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Our Founders

Michele Terese Trujillo


Dr. Michele Terese Trujillo has worked as a professional educator for 20 years and is currently serving as an Associate Professor in the Special Education Department in the School of Education at Metropolitan State University of Denver. She is a co-founder and volunteer co-director of The Justice & Heritage Academy under the non profit organization Conejos Clean Water, which she also co- founded and serves as the CEO. Michele is concerned with educational, social, environmental and food justice issues of the rural and urban communities in Colorado and how these inequities impact the educational achievement and growth of students; this is her primary research focus. Michele presents nationally and internationally on educational topics and has a publication that focuses on the educational implications for culturally and linguistically diverse students in public schools. Michele earned a doctoral degree in Curriculum and Instruction (emphasis in multicultural and bilingual special education) in 2011 from Northern Arizona University, a school principal license in 2017 from the Principal Institute, an MA degree in special education in 1999 from the University of Northern Colorado and a BA in music in 1994 from Colorado State University. Michele is actively involved in her community by serving on various committees; Michele is a recent recipient of the Lena L. Archuleta Community Service Award by the Denver Public Library which recognizes her contributions and dedication to the Latino community within Colorado.


Aaron A .Abeyta


Aaron A. Abeyta is a Colorado native and the former Mayor of Antonito, Colorado, his hometown.  


Abeyta is the author of four collections of poetry and one novel. For his book, Colcha, Abeyta received an American Book Award and the Colorado Book Award.  In addition, his novel, Rise, Do Not be Afraid, was a finalist for the 2007 Colorado Book Award and El Premio Aztlan. Abeyta was awarded a Colorado Council on the Arts Fellowship for poetry, and he is the former Poet Laureate of Colorado’s Western Slope and was a finalist for Colorado Poet Laureate.  Abeyta is also a recipient of a Governor’s Creative Leadership Award for 2017. Aaron has over 100 publications including ‘Wildness, Relations of People and Place  ‘An Introduction to Poetry, 10th ed.,' Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, & Drama, 8th ed.' ‘Conversations in American Literature: Language, Rhetoric, & Culture’  ‘The Leopold Outlook’ ‘Colorado Central Magazine’ ‘The High Country News’ and numerous other anthologies and journals.  


Aaron his wife Michele and their daughter, Rut, call Antonito home.  Michele and Aaron are co-Directors and founders of The Justice & Heritage Academy, a school based on the three pillars of Environmental, Social and Food Justice.

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