Im a dancer.
Im a mulitasker.
I am FasTracks.
I am RTD.
Multitasking is one of my biggest strengths. I work at Denver International Airport by day and teach Zumba at night. To be more effective at both, I answer email and create new choreographies while riding an RTD SkyRide bus to DIA. In just two years, Ill be able to ride to work on the East Rail Line to the airport. Let the planning — and dancing — begin.
— Cha Cha Cruz, DIA Employee and Zumba Instructor
ChaCha Cruz commutes to DIA for work, but a big part of her life is her Zumba family. ChaChas big sister introduced her to Zumba six years ago and Cruz danced her way to a 62-pound weight loss. Now, shes teaching others how to stay healthy to Latin and other world beats.
"Weve been told we look like a bag of Skittles," she says of her groups brightly colored workout gear.
Cruz, 45, of Thornton, admits she preferred tap and jazz dancing while growing up in New Mexico "and wanted to be Gene Kelly."
Today, she works at Denver International Airport and teaches Zumba at night. To get back and forth to work, she rides an RTD SkyRide bus and makes the most of her commute by reading email, listening to music, choreographing Zumba dance routines or just relaxing. She cant wait for the grand opening of RTDs East Rail Line to DIA in 2016.
Riding public transit to work is "calming and soothing so I can have a positive outlook for the day," says Cruz, who describes herself as a "passionate, spiritual and high-energy" individual.
Cruz needs that energy for her Zumba classes and the halftime shows she choreographs for Denver Nuggets games.
Some of her Zumba students dont believe she was ever overweight and she has to show them her old drivers license to convince them otherwise. Through dance, she and her students do charity work to help flood and fire victims, cancer patients and Augies Quest, dedicated to curing ALS, or Lou Gehrigs disease.
Zumba, she says, "becomes more than just a dance class, more than just an exercise. Its a family coming together to shake it for a cause."
Im a workforce builder.
Im a job creator.
I am FasTracks.
I am RTD.
Making a positive impact — thats my mission. I manage an innovative, hands–on job training program pioneered right here in Denver. RTDs Workforce Initiative Now has partnered with Community College of Denver, Urban League, and Denver Transit Partners to train workers for careers in the high–demand transportation and construction industries. Were creating local opportunities and building a stronger workforce, and Im proud to lead the charge.
— Martell Dyles, Manager of RTDs WIN Program
Public transit and job training is a winning combination for this young manager. In fact, he has helped to pioneer an innovative and collaborative job training program at RTD. Today, RTDs Workforce Initiative Now or WIN is a national model for training workers and helping them find jobs in the transportation industry and beyond.
"I have a passion for helping people that I thought I never had," Dyles says of his experience so far. "Its been rewarding."
In 2009, RTD partnered with Community College of Denver, the Urban League and Denver Transit Partners or DTP to initiate the WIN program. DTP is RTDs contractor on the Eagle P3 commuter rail project, the largest transit-oriented public-private partnership in the nation. Together the partners are building commuter rail lines that will travel to Denver International Airport, Westminster, Arvada and Wheat Ridge.
Dyles, 28, a Denver native, graduated from Manual High School and attended Midland Lutheran College in Fremont, Nebraska, on a football scholarship. He received his bachelors degree in business with a focus on entertainment and entrepreneurship from the University of Central Florida and is working on an MBA at Regis University.
As an undergraduate student, he interned at RTD and turned that opportunity into a full-time job. In his spare time, Dyles mentors middle and high school students through the I Have a Dream Foundation and was once a "dreamer" himself.
To relax, he works out, golfs, spends time with his small daughter or listens to hip-hop, rhythm and blues — and heavy metal.
In the future, "I would like to see the entire district grow and the communities within it soar to new heights," he says.
Were helping others.
We are FasTracks.
We are RTD.
At the Chanda Plan, we offer the opportunity for disability and wellness to co-exist. RTD and the Chanda Plan are amazing tools that go hand in hand to give access to the disabled community — access to integrative therapies and access every part of this city. By working together, were able to help people become healthy and independent.
— Chanda Hinton Leichtle, Maggie Stephenson, and Karina Vargas
Chanda Hinton Leichtle was 9 years old when a moment among friends changed her life forever.
She was hanging out with a 13-year-old cousin and his friend when the friend picked up a .22 rifle and accidentally discharged a single bullet. The bullet severed her spine, leaving her a quadriplegic — but her physical condition does not define her.
"Accidents happen. There can be people who are careful with guns — and its just a freak accident. Its unexplainable," says the Alliance, Nebraska, native.
Now 31, Hinton Leichtles grounded life view is an inspiration to everyone around her, especially those she helps through The Chanda Plan Foundation, a nonprofit she founded in 2005 to provide alternative health care therapies to people living with physical disabilities.
Her vision began in 2003. She weighed 59 pounds and was living with chronic pain when she received massage therapy, acupuncture and other alternative therapies that enabled her regain her health and live nearly pain free. She soon embarked on a mission to make the treatments available to others.
"Its totally changed my life," she says. "Thats why Im alive today."
Some insurance plans will pay for emergency treatments, medicine and surgeries for secondary issues caused by traumatic injuries, "but when you look at the quality of life that approach gives an individual, its more about sick care rather than proactive well-being. Bodies just dont live like that. Bodies are meant to move."
Through her foundation, Hinton Leichtle has been able to help people receive no-cost alternative therapies adapted to their needs. She also mentors people in wheelchairs and teaches them how to get around Denver by bus and light rail trains.
"They are often just so grateful. Some of them are to the point where they never thought disability and wellness could co-exist. Some of them had given up," she says. "I dont want anybody to have to go through what I did. If theres any way I can prevent that–thats what really makes me keep my energy and my passion."
Im a student.
Im a dreamer.
I am FasTracks.
I am RTD.
A single gunshot took away my ability to walk, but it didnt take away my passion or my independence. Im working hard to redefine my future as an independent paraplegic. Im learning from my mentors, navigating the system, and going on to bigger and better things. Thanks to a little help from my family, my friends at the Chanda Plan, and RTDs bus system, I know Ill get where I want to go.
— Karina Sartiaguin Vargas, Student
Theres ample proof of life before the shooting on her Facebook page. In one sassy selfie, Karina Sartiaguin shows off a shaggy hairdo. In another, she strikes a pose in sunglasses that make her look like a Latin American telenovela star.
Her parents brought her to the United States from Nayarit, Mexico, when she was a baby "to give us a better education and opportunities in life," she says.
In 2010, that plan exploded outside Aurora Central High School when a single bullet from a a drive-by shooting pierced her spinal cord and left her a paraplegic.
"I usually tell people that I was in the right place at the wrong time," says the introspective teenager.
Now 19, Sartiaguin continues to work on rebuilding her shattered life. With the help of The Chanda Plan Foundation, she is learning to negotiate public transportation and other new challenges.
"Right now, Im at a high point. Im getting what I need," Sartiaguin says.
Her father, a construction worker, is a U.S. citizen and her mother, a stay-at-home mom, is a permanent resident. Sartiaguin, who is in the country on a visa for immigrant victims of crime, is trying to gain U.S. citizenship, too.
Learning to lead her life from the perspective of a wheelchair has been harrowing, but shes determined to get on with her life. Her short-term goal is to complete her high school diploma and then explore higher education or culinary school.
"My family sees me actively involved with stuff and they are happy that I am not just another statistic," she says.
Dispelling stereotypes about immigrants is important to her. "If you dont want to be put in that place you have to do something to get out," she says. "You never know where the future will take you."
FasTracks at a glance
122 miles of new rail service
18 miles of bus rapid transit
57 new stations
31 new Park-n-Rides
21,000 new parking spaces
Redevelopment of Union Station
FasTracks is RTDs voter-approved transit expansion program — the largest in the nation — transforming transportation through the Denver metro area. When complete, FasTracks will create better access and more transit options across all of our communities. That's more rail, improved bus service, more parking, and improved roadways and bridges for people on the go. Now thats progress.