Sight translator with patient - Valley Community Interpreters

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:

  1. The VCI Academy training New Mexico’s interpreter workforce to serve the Limited English Proficiency (LEP) communities and their service providers.
  2. VCI Language Service Agency (VCI Agency), a full language service agency providing interpretation, translation, and language proficiency testing.

Brief History

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.

Our Mission

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.

VCI Staff

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 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.
Jessica Mares Jessica Mares is originally from Chihuahua, Mexico, and grew up in Albuquerque. Jessica is the VCI Agency Manager and the VCI Accountant. She holds a B.A. in Accounting from the University of New Mexico and is pursuing her CPA License. Jessica has worked in the nonprofit sector for over five years and has extensive program management and development experience.
Claudia Chavez Claudia Chavez was born in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, and grew up in Chicago. She is a VCI graduate, over the phone (OPI) working interpreter, and a Cross-Cultural Communications licensed trainer. Claudia holds a B.A. in Early Childhood, Human Development from the National Louis University in Chicago and has extensive teaching experience

VCI Board of Directors

The leadership of the VCI Board of Directors is comprised of 80% immigrants and members of the Hispanic Community.

Julianna Silva Julianna Silva, VCI President—Julianna is committed to helping New Mexicans realize economic vitality through her work to support small business ownership and policies that enable families to thrive. A graduate of the UNM Anderson School of Management, she forged her path in entrepreneurship from her own consulting practice, co-ownership of a family business and by leading key initiatives at WESST, a statewide non-profit with a mission to provide consulting, training, and lending primarily to women and people of color. Her experience as a business owner drives her commitment to help artists, non-profits, and small businesses understand and implement key practices, including strategic planning, accounting, and marketing. In 2014, she received a recognition award from The New Mexico Technology Council as a “Women in Tech” leader. She was recognized in 2015 by the Small Business Administration as the New Mexico “Women in Business Champion of the Year.”
Julia C. Stephen Julia Stephen, VCI Vice-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 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 Cynthia Pérez-Chávez, VCI Director—is a 2018 VCI graduate of the Bilingual Community Interpreter 80-hour program. She currently works as a Training & Development Specialist at the University of New Mexico (UNM) and is enrolled in the Organizational, Information, and Learning Sciences (OILS) master’s program at 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 Armijo 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.