Board of Directors
Michele Terese Trujillo was born and raised in the San Luis Valley. Working as a professional educator for the past 15 years and currently serving as Principal for the South Conejos School District, she is concerned with social and Environmental Justice issues of the rural communities in the Valley.
How these inequities impact education for students is her primary focus, and Michele presents nationally and internationally on educational topics and has publications that focus on the educational implications for culturally and linguistically diverse students in rural schools.
Michele earned a doctoral degree in education in 2011 from Northern Arizona University, a master’s degree in special education in 1999 from the University of Northern Colorado, and a BA in music in 1994 from Colorado State University.
Michele is actively involved in her community by serving on various committees and is a valued member of the CCW board through her school and community connections.
She also enjoys being with her family and friends, and the outdoor pursuits of hiking, camping, and snowshoeing. She keeps current on her musical talents with the St. Augustine’s Choir and Bishop’s Ten Band.
Reyes García received his Ph.D. in 1988, and retired from Fort Lewis College as full Professor of Philosophy in 2011. After thirty years of teaching, he moved back year-round to his family ranch on El Rio de Los Conejos.
His favorite employment since he was very young, however, has been working on the family ranches, especially the job of irrigating the riverbottom vegas, or meadows. Reyes currently resides in a classic adobe home that dates to the 1850s, when his antepasados ("those who came before") first settled along the rio.
Professor Garcia’s classes at Fort Lewis encompassed Religious, Environmental, Southwest and Indigenous Studies, as well as writing and the history of philosophy. Prior to this from 1983-1987, he taught at The Colorado College and returned in 1996 as Endowed Chair of Southwestern Studies. And from 1991 - 1992, he served as a resident postdoctoral fellow at the Chicano Studies Research Center at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Among his numerous publications are "Homeland Ethics" in Culture, Ecology, Politics and "Ecological Ethics," in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Latino/as in the United States. His two daughters, Lana and Tania, are also pursuing academic careers at the state universities of Colorado and New Mexico.
Reyes also serves on the board of directors for KRZA community radio and the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area. He recently submitted written testimony in a local Conejos Clean Water court case, arguing against hydraulic fracturing in el Valle de San Luis.
Andrea Guajardo was a founding member in 2010, and elected to Executive Director in 2011, which she served through July 2015. A native of Antonito, she holds a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering from Colorado School of Mines. Ms. Guajardo recently completed a USEPA Administrator appointment on the National Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC), where she served on the Public Participation and Permitting Workgroups during her term from 2012-2015. These connections provided opportunity for presentations of CCW’s work to be made nationwide, most notably at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, N.C., Western State, and Tewa Women United in Los Alamos.
As a first order of business for CCW, Andrea resolved a dispute with the Department of Energy involving a transfer of radioactive waste to rail in the town of Antonito. Her consistent advocacy for fair public process resulted in a legal settlement for compliance with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) guidelines, and the project was ultimately terminated.
CCW’s early success under her leadership empowered the community to address a wide range of other issues and project involvements. To name a few, these include: Prevention of low altitude flights from Cannon AFB disturbing people, livestock, and wildlife; advisement on BLM siting and mitigation of Solar Energy Zones; development of a Solar Energy Garden serving energy needs of local residents; building capacities of local communities to plan recycling programs; and an ongoing effort to empower community members by discovering historic rights to land.
Prior to working for CCW, Andrea managed a plethora of projects to protect environment in Colorado, Texas, and California. These included: improvements in roaster technology at a Maxwell House plant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; redesign of cooling towers to increase efficiency and reduce electrical consumption; and designing systems to reduce degenerative chemicals and electro-conductivity from a cheese plant waste stream.
Project management experience, coupled with her unique voice rooted for generations in an Environmental Justice community, helped her to understand the importance of building relationships and to advocate for the social changes needed in the community. She is currently president of Rural Project Services which provides management assistance in rural Colorado.
Justin is an Antonito native who recently returned home to give back to his community and be closer to family. His family has been farming and ranching in Conejos County for multiple generations.
At an early age, he was fascinated with traveling and took the first opportunity to get out and see the world. He was one of sixteen Americans chosen to be a citizen ambassador for the U.S. Department of State LINC Program in Tunisia in 2005. His experience in northern Africa inspired him to study abroad again, and he received a scholarship for a full-year of study in Germany on the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) program.
After returning from Germany and graduating high school, he headed off to Colorado College on scholarships from the Daniels Fund, Hispanic Annual Salute, and CC Presidential Fund. While at Colorado College, he explored his interests, including courses in Native American and Mexican American Literature. After another year abroad in Göttingen, Germany, Justin graduated cum laude with a BA in German Language and Culture in 2012.
Immediately after graduating, he embarked on what would turn out to be a three-year journey to Germany and other European countries. While in Germany, he taught English at the University of Bremen and German for high school exchange students from the United States, Thailand, and China. In addition, he returned to Colorado College in 2014 and 2017 to teach a month-long, intensive German Theatre course and direct Das letzte Feuer and Verruecktes Blut.
Upon his latest return from Europe, Justin founded Valleybound, the Antonito School and Community Garden, which serves as an empowering educational space, offering a variety of activities for youth and adults alike. Educating and empowering community remains his main focus as he works on his Master in Public Health with a concentration in Community Health and a Graduate Certificate in Race and Social Justice from the University of New Mexico.
Demetrio A. Valdez is a fifth generation resident of Conejos County whose great, great grandfather was Seledonio Valdez, one of three men who received the Los Conejos Land Grant from Mexico. Some of Demetrio’s ancestors had the land grant from Spain, and some were members of the De Vargas expedition in July 1694. The night camp of July 12, 1694, was at the Punta El Codo on the Valle Escondido Ranch, where Demetrio and his wife Olive currently make their home.
After graduation from high school, Demetrio took on the family ranch work after his father became crippled, and the Valle Escondido was acquired in 1968.
In 1969, Demetrio started learning all he could about raising beef, and over the next 32 years produced fat-free beef (less than 1% fat) from his herd of pure-bred Blonde D’Aquitaine cattle. Some of his mentors during this time included the International Beef Breeders, International Stockmen’s School, and Dr. Marie Bonsma from South Africa.
Markets for the Valle Escondido breeding stock and products soon developed all over the U.S., and into Mexico and South America. Fat-free beef is sold at Wild Oats and Alfalfas stores.
After the drought of 2002, and stress of operating a cattle operation, Demetrio considered the options and created a new business based on the special qualities of the sand and clay deposits in the ranch gravel pit. This also sustained the ranch operation and products from this venture were marketed as “traditional toxic-free adobe bricks.”
But after three injuries in 2013 and 2014, he decided to downsize and sold the gravel pit. Demetrio and Olive are now considered semi-retired, and are maintaining the ranch and livestock using sustainable agricultural practices. Organic certification was obtained, but they found this too expensive to continue.
Water management on the ranch has required more attention than the past, and although the ranch has senior water rights on the San Antonio, this can be tricky due to sheet flooding and beaver activity. Valle Escondido also participates in the Habitat Conservation Program for the endangered Willow Flycatcher.
Alfonzo Abeyta was born April 25, 1938, in Conejos County where he still lives and ranches to this day. From the time it started generations ago by five founding members, the family still raises sheep, cattle, barley, and hay under the “Quarter Circle Lazy Five” brand. Mr. Abeyta’s parents, siblings, sons, daughters, and grandchildren still follow a traditional ranching lifestyle -- a work at which all are adept, and a work they love and aspire to be the very best at.
A veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Alfonzo returned to follow his agrarian roots in 1961, and in 1968, he had saved and planned enough to purchase his first piece of land and some livestock. With an unwavering work ethic and his profound love for crops and animals, the ranch increased to its present size to preserve the Abeyta legacy into the present day.
While many ranchers resort to chemicals to fertilize their crops, Alfonzo believes in a more responsible way of managing his farmlands, using the all-natural fertilizers of compost from farm animals and chickens. Combined with scientifically-based crop rotations, these traditional ways and local knowledge are producing healthier and safer crops.
Currently operated by Alfonzo, wife Martha, and sons and grandsons Andrew and Amos, Alfonzo represents the third generation of the business and serves as the family patriarch, a role he relishes and respects. The same dedication and support has been shown for his participation on the Conejos Clean Water Board, and we appreciate his contribution.
Ceema lives in Denver, CO, where she has been involved in social justice organizing for most of her life. She began working with Colorado ACORN as a community organizer in 1999 and from there began working with organizations such as Denver Copwatch and the Transform Columbus Day Alliance. She also headed a student organization on the Auraria Campus called the Indigenous Support Network for several years, and was an active participant in the anti-war movement of the early 2000’s. Ceema has worked conducting street outreach with homeless youth, as a counselor for HIV positive children and teens, and as a service coordinator for young people living in transitional housing. After completing her BA in Political Science she moved to New York where she earned a Master’s in Social Work and was employed as a Forensic Social Worker in the New York City family courts. She went on to pursue a Master’s in Public Administration from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and worked as a policy fellow for the Prisoner Reentry Institute. Ceema returned to her beloved Denver to work for Padres and Jovenes Unidos as the Student Rights Hotline Coordinator, advocating for students experiencing school push out. She became connected with Conejos Clean Water through teaching at MSU Denver, when her students conducted a program evaluation of the Valleybound, the Antonito School and Community Garden. Ceema is currently a doctoral student at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work.
Linda Smith is a fifth-generation Conejos County resident. She has earned degrees in Psychology and in Business/Human Resource Management from CU Boulder and Western Governors University. After returning from serving an LDS mission in Japan in 1988, she spent several years as a supervisor for the Department of Workforce Services in the state of Utah. While there she enjoyed volunteer work with Literacy Volunteers of America as an ESL coach for Polish refugees. Her time in Utah drove home to her the importance of health care, quality education, nutritious food, and a healthy environment to enable justice, equality, and socioeconomic mobility.
In 1997 Linda moved to Eugene, Oregon. She continued her passion for advocacy in a healthcare setting where she developed a very successful program to help uninsured and underinsured people identify and access medical resources. She also worked on the development of a system-wide medical charity program for PeaceHealth, a healthcare system which at the time consisted of five hospitals and numerous clinics in three states.
Linda returned to the San Luis Valley in 2010 to be near family and was deeply affected by the recognition that above all other places, this is home. She is co-founder and co-chair of Conejos Writers Circle. With her family, she owns Alacrity House Publishing, publisher of the annual Circle Book anthology and other books by local authors. Linda’s current position as Coordinator for the San Luis Valley Emergency Preparedness and Response Program allows her to work with public health agencies and partners throughout the six counties of the San Luis Valley Region, as well as across the state. She serves on San Luis Valley Regional Emergency Medical and Trauma Advisory Council, the San Luis Valley Medical Reserve Corps Advisory board, and the San Luis Valley All-Hazards Committee. She currently serves as Chair of the San Luis Valley East Healthcare Coalition and as a Colorado Healthcare Coalition Council officer.
Ely joined the Board in December of 2016. He grew up on a small farm in Eastern Colorado and has lived in the San Luis Valley since 2015. He is married to Kelsey Jo Hurley Walker who is a fourth generation resident of the Valley.
For his undergraduate degree, he attended Colorado State University in Fort Collins. He received his MD from the University of Colorado School of Medicine where he was inducted into the Gold Humanism Honor Society. He is board certified in Family Medicine and additionally completed a fellowship in Rural Obstetrics. He also received a Master’s in Public Health from the Colorado School of Public Health where he studied Rural Work Force Retention. During this time, he learned to appreciate the concept of justice, particularly social justice which “argues that public health is properly a public matter and that its results in terms of death, disease, health and well-being reflect the decisions and actions that a society makes, for good or for ill”.1
Ely has completed several short-term international medical trips, both to Uganda and Papua New Guinea, doing inpatient, outpatient and obstetrical care. During medical school, he worked with the homeless population at the Stout Street Clinic as well as organized free health screenings for uninsured farmers and ranchers at the National Western Stock Show and the Cinco de Mayo events in Denver.
Ely and his wife Kelsey enjoy spending time outdoors with their son Grant. Ely enjoys gardening, hiking, trail riding and fly fishing, as well as throwing pottery. He moved to the Valley to be close to family and currently works at the Monte Vista Medical Clinic and Rio Grande Hospital Emergency Department. He also serves as the medical director for Saguache County Public Health.
1. Krieger N, Brin AE. A Vision of Social Justice as the Foundation of Public health: Commemorating 150 years of the spirit of 1848. Am J Public Health. 1998;88:1603-1606.
Tanya Mote is the Associate Director at Su Teatro Cultural and Performing Arts Center where she has practiced for 20 years to become a better fundraiser, organizational development facilitator, and audience engagement specialist. She has served on dozens of panels for the National Endowment for the Arts, Colorado Creative Industries, the National Performance Network and Theater Communications Group. Tanya teaches in the Arts Management and Global Affairs programs at DU’s University College. For four years, she has served as a track coordinator along with several colleagues nationally, for the Resourcing and Sustaining Our Movements track at the Allied Media Conference in Detroit. She is a facilitator for the Colorado Creative Industries Change Leader Institute and serves as a board member for Working Narratives, Conejos Clean Water and Art2Action, organizations located in Wilmington, North Carolina; Antonito, Colorado; and Tampa, Florida, respectively. Previous board service has included six years with the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training and the National Performance Network. Tanya holds a Ph.D in International Studies from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies – DU.
Tyler Grimes, originally from Pratt, Kansas, and Platte City, Missouri, moved to Colorado to pursue rock climbing while working on a B.A. in Convergence Journalism from Metro State of Denver. Over summer breaks during his undergraduate studies, Tyler raft guided on the Arkansas River in Buena Vista. After graduating in 2012, he moved to the Arkansas River Valley full time and began working as a freelance journalist.
From 2014 to 2016, Tyler attended Western State Colorado University’s Masters of Environmental Management program, working on a fuel efficient stove project in Western Kenya. Expanding a carbon offset model established by Eco2librium, the Enduru Sustainable Development project created jobs for a rural, impoverished village, and built a dormitory for a small orphanage.
Since completing his masters, Tyler has taught Environmental Science at Colorado Mountain College, continued multimedia journalism and guiding, as well as started a food distribution service serving Central Colorado.