We would like to recognize and pay our respects to the Indigenous people of what is now known as the State of Texas upon whose land we are living and working. We honor the Lipan Apache, Mescalero Apache, Piro, Manso, Suma, Jumano, Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, Piro/Manso/Tiwa Indian Tribe of the Pueblo of San Juan de Guadalupe, Tortugas Pueblo, the Carrizo & Comecrudo, Coahuiltecan, Caddo, Tonkawa, Comanche, Alabama-Coushatta, Kickapoo, and the peoples of Chihuahua and northern Mexico from whom many of our El Paso area colleagues and friends descend, such as the Rarámuri, Tepehuan, Wixarrika and Nahuatlaca peoples.
We recognize and honor all Indigenous people of Turtle Island and acknowledge and affirm their right to this land.
At the Diversity and Resiliency Institute of El Paso, our Mission is to promote the values of diversity and inclusion through education and training, fostering resiliency in professional practice, company culture, and within the community. We offer access to material which will prepare mental health and social services professionals to competently and confidently engage with marginalized groups, expand their knowledge base, and increase social awareness. Corporate trainings help companies and organizations improve their workplace culture and practices, equipping them to engage a diverse workforce in a manner that goes beyond simply checking the boxes. The Institute focuses on community education, providing content designed to inform, empower, and support community members.
What We Bring to You
The Diversity and Resiliency Institute of El Paso was developed out of the successful launch of LGBTQ+ Sensitivity trainings for professionals in the El Paso, Texas area. The Borderland Rainbow Center became the operator of the Purple Pages of El Paso, a directory of medical and mental health providers who operate LGBTQ+ friendly or affirming services, and through a grant, expanded upon their already substantial professional and community trainings. Through partnership with other professionals in the community, the base of training topics expanded, and now through this new project, The Diversity and Resiliency Institute of El Paso is able to bring you many of those trainings in the convenience of your own home or office.
Over 30 years of teaching and public speaking experience
Over 30 years of Management and leadership experience
Over 30 years of therapeutic and social service experience
Quality education and training backed by
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Ashley Heidebrecht, LMSW
Ashley Heidebrecht has worked in the field of social services for over 15 years, with over a decade of experience in creating and facilitating professional and community education. From 2007 to 2015 she worked as a direct care provider, program coordinator, and community education facilitator at the Mental Health Association of South-Central Kansas (MHASCK).
Since leaving that agency in 2015, Ashley has provided case management and trauma support for families recovering from homelessness, and has become active in community organizing, and legislative and community advocacy, particularly surrounding migrant child detention, LGBTQ rights, and racial justice, and has completed her Master of Social Work degree.
In 2018 when the policy of migrant family separation and child detention was instituted, Ashley worked in collaboration with many individuals and organizations to fight for an end to that policy and to shut down the migrant child prison in Tornillo, Texas.
Ashley began her work with Borderland Rainbow Center in 2019, where she served LGBTQ youth and adults in group and individual settings, engaged in casework with the Deaf community, focused on immigrant rights and issues of racial justice, and engaged in advocacy work as an intern. In 2020, Ashley began to lead the development of the Diversity and Resiliency Institute of El Paso, the education program of the Borderland Rainbow Center, where she currently works as the director of that program. Through this work, Ashley has been able to engage in education and advocacy work reaching over 60,000 people.
Through her work privately as the Radical Social Worker and as the Director for the Diversity and Resiliency Institute, Ashley focuses heavily on advocacy and education, providing educational opportunities to improve community awareness and allyship, and engaging in regional and national initiatives to fight discrimination. Ashley is also working to mobilize social workers across the nation to become more engaged in social justice initiatives.
Hilda Ontiveros, M.Ed., M.A.
DRIEP Lead Trainer
Hilda has been a faculty member at UT El Paso for the past 12 years and currently serves as the Director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program where she teaches courses relevant to Latina Studies, global feminisms, feminist theory, civil rights, queer theory, among others. She has earned her doctoral degree in Educational Leadership and Administration in Higher Education, where her focus was on educational policy and curriculum in both K-12 and higher education institutions.
She earned a Master of Arts in Latin American and Border Studies and a Master of Education in Educational Leadership and Administration in Higher Education. Hilda also spent time studying in the Medico Cirujano (M.D.) program at the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at UACJ. Her research interests include critical pedagogy, educational policy and its effects on minority students, multicultural/culturally relevant curriculum, the sociology of education and women’s healthcare issues on the U.S./Mexico Border.
She enjoys serving her community through volunteer work, such as serving as a children’s volleyball and basketball coach. Her four children also keep her very busy and fulfilled.
Mariah has a bachelor’s in Sociology and Psychology. Mariah is currently a Master of Public Health (MPH) student at the University of Texas at El Paso. She is thrilled to complete her practicum at the Borderland Rainbow Center and continue to learn about the wants and needs of the El Paso community. Mariah’s research interests include LGBTQ+ health, mental health, substance use, and health policy. Upon completion of her MPH, she hopes to continue her education and pursue a Ph.D.
Jennifer Dahlgren is an Assistant Professor at El Paso Community College in the Sign Language and Interpreter Preparation Program. Jennifer has worked in the field of communication access, education, interpreting and advocacy for more than 15 years with a passion for the empowerment that comes through communication. They have trained countless service providers and students in the medical, legal, educational, social services and business fields. They have presented both nationally and internationally to audiences large and small, and actively engages in advocating for the communication access rights for persons who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, DeafBlind and DeafDisabled so that they can function independently and equitably in society. Additionally, Jennifer advocates for the intersectional needs of the LGBTQ and Deaf communities.
Jennifer believes education is the key to access and equality. By educating service providers, students and leaders about the rights and needs of marginalized communities, we make the world a more equitable place. Jennifer is Deaf-Queer native American Sign Language user who utilizes interpreters in their everyday life. Jennifer firmly believes that when you know better you do better. So, they do their part to spread a little more knowledge about the Deaf culture so that the world is a more equitable place for all Deaf people whatever their intersecting identities may be.
Dr. Robert Reece
Dr. Reece received his PhD in sociology from Duke University and is currently an assistant professor of sociology at UT-Austin. His research explores the question "what is race," particularly through exploration of themes related to the origins of racialization and racialized social outcomes, the slipperiness of racial categories, and how physical appearance maps on to and intersects with race. His work has been published in various peer reviewed journals and in public outlets such as the Southern Poverty Law Center's magazine Teaching Tolerance and the National Housing Institute's blog Shelterforce.
Dr. Reece is also an artist who enjoys creating pop culture mashups and sells prints and accept inquires and commissions.
He is from Leland, MS, a small town in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, and obtained BA and MA degrees in sociology from The University of Mississippi. Dr. Reece is also a collector of Black art, Black Panther Party memorabilia, Black superhero comics Legos, and considers himself a connoisseur of southern rap.
Veronica is a full time student at the University of Texas at El Paso following in the steps of her uncle, John Rechy, working towards a Creative Writing degree with a minor in Gender Studies. She is a fierce advocate for BI(T)POC rights as well as a radical fat body positivity activist. She joins our team with years of customer service and virtual support experience.
Veronica is a full time caretaker for her disabled mother, so her pounding the pavement days are few and far between. She has taken her activism to social media platforms to help educate and fight for social justice. As a member of the El Paso LBGTQ+ community, she created a Queer Womyn’s Prerogative (QWP) bringing together female-identified folks to discuss issues concerning women in their community and how best to advocate for change in the (cis)male-dominated Queer community. Although QWP is no longer active, Veronica continues to speak up against the patriarchy in the Queer community.
Diana Martinez, MA
Diana was born and raised in El Paso, Texas by immigrant parents from Juarez. She come from a large extended family that is binational. Her parents named her after the statue of the huntress in Mexico City on Reforma Street.
Diana graduated from the University of Texas at El Paso with a BA in History and a minor in Secondary Education, with a focus in Native American and Latin American history. After graduating, Diana taught in public, private, and charter schools, working with grade levels 6th through 12th, and teaching a diverse array of subjects ranging from world geography, American history, Texas history, Economics, and more. In 2009 Diana graduated with a Master’s in History, with emphasis on Latin American history, Borderland history, and Orientalism.
Since 2010 Diana has taught at the college level at both at El Paso Community College and at the University of Texas at El Paso. At UTEP, Diana has taught Humanities 3303 Challenges in Modern Culture from 1600 to present, and Humanities 3303 Intellectuals on the Edge from 1900 – the present. Diana has taught American History 1301 and American History 1302 at both institutions. Diana grew up with a strong passion for art, history, and literature that goes into her teaching. Her students remark that her enthusiasm inspires them to learn.
Diana also works with others to organize community actions to stand up for the rights of immigrants and immigrant children in detention. Part of the community organizing involved public speaking and presenting about immigration and Latinx history in America. Diana has facilitated presentations focusing on the Flores Settlement Agreement, Jaime Escalante and Rosita the Riveter: the Latina Contribution to World War II, and she has engaged in public speaking and work with the media surrounding immigrant rights and immigrant child detention.
Facilitator, PATHS Program
Jonathan attended Michigan State University and studied Computer Science Engineering, Communications, and earned a bachelor’s degree in Communications with a minor in English. He has since studied in Human Resources and Business Administration at Argosy University in Georgia.
Jonathan has been involved and served within the LGBTQ community for over 35 years. He served as Chairman and CEO of a non-profit organization specifically created to serve the LGBT community in El Paso, Texas. It was the first of its kind within the West Texas / Southern New Mexico region. He lived and worked in Mexico for 15 years. During his years in Mexico, he had extensive experience with volunteering, educating, and training individuals and healthcare professionals in the areas of HIV and sex education within the LGBT Latino communities.
Jonathan has several certificates of honors and recognitions from working with other community-based organizations such as PFLAG, Program Compañeros in Ciudad, Juarez, Mexico, El Paso Community Foundation, the City of El Paso and MFactor, El Paso Sun City Pride, and Texas Pride Impact Fund. Additionally, Jonathan is featured in the LGBTQ+ Border Heroes Project!
Trainer, Deaf Cultural Competency Grant Program
Alma Pizarro-Gould was born Deaf and raised in El Paso, Texas. After she went to Texas School for the Deaf she continue her education in Human Services at El Paso Community College. She moved to Austin, Texas where she has been working with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community providing advocacy and training.
She has worked as a Deafness Resource Specialist at The Deaf and Hard of Hearing Center in El Paso, Texas then moved to Corpus Christi, where she continue to be an advocate there she later on moved to Austin again and has had many years of experience in providing training throughout the community in Texas.
Ms. Pizarro-Gould is an experienced trainer and presenter to the community with topics related to Deafness including: Deaf and Hard of Hearing Sensitivity Issues, ADA Law, Client Rights, Deaf Culture, Communication Issues and Resources. She has provided services to the Deaf for over 20 years with various Deaf community agencies and organizations.
Ms. Pizarro-Gould worked very closely with DARS, HHSC, DPFS and various community service providers to fulfill her passion of breaking down barriers that affect the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community members to ensure that they have full, equal access to communication and services. She also used to serve as a member of the Coastal Bend Silence Deaf Club, National Association of the Deaf, Texas Latino Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and on the Board for Texas Association of the Deaf.
Katie Risch Little, MS, CNP
Katie holds a Master’s in Recreation, Park, and Tourism Administration from Western Illinois University and was recognized as the 2019 “Outstanding Graduate Student”. Her published thesis research investigated diabetes camp and is titled, “Measuring Camp Staff Personal Diabetes Knowledge and Attitudes at A Diabetes Camp”. She is also a Certified Nonprofit Professional (CNP) and has worked with many nonprofit organizations, both in the US and internationally, conducting camp programs, outdoor education classes, adventure recreation experiences, and trainings.
She has a passion for helping others discover their strengths while overcoming their individual challenges. As a former camper, staff, and director, Katie is an exceptional advocate for creating accessible camps which meet the needs of all campers and staff. In 2014, she was awarded the “St Louis American Camp Association Young Professionals Award”. Katie also held the Lead Coordinator position for Chicago Sister Cities International’s-Global Youth Ambassadors Leadership Summit. She helped plan and execute the inaugural event in 2016, and the 2017 event, that focused on empowering young women as emerging global leaders to become agents of change. She also enjoys volunteering with the American Camp Association, Illinois.
Katie currently teaches at Chicago State University in the Department of Health Education, Physical Education and Recreation with a focus on supporting students in Urban Outdoor Recreation & Leadership. Katie has interest in mental health and has highlighted this area when delivering training content to program and camp staff, and while presenting in class and at conferences. Additionally, Katie has benefited from organizational trainings on adolescent brain development, creating safe spaces, trauma informed training, and youth mental health first aid and she has delivered conference presentations and guest lectures focusing on Diabetes care and living with Diabetes, inclusion and all abilities programming, trauma informed care, and more.
Katie considers herself a lifelong learner and educator. She finds joy in learning, sharing resources, and helping others. Katie is excited to work with the Diversity & Resilience Institute of El Paso to create a safe space of hope and resources for those living with diabetes, loving someone with diabetes, or serving those impacted by diabetes. Check out her DRIEP blog contributions, “Chronically Growing with Diabetes” and stay tuned for some engaging diabetes and mental health trainings.
Content Contributors and Former Fellows
Brenda Risch, PhD, LCSW
Founder, Borderland Rainbow Center
Kathryn Schmidt, PhD, LMSW
CCBHC Clinical Director
Family & Youth Innovations Plus (FYI+)
Irene Arlette Werthmann, LCSW-S
Clinical Instructor of Social Work, UTEP
Black People of Queer Experience
Doster & Hoffman Therapy and Consultation, PLLC
Black People of Queer Experience
Doster & Hoffman Therapy and Consultation, PLLC
Dr. Kyle Erwin, PhD,
Clinical Psychologist, VA of El Paso
Educator and Consultant