Lisa Taylor, Immigrant and Refugee Center of Northern Colorado
2018 Northern Colorado Women of Distinction - Nonprofit Human Services
Lisa Taylor’s days are never ordinary. Each one brings new challenges and new joys.
As executive director of the Immigrant and Refugee Center of Northern Colorado, she oversees a team of navigators that help IRC’s students (their client base) navigate the complicated and frustrating path to citizenship. More than 500 active students utilize the nonprofit organization’s services, and on any given day, 40 languages can be heard throughout the facility.
“Our goal is to empower immigrants and refugees, primarily through education,” Taylor said. IRC offers six levels of instruction in English as a second language, citizen preparation and high school equivalency classes along with tutoring, workplace readiness and digital literacy classes. In addition, IRC provides community navigation services, staffed by volunteers who communicate with immigrants and refugees in their native languages. They help IRC’s students with tasks as varied as locating primary physicians and scheduling appointments, sorting through mail to distinguish the important pieces from the junk and getting a handle on the complex bureaucracy of governmental agencies from local to federal levels.
“My work is amazing and rewarding,” Taylor said.
Ten years ago, Taylor had no idea that her career would find meaning and focus in the nonprofit sector. She readily admits that she didn’t even really understand the difference between an immigrant and a refugee, or even English language instruction. After teaching high school history, Taylor went back to the classroom herself, getting her graduate degree in English with plans to teach that subject and history. Along the way, she taught a four-night ESL class to adult immigrant students at Right to Read, a Greeley-based nonprofit.
“I loved it,” Taylor said. She made a vow that if she could pay the bills by teaching adult learners from diverse communities, she’d go for it. After teaching at the college level in Arkansas, her home state, she returned to Colorado and to teaching at Right to Read. She found her work profoundly meaningful and satisfying.
She soon graduated to interim director, was hired as executive director and built programs that grew the organization. Five years later, Right to Read merged with the Global Refugee Center to become IRC, with Taylor at the helm.
Under her guidance, the student body and operating budget have tripled. She’s reached out and formed meaningful community partnerships that further IRC’s mission and outreach in five locations in Weld County.
When she’s not changing the world, Taylor and her yellow lab, Henry, who she calls “the best dog ever,” are avid hikers. Taylor snow skis, camps and reads, reads, reads. “It’s my saving grace,” she said. She’s visited 18 different countries with summer plans to add six more to that list.
“I’m excited,” she said about her travel plans. “It’s a big world out there.”
View 2018 Women of Distinction publication.