Valley Community Interpreters (VCI) was founded in 2015 with a commitment to improve and increase language services at all levels of New Mexican society. In 2018, VCI was granted the 501c3 nonprofit designation by the Internal Revenue Service to provide two areas of services:
- The VCI Academy training New Mexico’s interpreter workforce to serve the Limited English Proficiency (LEP) communities and their service providers.
- VCI Language Service Agency (VCI Agency), a full language service agency providing interpretation, translation, and language proficiency testing.
VCI was established in response to the pressing need of Limited English Proficient (LEP) communities to communicate when requesting and receiving community services. VCI’s founder and director Cecilia Portal was working as a telephonic interpreter (OPI) when she noticed that on the one hand, the language service industry needed qualified and trained interpreters, and on the other hand, the unemployment and underemployment in New Mexico were very high in a state with a large multilingual population, a valuable human resource. “Why hasn’t anyone put these two things together,” Cecilia asked. VCI began with this idea in mind of using valuable language skills in the bilingual community members to address the needs of LEP families and their service providers. With the generous support of the Kellogg Foundation, VCI began to identify and train bilingual community members to enter the interpreter profession.
Valley Community Interpreters (VCI) is committed to increasing language access in health, social, and educational systems in New Mexico. VCI accomplishes this by providing interpreter training and language services that meet national standards to improve the quality of life for Limited English Proficient (LEP) populations.
The organization is led and staffed by immigrant women who are professionals in the fields of interpretation, nonprofit management, and program planning and implementation.
|Cecilia Portal, CHI is the founder and director of VCI. As a young girl, she was a refugee from Cuba. She grew up in Mexico City where she pursued a nursing career after earning a nursing degree from Mexico’s National Autonomous University. She migrated to the U.S. in 1981. Cecilia is an experienced interpreter; in 2014 she received the national healthcare interpreter certification from the Certification Commission for Interpreters in Healthcare (CCHI) and has been an interpreter licensed trainer since 2015. She has over 30 years of experience in nonprofit management, and program development and implementation.|
VCI Board of Directors
The leadership of the VCI Board of Directors is comprised of 80% immigrants and members of the Hispanic Community.
|Julia Stephen, VCI President—is Co-Founder of the Rio Grande Community Development Corporation (1986) and Executive Director (2000-2010). Previously, she provided physical therapy, rehabilitation, and resource development consultation throughout rural New Mexico, and the Albuquerque and Phoenix metropolitan areas (1967-1984) depending on interpreters to assure communication and improved health outcomes of non-English speaking clients. The lack of NM institutions employing interpreters and the importance of quality interpretation requiring formal training, prompted her encouraging Cecilia to follow her vision and develop VCI. Retired UNM-HSC (1999). Has an M.A. in Environmental Planning – ASU (1984); BS Physical Therapy – KU (1967).|
|Julio Dominguez Soto, VCI Secretary/Treasurer—a native of Mexico, is a marketing associate for the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT). He has worked on many community research grants regarding topics of environmental justice, land use in public health, and economic development. Julio studied at the University of New Mexico School of Architecture and Planning and received a B.A. in Architecture. His passion has always been to work on improving access to crucial resources and opportunities for communities of color and impoverished areas in New Mexico.|
|Cynthia Pérez-Chávez, VCI Director—is a 2018 VCI graduate of the Bilingual Community Interpreter 80-hour program. She currently works as a Program Specialist at the University of New Mexico (UNM) and has recently earned a Master’s degree in Organizational, Information, and Learning Sciences (OILS) from UNM. Born in Mexico, she enjoys being an advocate for the LEP community, which she demonstrates by being part of the VCI Board of Directors.|
|Fabián Juan Armijo, VCI Director—a native New Mexican, is the Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) and Interpreter Language Services (ILS) for UNM Hospitals (UNMH). He has worked as a professional staff Spanish Interpreter and Translator at UNMH and is a licensed interpreter trainer. Before working in health care, Fabián lived and worked in Spain where he was employed as a primary school teacher. He has studied at the Universidad de Palermo, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil. Fabián is currently enrolled in the Master’s for Health Administration (MHA) at the University of New Mexico’s School of Public Administration.|
|Trish Abbin, VCI Director—Trish is the president and founder of Fat Cat Enterprises Ltd. and has been a part of NM’s economic development for 20+ years. She has an MBA in International Business. She has worked with immigrant communities in a variety of capacities with the goal of improving lives and economies. Trish is multi-lingual and worked in the interpreting field for several years in medical and finance, both as an interpreter and trainer of interpreters. Trish’s passions have always been business and getting to know other cultures, sharing that knowledge with others for a better understanding of how others work. For these reasons, Trish fully believes in VCI’s mission and vision moving forward.|
|Lizeth Cera, VCI Program Coordinator—Lizeth Cera is VCI’s Program Coordinator, a two-time VCI graduate of the 2016 Bridging The Gap Medical Interpreter Training 40-hour program and the 2022 Interpreting for Professionals Course 40-hour program. She is a first generation Mexican-American who began interpreting at the very early age of six. Has served as a dual interpreter for over 20 years throughout her various employment rolls and became a qualified interpreter in 2016. In being bilingual and coming from a background that is serviced by language access. Lizeth’s life has been formed by spanning across the two cultures, leading her to be well aware of how communication impacts access to vital services and the urgency in the need of language services. Lizeth believes that language helps open up the world, it also helps LEP individuals find autonomy and become empowered. These viewpoints help strengthen and nurture her passion for interpreting.|