Lee Shainis

Lee loves this work. He co-founded Intercambio in 2000 and was the Executive Director for 20 years. He helped the organization connect 10,000 adult immigrants with 5,000 volunteer English teachers in Boulder County, establish a national network of several hundred organizations, and grow from a budget of $0 to $1.7 million.

He established the unique vision for Intercambio’s English curriculum series, Confidence and Connections, which is used by hundreds of organizations and is designed for students and teachers to gain new perspectives, deepen relationships, and accelerate language learning.  

He created a Cultural Humility training that he has led for over 100 organizations since 2010. 

He has led hundreds of trainings and workshops for educators and administrators nationwide around English acquisition, community engagement, and program sustainability. 

In 2021 Lee helped launch two exciting new national projects:

  • Conversations on Race and Equity for English Learners
  • CC English to connect volunteer teachers with English learners one-on-one online

Lee is passionate about providing practical tools and sparking conversations that break down language barriers, build confidence, and create powerful cross-cultural exchanges. 

Lee received a BBA from the University of Michigan. He lives in Boulder with his wife Marcela and their young sons Valentino and Mateo. 


  • Author – The Immigrant Guide, a tool used by 300,000 immigrants and refugees to learn about laws, systems, and culture in the U.S.
  • Author – How We Can Shift the Power Imbalance in Adult Education to Deepen a Sense of Belonging, Improve Program Outcomes, and Create a More Equitable Society, a 2021 article published in the Coalition on Adult Basic Education’s journal on racial equity.  
  • Author – Pronunciation Fun, a book to build confidence for English learners.


Lee’s awards 

  • 2004 Social Entrepreneur of the Year from the University of Michigan Business School
  • 2005 Daily Camera Pacesetter in the field of Education
  • 2005 Multicultural Award from Community Action Programs
  • 2009 Dancing with Boulder Stars Judges’ Choice Award 😊
  • 2010, 2012, 2013 Boulder County Gold People’s Choice Award – Best Activist/Community Champion 
  • 2011 Boulder County Business Report Forty Under 40 
  • 2012 Rotary Club of Boulder Flat Irons’ Spark Plug
  • 2012 Boulder Chamber of Commerce: Boulder 2140 Young Professional 

Intercambio’s Awards 

  • 2001 NOVA Award from Community Foundation Serving Boulder County for Innovation and Excellence in the Field of Education · 
  • 2007 Nonprofit Business Citizen of the Year from Microbusiness Development Corporation
  • 2007 Innovation IQ Award from Boulder County Business Report
  • 2007 YWCA of Boulder Champions of Diversity Award 
  • 2009 Mile High Chapter of the Red Cross Leadership in Inclusiveness Hero Award 
  • 2010 Partnership Award from Boulder Housing Partners 
  • 2013 El Pomar Foundation Award of Excellence – Human Services