March 12 to 18 is AmeriCorps week, a time to recognize the millions of Americans who have chosen to serve their country. The IRC Denver continuously hosts AmeriCorps Vista members and is excited to highlight two in the following spotlight.

Celeste Valley - AmeriCorps VISTA Economic Empowerment Specialist 

Celeste began working with the IRC mid-August 2022 as part of the Adult Education Team where she assists with higher education, job readiness training, and career exploration for the refugee community. She supports clients in finding certification programs at community colleges in fields such as healthcare and information technology. 

“I love my work and the work environment as it has given me great exposure. I hope to turn this line of work into my career.” 

When asked about the difficulties of her position, Celeste remarks:

“I see the disparities that people in the public sector face. We are trained on how to be a good resource, but we must be able to offer long-term sustainability. We always need more funding than we have.”  

To find work-life balance, Celeste spends her free time exploring new neighborhoods, roller blading and watching crime documentaries. Celeste is a native of Wisconsin and a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Superior with a degree in International Business and a minor in Spanish. Fun-fact: Her sister also served as an AmeriCorps Vista volunteer. 

Chelsea Barrera - AmeriCorps VISTA Client Responsiveness Specialist 

Chelsea began working with the IRC last April as a Client Responsiveness Specialist. In this role, she advocates for IRC clients by ensuring their voices are heard and the feedback loop holding the IRC accountable to them is closed. Chelsea’s strength lies in using monitoring and evaluation to decolonize the humanitarian field by empowering clients’ voices. She is the first person at the IRC Denver to be solely dedicated to this role and the success of her work has led to the creation of a more sustainable staff position. 

Chelsea joined AmeriCorps to “dip her toe into the field” and gain on the ground experience with an international organization that "helps people to survive, recover and rebuild their lives.” As the daughter of migrants, who traveled to Los Angeles before she was born, her work at the IRC aligns perfectly with her personal goals and her passion for humanitarian support and rights protection for immigrants.  

Chelsea received her undergraduate degree in International Development/Peace and Conflict Resolution, with a regional focus on the Middle East and North Africa, from American University in DC. She then went on to take postgraduate courses at the University of Bologna before the pandemic. Her long-term goal is to continue empowering migrants and improve her practice by learning about indigenous values, care systems, and governance structures.