Decades of public service and leadership and advocacy work positioned Yunuen Cisneros perfectly for the African Leadership Group’s Leadership Africa program.
Yunuen’s list of accomplishments and public service is long and distinguished. She worked with the International Red Cross on earthquake relief in her native Mexico following the devastating earthquake of 1985 that killed more than 10,000 people. She also worked on national political campaigns there, and helped elect the first woman senator from Mexico City.
Since moving to the Denver area in 2000 with her husband, a native Coloradan, Yunuen has been equally busy, working a variety of jobs that have always kept her close to community. At first she was a stay-at-home mom for her two daughters, but she began volunteering in schools almost immediately.
“I discovered that your school experience depends on your Zip Code, the color of your skin, and where you come from,” she said. “So I had to learn advocacy, and I had to be more active in their education.”
Characteristically, Yunuen’s advocacy did not stop at her own children. Soon, she said, advocating for other underserved students became a kind of shadow career, and then, before long, into full-time employment. She worked in Aurora Public Schools as an interpreter and translator, as an AVID tutor in Cherry Creek Schools, and for the Schools of Choice office in Denver Public Schools, as a recruiter for the University Prep elementary charter schools as well as DSST Public Schools.
She also worked for the now closed Escuela Tlaltelolco, Regis High School, and the advocacy organization Stand for Children.
In her spare time, she volunteered helping DPS rally support for mill levy and bond issue elections among Latino families.
Yunuen currency works for the Public Education and Business Coalition, where she acts as recruitment coordinator for the nonprofit’s teacher residency programs. In her short time at PEBC, Yunuen said, she has boosted the minority student participation in the teacher residency program from 20 percent to 40 percent.
Her involvement with ALG began when she was working in recruitment for Aurora Public Schools, and attended various ALG events. She met Founder and Executive Director Papa Dia. Eventually, that led to her becoming a member of the third cohort of Leadership Africa.
Yunuen has found Leadership Africa to be a transformative experience, even with her extensive prior leadership experience.
“I went to last year’s graduation, and the graduates told me to be ready to get rid of all of our stereotypes and other ideas we had about people from different cultures,” she said. “It doesn’t matter that we are all people of color, we still have our biases.”
During the sessions so far, Yunuen said, “we discuss very deep feelings and difficult situations. I love it. I feel like some of these people are already part of my family, like I have more brothers and sisters.”