Source: Office of Rep. Salud Carbajal
Today, Rep. Salud Carbajal announced the winners of the fourth annual Congressional Women of the Year Award. The six winners of this year’s award are: Yessenia Echevarria of Paso Robles, Courtney Haile of San Luis Obispo, Sr. Theresa Harpin of San Luis Obispo, Sojourner Kincaid Rolle of Santa Barbara, Arcelia Sención of Los Olivos, and Silvia Uribe of Goleta.
The Congressional Women of the Year Award honors exceptional women across the 24th Congressional District who have left a positive impact on their communities. Winners span a variety of backgrounds and professions and represent the thousands of women working tirelessly to improve quality of life on the Central Coast.
“I am honored to recognize these remarkable, trailblazing women for the outstanding contributions they have made to improve quality of life for residents of the Central Coast,” said Rep. Carbajal. “The honorees this year are all doing incredible work focused on supporting members of our community who are too often overlooked. Congratulations to the 2021 Women of the Year!”
Carbajal will recognize the winners by entering a special written tribute for each woman into the official Congressional Record, preserving their stories and their impact on the community. An award ceremony will be held at a later date and each honoree will also receive a special congressional pin.
Below are the biographies for this year’s honorees:
Yessenia Echevarria, Paso Robles
A longtime Paso Robles resident and leader in SLO County, Yessenia Echevarria has focused on increasing civic engagement and advocating for the Hispanic population. Yessenia started Mujeres de Action (AKA Mujeres de Exito) six years ago to spread awareness of breast cancer and other health advisories in Spanish. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Mujeres de Acción has also served as a voice for the hard-hit Hispanic community, pushing for greater safety measures and action from City Hall. She saw the need and took action to fill it. She is also a founding member of Paso People’s Action, which was formed in the last year to include, elevate and conduct outreach to marginalized and/or underserved community members. Paso People’s Action is expanding into new areas of advocacy in 2021, including support for families affected by school board decisions, COVID-19 business recovery, and adding ethnic studies to the curriculum. Yessenia switches between English and Spanish to translate official announcements, share news articles, or serve as a mediator between leaders and citizens. In a county where official Spanish resources are not always readily available, Yessenia has helped maintain trust while helping non-Spanish speakers build inroads into otherwise ignored communities.
Courtney Haile, San Luis Obispo
Courtney Haile brings a bold and honest voice to community advocacy and her work on equity, justice and belonging. She co-founded R.A.C.E. Matters SLO, a grassroots organization amplifying racial justice and centering Black voices through art and culture in 2016. She is also a driving force for R.A.C.E. Matters’ creative endeavors, cultural programs, and organization of local racial justice events. As a student, Courtney explored media representation, race, and gender, and examined Black identity development in predominantly white communities. In her mission to help people honor and better understand the needs and contributions of the Black members of our community, Courtney spearheaded the visionary art series, BELONGING, and produced two original short documentary films. Her work with R.A.C.E. Matters has opened the eyes of the community to the talents, contributions, and value of our Black citizens. Courtney dreams of a more equitable and inclusive world for Black people and other people of color to live in, and she is measurably helping to create such a world here on the Central Coast. Courtney executes and stands by her vision with class, grace and intelligence.
Sister Theresa Harpin, San Luis Obispo
Sister Theresa Harpin founded the non-profit Restorative Partners, a program providing re-entry services to the incarcerated, beginning while they are incarcerated and continuing into their release. She has established re-entry homes for men and women, including one which re-unites formerly incarcerated women with their children (Anna’s Home in Paso Robles). Under Sr. Theresa’s leadership, Restorative Partners provides over 250 volunteers in the jail programs. She has implemented and taught non-judgmental techniques and, most importantly, restorative justice — which provides healing for both victim and offender. She has done this in spite of state and county funding cuts. Sr. Theresa has worked with the Sheriff, Department of Corrections, Parole, and the Courts to make restorative justice a reality in our county. She has an amazing impact in our county, as both the Sheriff and District Attorney can attest. The recidivism rate for those she works with is only 10%. She is an incredible asset to our community.
Sojourner Kincaid Rolle, Santa Barbara
Sojourner Kincaid Rolle, a 35-year resident of Santa Barbara, is a poet, playwright, environmental educator, and cultural and peace activist. She served a two-year term as Santa Barbara’s Poet Laureate and is known for her work raising awareness of BIPOC history throughout the County. Sojourner is the glue that connects community members (young and old). She is heavily involved as a guiding elder for the Juneteenth Santa Barbara and Healing Justice Santa Barbara organizations. She is a truthteller who exhumes our past stories and brings them to life as a reminder of where we have been and where we can go. Through multiple school and public programs, she uses her craft to engage poets young and old. It is community members like Sojourner that make Santa Barbara County special.
Arcelia Sención, Los Olivos
Arcelia Sención has worked in the nonprofit sector for over 25 years to better our community by addressing basic needs and the issues of abuse and trauma. Arcelia has been very community-minded, working in collaboration with many community partners to ensure clients receive the best services and resources available and to develop initiatives to address the prevention of childhood trauma and abuse. Outside of her professional accomplishments, Arcelia seeks to strengthen our community through her volunteerism, working with multiple organizations and the Santa Barbara County Commission for Women on issues of diversity, inclusion and equity that impact the residents of the Santa Ynez Valley. One needs only to look at the groups to which Arcelia gives her time to recognize how much of an impact she is making in our community.
Silvia Uribe, Goleta
Silvia was born and raised in Mexico City, before moving to Santa Barbara with her family 28 years ago. Silvia’s business, TransilPro provides translation and interpretation services to businesses, government, community organizations, and beyond. She has a knack for creating programs that overcome language barriers, including: The Spanish language Santa Barbara Leadership program, Líderes Latinos; Spanish-speaking Girl Scout troops; “Fun in the Sun” in collaboration with the United way; and services for low income, Latin-X children. She delivers volunteer trainings for Spanish speakers working with STESA and Just Communities. She is a public servant, working for the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s Victim Witness Unit and serving on County commissions. Her passion for communicating even extends to media, as a radio host, writer, and Univision contributor. Silvia’s work in the community goes beyond her everyday activities. Whether she is invited as a guest lecturer at SBCC, or to speak at churches’ groups, or to do presentations at different local schools, her objective is to be of service by sharing information and bringing services and people together.