Denise is a lawyer and community advocate in Austin, Texas. Both Denise’s parents grew up as migrant farmworkers and instilled the importance of social justice in her. As the daughter of an immigrant growing up in a low-income community, she witnessed first-hand the lack of equity, inclusion, and cultural competence in the judicial system. Through her lived experience, Denise was inspired to become the first person in her family to go to college. Denise graduated from the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas. She later put herself through law school at Texas Tech School of Law while volunteering for social justice organizations.
After graduating from law school, Denise and her wife planted roots in Central Texas. Fully committed to giving back to the community, Denise dedicated her career to social justice and public service. She started her career as a legal aid attorney, providing free legal services to low-income communities. Denise then served as an assistant county attorney in Travis County, helping young people impacted by the criminal justice system through Project Engage, a youth diversion program. After that, Denise served as an assistant district attorney, working specifically in the special victims unit helping survivors of domestic violence and child abuse. She now serves as the Deputy Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the Travis County Attorney's Office, helping to transform the criminal justice system.
In addition to her professional work, Denise is a long-time community leader. She has been working to address the school-to-prison pipeline and opportunity gaps in the education system through mentorship for over 15 years. In 2016, she was nationally recognized for mentoring students in marginalized communities. In 2017, She developed a summer speaker series to connect low-income students to financial aid counseling. In 2018, she launched a womxn empowerment festival to help raise funds for Latino/x non-profits. Denise and her wife then created a grant program to give annual grants to support non-profits that serve the LGBTQ+ community and communities of color. During the pandemic, Denise’s community advocacy continued. In May 2020, she worked with community partners to provide financial assistance and food to undocumented families. Then, during Winter Storm Uri, Denise collaborated with social justice organizations to provide food, water, and cleaning supplies to Black and Brown communities in Austin.
Denise also serves her community through board service. She currently serves as Board Chair for Con Mi MADRE, Board Chair for The New Philanthropists, Executive Board Member for Creative Action, Past Chair for the LGBT Law Section of the Austin Bar Association, Past Chair of the KLRU Community Advisory Board, and serves on the Host Committee for the Hispanic Impact Fund. Multiple organizations have recognized Denise's community leadership and public service. She was awarded the Outstanding Latina Community Leader Award by the Hispanic Advocates and Business Leaders of Austin, the Young Distinguished Leader Award by the Young Hispanic Professionals Association of Austin, named a finalist for the Communitarian Award by the Austin Fundraising Professionals Association, recognized as a leader of cultural change by the Travis County Democratic Party, recognized as a Champion of Change by DivInc, and is a two-time finalist for Austin's 40 under 40 awards.
Denise has years of experience in criminal justice, community building, developing innovative solutions to social issues, and creating equitable community initiatives. She leads courageously and is committed to bringing courageous leadership and social change to the bench.
-Over 15+ years of experience mentoring historically marginalized students
-Board Chair of Con Mi MADRE, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing higher education for young Latinas and their families
-Executive Board Member of Creative Action, a nonprofit dedicated to the social emotional learning of youth through creative learning programs
-Executive Board Member of The New Philanthropists, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing racial equity and inclusion in the philanthropic community
-Board Member of REBEL Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to disrupting racial injustice and community inequity
-Founder of Chingona Fest Texas, a womxn empowerment festival that support Latina/x creatives, entrepreneurs, and future leaders
-Co-Founder of KDH Giving Fund, a philanthropic fund created to support Black and Brown-led nonprofits and LGBTQ initiatives
-Past Chair of the LGBT Law Section of the Austin Bar Association
-Past Chair of the KLRU Community Advisory Board
+ Many more years of community service
The Austin Chronicle.
Many local leaders and community activists endorse Denise, including Representative Celia Israel, Councilwoman Natasha Harper-Madison, Councilwoman Kimberly Holiday, Alice Yi, Kathy Mitchell, Lonnie Limon, George Morales, Tonya Nixon, Paul Saldana, AISD Trustee Noelita Lugo, ACC Trustee Nora Comstock, + Many others.
The majority of the democratic organizations in Travis County that have endorsed in this race have endorsed Denise, including Black Austin Democrats, Pflugerville Area Democrats, Stonewall Democrats of Austin, South Austin Democrats, Austin Environmental Democrats, Capital Area Progressive Democrats, Victory Fund + many other local and national organizations.
Denise is also recommended and supported by the Central Labor Council and AFSCME Local 1624.