This Training

By Kirsten Akens

Ask Julissa Soto, Director of Statewide Programs for the Colorado Springs’ branch of the Denver-based nonprofit Servicios de la Raza, what work the organization is doing and she’ll tell you, “Protecting our community, educating our community, empowering our community.”

Ask Beatriz Guerrero, who has participated in multiple La Raza programs over the past few months, the same question and she says, “It’s showing me a new me.”

The stay-at-home mom of a 12-year-old daughter and a 4-year-old son is currently a part of La Raza’s free Bootcamp program that meets twice a week, on Tuesdays at Memorial Park Family Center YMCA and Thursdays at Deerfield Hills Community Center. Each class session is an hour, and she says the cardio and strength-training exercises are “not easy,” but they’ve turned her into something she never expected.
“I did not know I was a runner,” she says with a smile, “and I guess I have a little runner in me.”

She’s not the only runner in her family now though. “I feel that I’m an example for my kids. They see me active, now they’re active as well. They see me motivated. I’m motivated pretty much now all the week to get up and do exercise so, you know, they’re doing it with me too. My daughter’s in school, but my son … I tell him mama’s gonna go run and he’s happy to come with me.”

Before Bootcamp, Guerrero also took La Raza’s no-cost Nutrition program, and her kids have participated twice in Salsa, Sabor Y Salud, an age-appropriate program that teaches kids about healthy eating, staying active outdoors, and limiting screen time.

Salsa, Sabor Y Salud is not only age-appropriate, but evidence-based and linguistically appropriate. In fact, says Soto, all of La Raza’s programs were designed specifically for the Latino community. “Everyone on our staff is bilingual, bicultural, and everyone on our staff is not judgmental. … We respect very much the culture and the values that we were raised and brought up in.”

Funding from Colorado Springs Health Foundation not only supports these programs, which on a very basic level introduce the city’s parks and rec department and outdoor activities to the Latino community, but it also provides some access to care, such as helping connect Latino families to safety net clinics and federally qualified clinics in El Paso County, or offering child care while a mom attends Bootcamp.

Of course, though many of the individuals who take advantage of La Raza’s programs are moms and their kids, they’re open to the whole family. Even Bootcamp.

“One time, this one lady brought her husband. I’m pretty sure — ’cause most of us are ladies, moms — he thought, you know, ‘Oh it’s just a bunch of ladies, it’s gonna be an easy thing. … I’m just gonna impress these ladies.’ No. By not even half of the class he was already tired,” Guerrero says, laughing. “You know, we have a tremendous stamina. Every one of us has been with the program for a while now and we could see how far we’ve come.”

“I think it helps in different ways to all of us,” she adds. “It has changed our lives and it feels good.”