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Asian American Pacific Islander Commission


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The Denver Asian American Pacific Islander Commission (DAAPIC) serves as a support liaison and facilitator between the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community in Denver, the Agency for Human Rights and Community Partnerships and the office of the Mayor of Denver.

Further, it is the Commission's objective to act as catalyst, educator, collective voice, and respond to issues and/or advocate based on community assessment of need, and create awareness and visibility of AAPI community.

Commission Goals

  • Infrastructure: Enhance the infrastructure of the DAAPIC.
  • Visibility: Increase the visibility of DAAPIC.
  • Opportunities: Connect AAPIs to opportunities, resources, and tools.
  • Needs: Identify and advocate for AAPI needs.

Commission Meetings

NOTE: Due to COVID-19 all commission meetings will be held via teleconference until further notice. All commission meetings are open to the public. 
Recurrence: 3rd Wednesday of every month
Time: 6pm - 7:30pm

Join Zoom Meeting:
Meeting ID: 956 7148 0096

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Meeting ID: 956 7148 0096
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All commission meetings are open to the public. 

Commission Members

Photo of Ken Arellano, Jr

Ken Arellano, Jr. is a Statewide Registered Apprenticeship Consultant with Arapahoe/Douglas Works!. He has over 20 years’ experience working with employers and job seekers in a workforce capacity. He began his career in workforce in San Francisco, CA at a non-profit, then moved to the for-profit world. He did this for over almost 10 years before moving into the government sector. He has been a subject matter expert in the areas of Healthcare, Retail, and working with Special Populations, where he has grown to be knowledgeable regarding Registered Apprenticeship programs within the State of Colorado. Ken has been the Co-chair to the Employment Subcommittee for 10 years, which is now under Denver Housing Stability (HOST).

Ken joined the Denver Asian American Pacific Islander Commission (DAAPIC) to give back to the community but didn’t know how or where to start. DAAPIC has given him the opportunity to connect with his AAPI roots and community. Ken brings to the Commission his connection to community, workforce, and education resources to assist and meet the needs of the AAPI community.

Ken’s passions are volunteering, traveling, and cooking.  Ken’s ideal vacation would be where he could combine those three passions. You might also see Ken in his local community garden getting his hands in the Earth.


Photo of Gil Asakawa

Gil Asakawa is a journalist, editor, author, and blogger who covers Japan, Japanese American, and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) culture and social justice issues in blogs, articles, and social media. He is a nationally known speaker, panelist, and expert on Japanese American history and Asian American identity. He’s the author of “Being Japanese American” (Stone Bridge Press), a history of Japanese in America originally published in 2004 and revised in 2014, and co-author of “The Toy Book” (Alfred Knopf, 1991), a history of the toys of the Baby Boom generation. He is currently working on “Tabemasho! Let’s Eat!” (Stone Bridge Press), a history of Japanese food in America that will be published in 2021.

His journalism experience runs the gamut from being the music editor and investigative reporter for Denver's alternative weekly newspaper Westword, when he first met John Hickenlooper, and entertainment editor for the Colorado Springs Gazette daily newspaper to managing the website. His Asian American experience includes a blog, at, and posts on social media outlets including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. He is well-known to his followers for posting photographs of food on social media.

He has written for national publications including Rolling Stone magazine, and he has been published in Newsweek Japan. From 2010 to 2020, Asakawa was a student newspaper adviser in the journalism department of the University of Colorado Boulder. He was also a consultant for AARP’s Asian American marketing team, managing its social media, and writing articles about Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs). In 2019 he served as a consultant with the Colorado Media Project focusing on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the organization’s statewide projects. He recently worked with APIA Vote to present outreach material for Asian Americans to fill out the 2020 Census.

For his extensive pioneering online work, he received the “Voice Award” from the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA).

He is the former president of the Mile High chapter of JACL, the country’s oldest AAPI civil rights organization, and he is a longtime columnist for JACL’s national newspaper, The Pacific Citizen. He has also contributed to the Japanese Canadian national newspaper, Nikkei Voice, and to the Japanese American National Museum’s Discover Nikkei website, as well as giving a day-long symposium at JANM on the history of Japanese community newspapers in America.

Asakawa was appointed in 2014 by Mayor Michael B. Hancock to Denver’s Asian American Pacific Islander Commission. He is also a member of the US-Japan Council, Japan America Society of Colorado, Nikkeijin Kai of Colorado, Asian American Journalists Association, and is an executive board member for the Emily Griffith Foundation. He was recently named Chair of the Denver-Takayama Sister City Committee.

He was born in Tokyo to a nisei or second-generation father who was born in Hawaii, and a mother who is from Nemuro, in Hokkaido. The family moved to the U.S. when he was 8 years old.


Photo of Soyon Bueno

Soyon Bueno serves as the Director of Asian American Student Services at the University of Colorado Denver.  She has over 20 years of experience in higher education specializing in recruitment, retention, advising, and student support services.  She enjoys her role in helping students get engaged on campus and providing cultural programming that raises awareness about the diversity and richness of the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American community.

Prior to joining CU Denver in September 2011, Soyon lived in Durango, Colorado, and worked at Fort Lewis College as the Assistant Director in the academic advising department and served as the transfer coordinator and advisor.  She also worked for Illinois State University and co-authored a guidebook that serves as a road map to the Carl D. Perkins legislation of 1998.

Soyon Bueno was born in South Korea but immigrated to Denver, Colorado when she was five years old.  She attended Denver Public Schools and graduated from North High School.  She earned her bachelor's degree in Economics and a minor in Asian Studies from Colorado College. She received her master's degree in Student Affairs in Higher Education from Colorado State University in 1998.

In her spare time, she enjoys playing tennis, downhill skiing, and traveling.


Photo of Rachele C Espiritu, PhD

Rachele C Espiritu Ph.D. is a first-generation Filipina research psychologist who brings substantive experience in the areas of behavioral health, health disparities and equity, cultural and linguistic competence, culturally responsive and equitable evaluation, workforce development, and systems change and collaboration. She is a founding partner with Change Matrix LLC, a minority- and women-owned small business that motivates, manages, and measures change to support communities and systems that improve lives. Dr. Espiritu provides training, technical assistance, and capacity building at the local, territory, tribal, state, and national levels in multiple systems, including mental health, substance use, public health, and education. She currently leads several national federal and foundation initiatives – including the National Network to Eliminate Disparities in Behavioral Health, Pacific Southwest Mental Health Technology Transfer Center, Empowerment Evaluation for Community Partnerships for Health Equity, and Expanding the Bench™.  Dr. Espiritu has overseen and supervised the planning and implementation of local and federally funded cross-site, national evaluations that involve diverse community-based sites. She values working in partnership with diverse communities and funders of evaluation to build power in the most impacted communities towards equity.  Previously, Dr. Espiritu was a faculty member at Georgetown University (GU) and served as the Director of Evaluation for the GU Center for Child and Human Development.

Dr. Espiritu is passionate about service leadership and community engagement. She serves on numerous boards, including the Colorado Children’s Campaign, a nonpartisan advocacy organization committed to realizing every chance for every child in Colorado. She is a former School Board Member of Denver Public Schools (DPS), where she provided direction and leadership for Whole Child efforts and successfully passed a resolution for DPS to become a trauma-informed school district. In 2015, Dr. Espiritu was appointed by the Mayor of Denver to the Denver Asian American Pacific Islander Commission and is a past-chair. She received her doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she was a Patricia Robert Harris scholar. She lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband and two teenage sons.


Photo of Charles Ferrer

Charles Ferrer brings more than eight years of professional experience in the world of education, business, advocacy, and politics.

In his current role, he serves as the Manager of College Success & Internships at DSST (Denver School of Science & Technology): College View High School in Denver, CO where he oversees the campus’ internship program. During his tenure, he has placed nearly eighty 11th graders to gain real-world experience at internship placements that have included the Colorado Symphony, Denver Art Museum, History Colorado, the State Capitol, and Habitat for Humanity, among others. He is passionate about work-based learning programs and strives to ensure students have access to a college education, as well as helping families obtain economic opportunities.

Prior to his experience in education, Charles worked at FORTUNE 500 companies such as DaVita and Toys“R”Us handling corporate communications and media relations. He has interned for now-Governor Steve Bullock (D-MT) in Helena, MT, and U.S. Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) at the U.S. Capitol serving as a legislative intern during his freshman year of college.

Charles served on the Bergenfield Board of Education from 2013-2016 becoming one of the youngest and first Filipino American elected officials in New Jersey. During his time on the Board, Charles worked to increase transparency and was instrumental in establishing a digital and social media program in order to enhance district communication with community stakeholders.

Charles received his undergraduate degree in Geography from Pennsylvania State University with high distinction. In his free time, Charles enjoys hiking throughout the Rocky Mountains and searches for the best local coffee shops during his travels across the world. 


Photo of Riyaz Gayasaddin

A native of the Midwest, Riyaz cherishes his Asian-American identity and his journey to continuously better understand and live into that hyphen between Asian and American.  His journey has taken him to his parents’ home country of India, classrooms in Baltimore, the chilly winters of Minnesota, and currently the snow-capped peaks of Colorado. He is passionate about developing individuals and teams, building culture, and shaking up the status quo by nurturing developing leaders who work through an equity lens to become the change agents of tomorrow.  Currently, he works at Camelback Ventures, which is an accelerator for entrepreneurs of color and women.

Outside of work, Riyaz is a foodie. He approaches food as he does life - seeking diversity, opportunities to connect with others, and a chance to have a good time over a shared meal. Riyaz was lucky enough to attend Macalester College and Johns Hopkins University and strives to never stop learning and growing.


Photo of Joie Ha, Vice-Chair

Joie Ha is an activist and organizer for the Asian Pacific Islander American community in Colorado. She has a BA in Anthropology and a Masters in Development Practice with a focus on holistic methods of treating mental health for the Vietnamese refugee community in Denver. She has completed development work in Malaysia as a Community Development Officer in Kampung Sungai Suloh, and Cambodia as a researcher regarding how hip-hop can create fictive kin for youth enticed by the familial aspects of gangs. With over 10 years of community organizing, Joie has specialties in event-planning, Diversity and Inclusion training, and data equity. She currently works as a Partnership Specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau, specializing in outreach for undercounted populations. 


Photo of Joanne Liu

With 17 years of teaching and administrative experience, Joanne Liu has always been passionate about education. Joanne studied English & American Literature and Secondary Education at Brandeis University and began her career as a middle school special education teacher in Washington, D.C through Teach for America. She then continued as a high school SPED coordinator and teacher in Boston, and when she moved to Denver in 2010, she served as an assistant principal for a Denver Public middle school for about five years. Most recently, Joanne was the Director of Community Engagement for a non-profit coding school focused on training a diverse and inclusive student body to succeed in high fulfillment technical careers. She is currently a Fellow at Moonshot edVentures, a program that supports a diverse pipeline of leaders to design and launch the learning environments of tomorrow. She intends to develop a youth empowerment program for APIDA middle school girls.

Originally from Boston, MA, Joanne is a mother of two children and enjoys volunteering her time to the Colorado APIDA community. She has served on the executive team of the National Association of Asian American Professionals-Colorado (NAAAP). She was a member of the operations team of the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival. She is also the founding Denver Ambassador for The Cosmos, a national organization that takes a holistic approach to the growth and development of Asian women.


Photo of Tri Ma, Treasurer

Tri Ma is proud to call Colorado his home. From humble beginnings as the son of a refugee, Tri excelled in the academic arena graduating from CU-Boulder with his bachelor's and from Walden University with his M.B.A. specializing in Finance.

For the last 16 years and 12 of which running his own agency, Tri has helped many Coloradoans protect their health and assets through education and sales of various insurance products. He has a passion for helping people, especially students, seniors, and those with disabilities. In fact, Tri volunteers regularly with these populations throughout the year. He serves as a member and Treasurer for Denver Asian American Pacific Islander commission, Salute to Seniors, Adams County Aging Network, various food pantries around town, setting up events such as senior law day, career and resource fairs, and mentoring young minds are some things he does when he is not working, adventuring the Colorado mountains, or enjoying delicious food with family and friends.


Photo of Shauna Medeiros-Tuilaepa, Chair

Shauna Medeiros-Tuilaepa is the owner of No Ke Aloha Inc., a mobile run food truck and caterer specializing in Polynesian Cuisine. Established in 2015, No Ke Aloha Inc. thrives to connect Pacific Islander communities, and those close to them, while advocating for healthier changes in food options, as well as, incorporating sustainable and environmentally friendly choices within company operations. Shauna received her undergraduate degree from the University of Denver. She earned a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts and a minor in marketing. She began her performing arts career in 2001 with one of the first Polynesian dance revues in Colorado. Here, she learned more about the languages, cultures, and dances from many different islands in the South Pacific. In 2008, she co-founded one of the most reputable Polynesian dance companies in Colorado where she gained further cultural knowledge, as well as experience in choreography, theater production, and communications. Shauna was born and raised in California and has spent more than half her life in the beautiful state of Colorado. She considers herself a multi-racial individual being "blended" with Native Hawaiian, Portuguese, Chinese, and Irish. Shauna is a proud mom of a beautiful blended family of six children. Her husband, Cornelius, is from the island of Samoa, and together they work very hard and strive to advance their entrepreneurship in hopes of successfully representing Pacific Islander communities and encouraging and advocating for a better quality of life for all.

In 2017, Shauna was appointed to Denverʻs Asian American Pacific Islander Commission by the Mayor of Denver where she has found an answer to a deeper calling towards humanitarian work. She was blessed to be elected Chair by her fellow commissioners in 2019.


Photo of Jane Miyahara

Jane Miyahara has many roots in different places. Her birth mother and father, Amy and John are from Hawaii, and her adopted parents, Ben and Flo are from California. Jane was an active member at Simpson United Methodist Church from early childhood through her teen years where she was able to learn about her culture. 

Miyahara attended Denver Public Schools from elementary through high school and graduated from Thomas Jefferson.  After graduation, she moved to Hawaii where she received a BA in American Studies, with an emphasis on Hawaiian Studies. Jane had an opportunity to work in Washington, DC, and moved to the east coast after graduation where she worked for the Smithsonian.  After this job ended, Miyahara worked for the DC government for the DC Commission for Women where she learned a lot about community work and local government policy. 

Jane returned to Denver in 1996 where she went to UC Denver to work on her MA in Early Childhood Special Education. She taught preschool in Head Start and then went onto Adams 14, where she worked for 7 years as an Early Childhood Special Educator. Miyahara moved on to work at the Colorado Department of Education as a Principal Consultant for Early Childhood Special Education. 

While she enjoyed her work with the state, Jane’s heart was with the local school district, so she took a job at Denver Public Schools and have been there since. Miyahara currently works as a Senior Manager for Preschool Special Education Supports and loves her job.

During her spare time, she loves hanging out with friends and paddleboarding is her happy place. She also quilts and has two awesome cats, Benny and Joon.  


Photo of Mike Hoa Nguyen

Mike Hoa Nguyen, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of higher education at the University of Denver's Morgridge College of Education and faculty affiliate at the Scrivner Institute for Public Policy and the Interdisciplinary Research Institute for the Study of (In)Equality (IRISE).  His research and teaching examine the benefits and consequences of public policy instruments in expanding or constraining the operations of colleges and universities, with a specific focus on federal diversity initiatives and the educational experiences of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI).  Prior to earning his doctorate, Dr. Nguyen served as a senior staff member in the United States Congress, where he worked extensively on AAPI issues.  He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and his graduate education at the University of California, Los Angeles.  Dr. Nguyen was appointed to the Denver Asian American and Pacific Islander Commission in 2020.


Photo of Mary Jeneverre Schultz, Secretary

Mary Jeneverre Schultz serves as the editorial director for Asian Avenue Magazine. In addition, she works in the Center for China – U.S. Cooperation at the University of Denver. She earned a master’s degree in nonprofit management from Regis University in Denver. Just recently, she completed a fellowship with the Los Angeles-based Leadership Asian Pacifics, Inc. (LEAP). For more than 20 years, she has worked in nonprofit for three organizations. Before venturing into nonprofits, she worked as a business reporter for two daily newspapers: Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario, California, and The Greeley Tribune in Greeley, Colorado, and numerous trade magazines in health, banking, and the arts. She also serves as a volunteer grants committee member for the Women’s Foundation of Colorado, commissioner for the Denver Asian American Pacific Islander Commission, and volunteer board member for the Aurora Asian Partnership.

In her free time, Mary enjoys reading books written by Asian and Asian American authors, cooking Filipino dishes, and exploring the world as a curious traveler of customs and cultural exchanges.


Photo of Kai Vong

Kai Vong is a current student at East High School and is honored to be a member of the Denver Asian American Pacific Islander Commission. Kai is the founder and current president of the Asian Pacific Islander Student Alliance (APSA) at East High School, an organization that creates an outlet for Asian Pacific American students. It also provides an opportunity for all students to learn about new cultures, express their curiosities, and share their own personal experiences.

Outside of school, Kai enjoys numerous activities. As a sports enthusiast, he is usually up to date with current sports-related events and news, especially in the world of professional football and basketball. Over the years, music has evolved to become a significant part of Kai’s life. He has been playing the trumpet since middle school and is now part of the Jazz Combo Honors Band at East High School. Kai has also been with the Denver Citywide Marching Band, a band that is composed of students from various schools throughout the city of Denver, for the past five years. He has enjoyed playing in many different settings, such as school musicals, the Colorado State Fair, and the Parade of Lights.

Kai enjoys spending time with his family and friends and values the support of his loved ones. He looks forward to the future and strives to make a positive impact on the community surrounding him.


Photo of Patrick Walton

Patrick Walton brings ten years of experience spanning the corporate and nonprofit sectors to Mile High United Way as the Director of Volunteer Engagement.

Patrick was appointed to the Denver Asian American Pacific Islander Commission (DAAPIC) in 2017. He hopes to join the other commissioners in supporting and strengthening DAAPIC’s crucial role as the link between the AAPI community and the City of Denver. 

Born and raised in Lodi, California, Patrick is an avid traveler and you can often find him hitting the slopes during the winter.


Helpful Resources

ASL Version of This Page

Important DACA Information

Checklist for Business Startups

AAPI Resource Guide

Cover of the Asian Ameriican Pacific Islander(AAPI) Community Resource Guide

Finding Common Ground: A Report on Denver's AAPI Community

Cover of the Finding Common Ground report

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Contact Us

For questions, comments, or more information please contact:
Jessica Jorgensen, DAAPIC Liaison

Are you interested in joining the Asian American Pacific Islander Commission?
Apply online today!

Need Help?

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Outside Denver Call 720-913-1311
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TTY Service: 720-913-8479


Location & Hours
Webb Municipal Building, 2nd Floor
201 W. Colfax Avenue, Dept. 1102
Denver, CO 80202

Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.


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