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 LGBTQI+ Sensitivity trainings for professionals in the El Paso, Texas area. The Borderland Rainbow Center became the operator of the Purple Pages, a directory of medical and mental health providers who operate LGBTQI+ 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
How We Process Payment
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Ashley Heidebrecht, LMSW
Ashley Heidebrecht, The Radical Social Worker, has worked in the field of social services for over a decade, with 7 years 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 legistlative 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.
Recently in her work with Borderland Rainbow Center, Ashley served LGBTQ youth and adults in group and individual settings, engaged in casework with the Deaf community, focused on immigrant rights, issues of racial justice, and engaged in advocacy work.
Through her work as The Radical Social Worker and as the Director for the 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.
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.
Lead Trainer, Deaf Cultural Competency Grant Program
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. Kyle Erwin, PhD
Pronouns: They/Them, He/His
Dr. Kyle M. Erwin is a staff psychologist, LGBT special emphasis program manager (SEPM), and LGBT Veteran’s Care Coordinator (VCC) in El Paso, Texas. In addition to providing individual and couple’s psychotherapy, Dr. Erwin serves as a primary supervisor for a hospital psychology internship program, provides training in the prevention and management of disruptive behavior, and serves on a disruptive behavior committee.
Outside of his clinical roles, Dr. Erwin serves as the secretary for the El Paso Psychological Association, and is vice president of the board of directors at Borderland Rainbow Center. Most recently, Dr. Erwin helped organize the El Paso VA’s first and second time participation in Sun City Pride and served as a consultant on the Museum of the American Military Family’s award winning exhibit Inside-Out/SHOUT. Dr. Erwin has passion and dedication for working with LGBTQ veterans and veterans experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and demonstrated this dedication via professional activities, community engagement, and education.
Dr. Kathryn Schmidt,
Kathryn Schmidt, PhD, LCSW served as Assistant Professor of Social Work at the University of Texas at El Paso and as a practicing therapist in a community integrated health center, serving individuals with severe mental illness and providing crisis support. Dr. Schmidt is trained in EMDR through EMDRIA. Currently she is a Behavioral Health Clinical Trainier for clinicians and staff at a community integrated health center. Her research interests include LGBTQI people's access to social services, Sexual attitudes, behaviors, and experiences of college students, and LGBTQ youth in the child welfare system.
Karissa Doster-Hoffman, LCSW, LCDC
Karissa graduated from Spalding University in Louisville, KY in 2014 with a Master of Social Work degree. With education being the forefront of her life, this accomplishment was the beginning of a career of her dreams: to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.
Currently, Karissa works closely with dual-diagnosis clients who have both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder. As a queer Black woman, she believes representation is imperative for her fellow BIPOC to have options in the mental health world. Her goal is to provide quality, client-centered therapeutic service while bringing her genuine self to every session. Karissa believes to help others on their journey to mental wellness and sustainability is a gift given to share. She looks forward to every potential connection and intentional nurturing of the relationships that develop.
Irene Arlette Werthmann, LCSW-S
Lecturer/Program Coordinator Manager
MSSW, University of Texas-Arlington • BA, Majors: Psychology/Sociology, Austin College, Sherman, TX • LCSW State of Texas • Work Experience: Child Protective Services in rural settings, Social Work in courtroom settings, Behavioral Health in rural areas; integrated medical and behavioral health model
Arlette Werthman, LCSW-S is a native born El Pasoan who returned to share her expertise in child welfare, rural social work, and clinical areas such as working with complex diagnoses in adolescents and adults, treatment of trauma, and work with families. Her wisdom and experience have enriched the skills of our team and Borderland Rainbow Center's social work interns, and benefited our community members. She is a strong supporter of the rights of LGBTQ children in the foster care system and will be serving as Borderland Rainbow Center's representative on a state-wide board advising the Department of Family and Protective Services on LGBTQ issues.
Diana Martinez, MA
Education and Content Manager
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.
Denise Nuñez, BS
Coordinator, Deaf Cultural Competency Grant Program
Denise Nunez is an El Paso Native who has just begun immersing herself into the Deaf community. Her sister, who is Deaf, is the reason that Denise became interested in American Sign Language. Denise graduated from El Paso Community College in May 2019 with her Associate of Applied Science in Sign Language/Interpreter Program.
In June 2019, she enrolled in William Woods University and double majored in Interpreting ASL-English and Deaf Human Services. Denise is excited to become a part of the Diversity and Resiliency Institute of El Paso and the Borderland Rainbow Center, and hopes that the Deaf Sensitivity and Cultural Competency program flourishes over time, bringing in not only awareness, but equality as well.
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.
Dr. Brenda Risch, PhD, LCSW
Executive Director, Borderland Rainbow Center
Dr. Risch has extensive experience in the area of gender and sexuality issues and a rich academic background, completing a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature focusing on Gender Studies and representations of the body and a Masters in Social Work.
Dr. Risch served as the Director of Women’s and Gender Studies at UTEP from 2006-2015. During this time they completed academic work directly related to the LGBTQ community such as creating the Frontera Pride Film Festive in 2009 and 2010, which showcased films by and about the LGBTQ community. They completed two major quantitative studies of sexual attitudes, behaviors, and experiences on the UTEP campus (SABES 2 sample size 701, and SABES 3 sample size 1332). And also the project entitled “Engendering Community: An LGBTQ Oral History of the El Paso/Juárez Borderland.” This project consisted of collecting 120 oral histories. Dr. Risch curated a major museum exhibit at the Centennial Museum in June of 2015. Dr. Risch has also studied the needs of the El Paso LGBT Community in her 2016 survey LGBTQ Community Needs Assessment of the El Paso/Las Cruces Region. Dr. Risch founded the LGBTQ community center--the Borderland Rainbow Center-- in September of 2016, which serves LGBTQ people of all ages with trauma-informed therapy, support groups, a food pantry, educational workshops, and substance-free social activities.
In addition, Dr. Risch has helped plan and deliver 3 community “Coming Out Workshops” and dozens of workshops on LGBTQ issues including LGBTQ Cultural Competence and best practices (including ones offered for CEUs for social workers and licensed professional counselors), over 30 papers and workshops concerning gender and sexuality issues, and over 10 workshops on pedagogy and innovative teaching. Dr. Risch is trained in EMDR through EMDRIA.
Vic Doster, LMSW
Vic was born in Northern Michigan but spent most of their childhood in Woodridge, Illinois, a Northwest Suburb of Chicago. They began pursuing their undergraduate degree in Social Work in 2017, graduating in early 2019. Shortly after completing their undergraduate studies, they began their master's degree in Social Work at the Carver School of Social Work in Kentucky and graduated in December of 2019, in the advanced standing clinical program. They are currently studying in a Clinical Psychology (PsyD) program at California Southern University.
Being openly queer and nonbinary, their passion of advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community began early on in their life but blossomed professionally during their undergraduate social work internship at the Borderland Rainbow Center in early 2019.
Prior to their internship, they served in the United States Army for three in-a-half years, honorably retiring as Sergeant Doster in 2019. Also in 2019, they began serving as the Rainbow Myth Busters Project Coordinator at the Borderland Rainbow Center, where they were a part of organizing and training over 500+ providers and clinicians in El Paso, regarding LGBTQ+ competency in medical and mental health practice.
Vic currently serves as a therapist at the Borderland Rainbow Center and practices primarily with Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR). Vic’s philosophy in practice is that, “Beauty is not who you are on the outside, it is the wisdom and time you gave away to save another struggling soul like you.”
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.