Published: Feb. 14, 2018 By

Do you know the story of local Latina hero and health care advocate Alicia Sanchez?

If you are a student attending Alicia Sanchez International Elementary School in Lafayette, CO, you might know that your school is named after Sanchez, a committed Latina community advocate who founded Clínica Family Health in 1977.

But many in Boulder County may not know Sanchez’ name or that she is a hometown hero whose impact is still being felt in the community. To tell her inspiring story and help preserve her legacy, three CU Boulder students wrote, illustrated and published a children’s book in English and Spanish, titled Mi Mamá, Alicia Sanchez.

CU Boulder students Andrea Baeza, Hannah Mook and L. LeNard, all in the final stages of finishing their undergraduate degrees, began the project while they were part of  CU Engage’s INVST Community Studies Program. With assistance from CU Boulder Professor Emeritus Marjorie K. McIntosh and the Boulder County Latino History Project, they wrote and illustrated the children’s book about Sanchez’s life of service to Boulder County. The book seeks to educate and inspire young people and grown-ups alike.

“For me, as an immigrant to the United States from Latin America and an ESL learner, the process of creating this book has been cathartic and important,” says Baeza, one of the students who authored the book. “It feels like a small step toward creating a more accurate and supportive educational system.”

Sanchez was a single mother of seven children. She didn’t finish high school and suffered from Lupus. Her dedication and commitment to the Latino community in Boulder County earned her the title “la medica” (the doctor) because of the ways she helped Boulder County Latinos access low-cost, quality medical care, including driving people to Denver.

Although Sanchez passed away in 1983, Baeza, Mook and LeNard collaborated with Sanchez’s daughter, Eleanor Montour, and Sanchez’s granddaughter to develop an in-depth understanding of her life and contributions, which formed the basis for their book.

The collaboration began as the students’ Serving-Organizing-Leading (SOL) Project, a community-based capstone project required of all INVST students in their final year of the program. Remarkably, Baeza, Mook and LeNard continued their work on the book after completing the INVST program in 2017, bringing the bilingual, published book to fruition.

“I am most proud of this book when I think of the reaction from Eleanor Montour [Alicia Sanchez’s daughter],” says environmental studies major L. LeNard. “I would not feel this book project were a success if Eleanor had not been with us every step of the way. Listening to her and sharing her story was one of the most beautiful things I have ever done in my life.”

A book launch is being held for the school community and special guests later this month; it will celebrate how Sanchez and Montour have impacted the community and commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Clínica Sanchez helped start.

The authors will be on hand to sign their books and answer questions from the elementary school students. The book launch is sponsored by the school and the Clínica, with support from the Boulder County Latino History Project and the Sanchez/Razo/Montour families.

McIntosh, distinguished professor emerita of history at CU Boulder and a founder of the Boulder County Latino History Project says the book project illustrates CU Boulder’s commitment to community engagement, noting that CU Boulder’s Office for Outreach and Engagement and the Boulder Valley and St. Vrain Valley education associations contributed funds to donate books to all 150 school district libraries.

“It is wonderful that three CU Boulder undergraduates were able to use the training they received through the INVST program to design and implement this delightful and socially meaningful book,” says McIntosh, who supported the students’ work on the project. “They are admirable young women who will make a real contribution to our communities and country.”

CU Boulder student and co-author Mook says being part of a long-term project like this gave meaning to her undergraduate education.

“I am immensely proud of our team’s dedication,” Monk says.“This feels like a huge accomplishment. I am proud to have published a work with people I got to learn and grow from each day.”

Learn more about INVST Community Studies! Now accepting applications from CU Boulder undergraduate students through March 5, 2018.

Listen to current INVST students talk about their recent Justice Summer trip through the midwest and their current Serving-Organizing-Leading (SOL) Project on CU Engage's monthly podcast, AMPLIFY