U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, announced the winners of the fourth annual Congressional Women of the Year award.
The six winners of this year’s award are: Sojourner Kincaid Rolle, of Santa Barbara; Arcelia Sención, of Los Olivos; Silvia Uribe, of Goleta; Yessenia Echevarria, of Paso Robles; Courtney Haile, of San Luis Obispo; and Sister Theresa Harpin, of San Luis Obispo.
The 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,” Rep. Carbajal said in a statement. “The honorees this year are all doing incredible work focused on supporting members of our community who are too often overlooked.”
Rep. Carbajal will recognize the winners by entering a special written tribute for each woman into the official Congressional Record to preserve their stories and impacts on the community. An award ceremony will be held at a later date and each honoree will also receive a special Congressional pin.
Ms. Rolle, a 35-year Santa Barbara resident, 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 described as “the glue that connects community members.”
“She is heavily involved as a guiding elder for the Juneteenth Santa Barbara and Healing Justice Santa Barbara organizations,” Rep. Carbajal said. “She is a truth teller 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.”
Ms. 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. She works alongside community partners to ensure clients receive the best services and resources available, while also aiming 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,” Rep. Carbajal said. “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.”
Ms. Uribe was born and raised in Mexico City and moved to Santa Barbara with her family 28 years ago. Her business, TransilPro, provides translation and interpretation services to businesses, government, community organizations and other groups. She is known for creating programs that overcome language barriers, such as: 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 also delivers volunteer trainings for Spanish speakers working with Standing Together To End Sexual Assault and Just Communities.
“She is a public servant, working for the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s Victim Witness Unit and serving on County commissions,” Rep. Carbajal said. “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.”
Ms. Echevarria has focused on increasing civic engagement and advocating for the Hispanic population. She started Mujeres de Action six years ago to spread awareness of breast cancer and other health advisories in Spanish. She is also a founding member of Paso People’s Action, which was formed in the past year to include, elevate and conduct outreach to marginalized or underserved community members.
Ms. Haile is known for her bold and honest voice as a community advocate. She co-founded R.A.C.E. Matters SLO, a grassroots organization that aims to amplify racial justice.
“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,” Rep. Carbajal said. “Courtney executes and stands by her vision with class, grace and intelligence.”
Sister Harpin founded the nonprofit Restorative Partners, a program that provides 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 her leadership, Restorative Partners provides more than 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,” Rep. Carbajal said. “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.”