Beatriz Bustamante: Community Connector
Beatriz is a wealth of knowledge, solution finder and confidence booster
Do you have that friend who always knows what’s going on? That friend who you call to ask about school, work, community, neighbors — and if they don’t have the answer, they do some research and get back to you. Well, there’s about 250 people who feel that way about Beatriz Bustamante.
One recent spring day as we toured the different “Habitat” communities — the Bluffs in Eagle, Grace Avenue and Stratton Flats in Gypsum — it was abundantly evident that Beatriz not only knows the communities but knows the people within each neighborhood. She has a warm smile and genuine greeting for most everyone we encounter.
Beatriz is the engaged neighbor — even if she doesn’t live in your neighborhood. She’s a community activist, a difference maker and connection creator. And, fortunate for Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley, she is the Family Services Coordinator. Add that to her list of other areas she’s involved: Eagle Schools’ wellness committee, accountability committee, PTA’s, community engagement, member coordinador of the Movimiento Familiar Cristiano Catolico.
She quickly took on more tasks than that of a health assistant at Battle Mountain High School. “Because I was well known in the Hispanic community, people would see me there, people started asking me lots of questions,” Beatriz explains. She in essence became the missing link to Hispanic families; the parent away from home who would tell students to see their counselor, to get involved. “I started working more as the resource person. I was noticing students with missing information, I started having conversations with the counselors, asking what else can we offer Hispanic students?”
When teachers needed information, they went to Beatriz — and vice versa. Before long, Beatriz had created a community engagement program for Hispanic parents, bringing resources to once-a-month meetings.
“After two-and-a-half years, it was very noticeable that the school had an increase in minorities graduating and [pursuing] further education,” Beatriz says. Eagle Valley High School took note and contacted her to replicate what came together at BMHS.
Being a community resource and mentor suits her. Beatriz ran for Board of Education, certainly because she has the experience, drive and ambition, but also to be a role model. “I was thinking of being a board member would let Hispanic students see — their mentality often is ‘that job is not for me, I’ll do what my parents are doing (hotel, construction)’.
“My point to become a board member was to show you have to be more inclusive, don’t wait for anyone to tell you what to do. Take away the rock that is not letting you pass, move it and don’t be afraid.”
She lost by a narrow margin but that didn’t stop her because COVID hit and she responded. Beatriz was helping in the administration offices and heard of all the obstacles students were encountering: no internet, too many kids sharing a small space, parents unable to work and struggling with food.
It was a catalyst: Beatriz worked with the school to set up hotspots, shared communication with the teachers, worked with the Community Market to start delivering food baskets. It occurred to her that “we are all swimming in the same water but we all have a different boat.” Beatriz’s priority then and now is to help all boats rise.
“I’m always giving my heart to anything I do,” she says. And that will continue with Habitat for Humanity. She’ll work with families — those who own a Habitat home and those who hope to. She’ll guide them and help them find solutions and success that fit their lives, whether it’s finding the resources to answer a question about DACA, financial literacy or finding a pathway to housing stability.
“I will be that person, that link, always representing Habitat for Humanity. I want them to know I am there, if I don’t know exactly the answer, I will try to find it. I will sit with them. You learn a lot from families,” Beatriz shares.