By Sandy Wiegand, Copyeditor and Writer at Joining Vision and Action

It only takes a couple of minutes of talking with Cynthia Lizano, JVA’s new bilingual engagement and planning associate, to discover her big heart.

Speak to her a little longer and you may start to learn the ways she has employed it. And that’s when you’ll begin to realize the skill, courage and determination underpinning that warm heart.

A passion for empowering others

Born in Costa Rica, Cynthia is a bilingual clinical psychologist. In addition to operating a private psychology practice, before joining JVA in December 2020, she served as a bridge among parents, school and community at a Title 1 school in Lakewood, Colorado.

Prior to that, she provided mental health support to terminal cancer patients, their families and caregivers at a hospital in Costa Rica.

Among her proudest achievements is her work on a project that taught young victims of sex trafficking to care for animals and the environment, “approaching each child as well as each adult as an individual with unique strengths and needs.” (Ultimately, she created an educational initiative that is still used in Costa Rican public schools today.)

Notice what the above efforts have in common? Each helps empower regular people with real challenges to control and improve their lives—something Cynthia is passionate about.

“By empowering others, we build stronger communities,” she says.

Harnessing the power of community

Leading a healthcare team at a Costa Rican hospital, Cynthia showed cancer patients and their caregivers that a customized therapeutic approach could turn a person’s suffering “from unbearable to bearable.” This had a positive impact on patients and caregivers alike, she says, helping them feel more prepared to cope with whatever lay ahead.

Cynthia moved to the United States in 2010, and in 2015 she began working for schools in the Jefferson County school district. She describes her efforts this way: “All the social programs I started were aimed to empower the recipients of the aid, educate children, be fun and be capable of growing to the point that my help is no longer needed.”

For example, she helped parents in the Eiber Elementary community to organize an informal cooperative to meet their childcare needs.

“I worked hard to bring together different leaders to build self-sustaining programs for the Eiber community,” she says.

To Cynthia, education (extending beyond the classroom) and an engaged, empowered community go hand in hand.

“I am a great believer in the lasting power of education and the implacable force of an engaged and committed community,” she notes. “I am passionate, full of energy and relentless when advocating for education, prevention and working with the community to bring social change.”

JVA role

Cynthia sees her position at JVA as a continuation of her previous engagement work, explaining: “JVA has a deep passion for and commitment to community and social change. Through this role, I can put in service my expertise; exceptional oral communication, facilitation and presentation skills; and the ability to effectively communicate with and elevate diverse audiences.”

As JVA’s bilingual engagement and planning associate, Cynthia will engage diverse communities and stakeholder groups, for both evaluation (e.g., focus groups, interviews, surveys) and planning purposes (e.g., strategic planning or other meeting facilitation), in English and Spanish.

She adds: “It has been my great honor and joy to work with cultural sensitivity alongside immigrant families who want to improve their children’s opportunities. While I enjoy seeing the progress that is being made within the local school setting, I feel I can have a greater impact through my position at JVA.

“It really excites me the endless opportunities JVA offers to build partnerships that help improve the social conditions of the communities that we serve. … It is when helping others rise from poverty or injustice that I feel the most driven and content.”

Contact JVA to find out more about our services in evaluation and engagement, as well as planning and facilitation. Or check out our online Marketplace for a listing of our primary products and prices.