Category: CLUES Blog

May 29, 2018

This spring, CLUES is celebrating the first three Youth in Action (YA!) Program participants to graduate from college! The YA! Program began in 2011, and since then we have guided more than 120 high school students to achieve their hopes and dreams through one-on-one mentoring, coaching institutes, academic support and community service-learning projects.

Our first college graduate, Xochitl Rodriguez Sanchez, graduated from Augsburg University this spring with a double major in International Business and Management and minors in Spanish and International Relations. We talked with Xochitl about her journey and how the YA! Program helped her along the way.

What is a moment or accomplishment you are especially proud of?

I am the first in my family to go to college and will be the first to graduate. I am also proud of having gotten to this point, even as a DACAmented student. It is very significant to my family and me because we weren’t sure if college was even going to be a possibility. There were several obstacles, from not having status to not being able to pay for the tuition. Up until 2012, I didn’t really believe it was going to be a possibility. After I received DACA it was a more tangible dream. I had some form of status and a way to get a job and pay for the school.

How have you stayed involved with CLUES, and why?

I continue to stay involved with CLUES through the YA! program. I help during the institutes from start to end, in any capacity. Some institutes I am paired with a student, and others I just help facilitate.

I think it is important to give back to the community. Thanks to the program I was able to envision myself succeeding, and I believe that if students see that others have made it or are making it, their hopes and dreams will seem easier to achieve.

I also believe that we are all in this together, and by giving back and helping out I think we can better ourselves individually and as a whole. I want to see more Latinos graduating from high school, going to college and graduating. We are very underrepresented in so many areas, and having more people step up to the plate is crucial to have our community be uplifted into success.

Why do you think programs like YA! are important?

It is important because it provides access to families who are unfamiliar with the process of how to obtain a college education. It also brings to the forefront the possibility of attending college and builds the repertoire for success in obtaining a college education.

I recall sitting in one of the lessons for FAFSA, which I couldn’t apply for because of my status, but still thinking how important this was because my brothers would be going through the process a couple of years after me. I know my parents are grateful in having the knowledge of how to help their children and knowing where they need to be to graduate.

What message or advice do you have for younger Latino students?

Even with all the obstacles placed in front of you, nothing is impossible. Where there is a will, there is a way.

I recall that at that point in time while I was in high school, I was my own greatest obstacle. Thinking that everything in front of me was there so that I would fail, and that it was for certain that it would hold me back, a lot. But the need to prove that it was all wrong kept me going. Just because you believe that you won’t make it doesn’t mean that others don’t believe in you, and that was key for me.

Surround yourself with people who cheer you on when you are at your lowest. It’s ok to lose people, especially if they aren’t people who believe in you and your capabilities. Always move forward and don’t be afraid to envision yourself succeeding. By doing so, you’ll feel it become more and more real until you finally achieve your success and exceed your expectation, because from the beginning you were more than capable.

CLUES congratulates Xochitl and all our graduating seniors on their incredible accomplishments! We are excited to see where your paths will lead and are honored to have been a part of your journey. You are always a part of the CLUES family!

If you would like to support students like Xochitl in achieving their hopes and dreams, consider becoming YA! Program mentor or making a donation to the YA! Program Scholarship Fund. Thanks to a generous donation from the Land O’ Lakes Amigos group, all donations will be matched up to $5,000! Learn more here.

Posted in CLUES Blog by CLUES Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio
May 2, 2018

On April 25, CLUES hosted GRATITUDe, our first ever donor and volunteer appreciation event. The event was an opportunity for us to thank our dedicated volunteers and donors, whose contributions help us achieve our mission and strengthen our organization.

The evening featured remarks from CLUES’ president Ruby Lee, updates from program staff and participants, opportunities for networking and mingling, delicious food from the Cafe Racer food truck, and a chance to browse the artwork of talented local Latino artists.

The evening was also an opportunity for us to announce our new Individual Giving Program. This program allows those who donate to CLUES to receive special benefits, including a one-time donor gift, discounted Gala Latina ticket and an invitation to next year’s Donor and Volunteer Appreciation event! Learn more about the program here.

Thank you again to all who give of their time and resources to support CLUES. We couldn’t do all we do without you!

View Photos
View beautiful photos of GRATITUDe from photographer Jorge Amerigo.

Meet the Artists of GRATITUDe


Jessica Lopez Lyman, Ph.D. is an interdisciplinary performance artist and Chicana feminist scholar interested in how People of Color create alternative spaces to heal and imagine new worlds. She is a member of Electric Machete Studios, a Chicanx/Latinx/Indigenous art collective on St. Paul’s West Side.

For our event, Jessica and her assistant brought a unique paleta-inspired, mobile screen printing cart and taught guests how to create their very own silkscreen posters!




Ricardo Bennett-Guzmán is an experimental media artist, photographer and filmmaker. Born and raised in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, his work questions and challenges the political, cultural and economic dimensions of globalization.

Leading up to the event, Ricardo conducted a month-long photography workshop with three participants of our youth mentorship program: Heidi Oropeza, Christina Neubauer and Guadalupe Rodriguez. At GRATITUDe, Ricardo and the students created an engaging, reflective exhibit of the photos they took during the workshop. View their photos here.




Tomás Aratti is an architect from Chile who has embarked on an adventure to follow his passion as a painter and illustrator. He is currently a resident artist at the Indigenous Roots Cultural Arts Center across the street from CLUES in East St. Paul. His art speaks, in a very personal matter, of the relationship between mankind and mother nature.

Tomas exhibited some of his beautiful paintings at our event, the first time he’s shown his work outside of his home country!




Raul was born and raised in Mexico and has resided in Minneapolis since 1998. Pablo was born in Uruguay and has lived in the Minnesota/Wisconsin area since 1988. Together, they co-host LatinoAltROCK!, a multi-genre, high energy, KFAI radio show that celebrates cultural diversity and expression.

Raul, Pablo, and special guest Elizabeth Carey DJ’d our event, providing energetic music all evening long!


Posted in CLUES Blog by CLUES Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio
April 20, 2018

Our final spotlight for National Volunteer Week is Gonzalo Petschen!

Gonzalo Petschen has been an outstanding member of CLUES’ Board of Directors since August of 2014. His exceptional commitment and passion to aid CLUES in helping our Latino community earned him a spot as the Chair of our Board of Directors since June 2016. He has seen and been an enormous part of CLUES’ advancement in the last couple of years. His dedication, professionalism and can-do attitude do not go unnoticed.

Here’s what Gonzalo had to say about what CLUES means to him:
“CLUES and the CLUES team do critically needed work in the community. However, the impact of CLUES is beyond the critical services they provide every day – they also form an important part of the fabric of the Latino community and the Twin Cities. My perspectives have been broadened and I have been inspired by my involvement with CLUES and its team.”

Thank you to Gonzalo and all our volunteers for their service!

Posted in CLUES Blog by CLUES Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio
April 19, 2018

Care, compassion and commitment. Those just a few of the words that describe Sarah Gonzales-Blanco, today’s National Volunteer Week Spotlight. As a volunteer with our VITA Tax Program, Youth in Action (YA!) Program and  Immigrant/Refugee Mural Project, she is always ready to help with whatever needs to be done.

Here’s what Sarah had to say about what CLUES means to her:

“My husband, José Carlos, moved to the U.S. in May 2014, and before he had work authorization, he wanted to improve his English. He decided to try CLUES and found a safe and welcoming environment. He signed up to attend Civics, English Language Learning and Citizenship Preparation and maintains friendships with many his classmates to this day.

Once he received work authorization, he worked with CLUES to prepare a resume – the most beautiful resume I’ve ever seen – and to update his resume as he gained new skills and work experience. Moving to a new country is scary and can be traumatic, and although he has “graduated” from CLUES, the help and services he received were and still are invaluable to his personal and professional formation in the U.S. Volunteering is the least I can do to express my extreme gratitude for all CLUES has done for him throughout the years.”

Thank you to Sarah and all our volunteers for your incredible service!

Posted in CLUES Blog by CLUES Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio
April 18, 2018
Today’s National Volunteer Week spotlight honors Seth Pyle and Jacob Peterson, AmeriCorps Volunteers through the Minnesota Opportunity Corps and Employment Navigators at CLUES.

Seth has been such a great addition to our Minneapolis Employment Services. Seth has been able to step in and offer new and creative programming, reaching an even wider population than before. We are very lucky to have his insight and his critical mind on our team, helping shape services and look at the holistic picture of what it takes for a participant to have a prosperous economic future.

What CLUES means to to Seth:
“Working at CLUES for me means dedicating myself to more than just myself. My service here strengthens my community, and I find that work worth doing.”

Jacob has been an integral part of Employment Services in our St. Paul office. The people he has worked with have gained incredibly important skills for their careers and for their lives. Jake has been a leader in bringing even more service integration and spearheading collaborative efforts within Employment & Career Development and Education. We are lucky to have him as a part of our team!

What CLUES means to to Jacob:
“CLUES is like one big family to me – always supportive and there to help me grow. Both the mission of the organization and the service that I do here align closely with who I strive to be at my core.”
Thank you, Seth and Jacob, for your service!
Posted in CLUES Blog by CLUES Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio
April 17, 2018

Today’s National Volunteer Week spotlight is Max Meyers! Max has been a dedicated volunteer for our Al Niño Con Cariño Event for 4 years. He is always willing to work hard to make the event a success. He cares a lot about helping to make the holiday season more special for our clients.

Here’s what Max had to say about volunteering with CLUES:

“I give my time for this event to help the community during the holiday season. Knowing that these kids will be able to have a good Christmas and the event helps a lot of families. It’s cool that CLUES has all the other activities going on that day. Kids get to make gingerbread houses and decorate cookies while their parents get the presents wrapped. Some kids may not have the chance to do that without CLUES. I look forward to the event every year – you know Santa’s always watching.”

Thank you to Max and all our volunteers for your incredible service!

Posted in CLUES Blog by CLUES Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio
April 16, 2018

This week, April 15-21, is National Volunteer Week! Each day we’ll be sharing about the wonderful volunteers who make our work possible.

Today’s volunteer in the spotlight is Karen Maldonado! Though Karen is also an employee of CLUES, she goes above and beyond by volunteering her time to support many CLUES events throughout the year. She takes on big responsibilities and provides incredible service that we can always count on to make our events run smoothly and look great.

Here’s what Karen had to say about what CLUES means to her: “CLUES is an organization that not only has helped my family but countless other families and individuals. Everyone in the organization loves what they do and are genuinely trying to help and serve the community.”

Thank you for all you do, Karen! Stay tuned throughout the week for more volunteer spotlights.

Posted in CLUES Blog by CLUES Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio
April 12, 2018

CLUES President Ruby Lee presented today at the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders (NALCAB) 2018 National Conference about the critical role anchor institutions play in improving people’s lives, social capital, health outcomes and economic mobility.

Thank you to NALCAB for the opportunity and to all who attended!

Posted in CLUES Blog by CLUES Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio
April 2, 2018

CLUES offices will open at 10 am tomorrow, April 3, due to the snow. Aging Well Services are cancelled for the day. Normal schedules will resume on Wednesday, April 4. Any time there is inclement weather, you can call our Sever Weather Line to see if CLUES will be open at 612-746-3560.

Posted in CLUES Blog by CLUES Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio
March 22, 2018

On Saturday, March 17, Senator Melisa Franzen joined CLUES as the guest speaker at the YA! Minneapolis Institute. Senator Franzen spoke with the students and mentors about how to be involved and engaged in your community and gave advice about how to be a part of making change. She also answered questions from the group.

Many thanks to Senator Franzen for joining us! Click here to learn more about CLUES’ YA! Program or apply to be a mentor.

Posted in CLUES Blog by CLUES Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio