At Close of Women’s History Month, Carbajal Announces 2023 Women of the Year Award Winners

On the final day of Women’s History Month, Rep. Salud Carbajal announced the six winners of the sixth annual Congressional Women of the Year Award.

“The recipients of this year’s Women of the Year Award are all doing outstanding work to make the Central Coast a better place to live, often without the recognition they deserve. As we close another Women’s History Month, it is my privilege to highlight these six remarkable, trailblazing women for their indelible contributions to our community,” said Congressman Carbajal. “This was the most competitive year yet – with over 100 nominations from up and down our region – and I am humbled to have received so many great stories of service and dedication. I look forward to selecting many of them to join this year’s winners in the future years of this award.”

The six winners of this year’s award are: E.J. Borah from Santa Barbara, Dr. Van Do-Reynoso from Goleta, Casie Killgore from Santa Barbara, Kathleen Minck from Arroyo Grande, Janna Nichols from San Luis Obispo, and Laura Selken from Santa Maria.

The Congressional Women of the Year Award honors exceptional women across the 24th Congressional District who have made a positive impact on their communities. Winners span a variety of backgrounds and professions and represent the thousands of women working tirelessly to improve the quality of life on the Central Coast. 

Carbajal will recognize the winners by permanently entering the accomplishments of 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 where each honoree will also receive a special congressional pin.

Below are the biographies for this year’s honorees:

E.J. Borah, Santa Barbara

E.J. Borah is a longtime member of the Santa Barbara County community, a political activist, and a retired educator. After obtaining her teaching credential from the University of California, Santa Barbara, she worked for more than four decades as an educator – where she wielded an unwavering commitment to advocacy, education, and civic engagement.

Borah’s passion for political activism has spanned her career as far back as her graduation from UCSB in 1958. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee, as a member of the Democratic Women’s Board, as the Vice President of the Democratic Service Club, and as an elected official of the Democratic Central Committee.

Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, Goleta

Dr. Van Do-Reynoso is the Chief Customer Experience Officer at CenCal Health, the Medi-Cal managed care plan for Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties. From 2018 to 2022, she served as the Public Health Director for Santa Barbara County Public Health – leading public health operations through the COVID-19 pandemic, where she spearheaded the creation of the Latinx & Indigenous Migrant COVID 19 Response Task Force, as well as the Thomas Fire and Montecito Debris Flow.

Prior to her work on the Central Coast, Do-Reynoso worked in public health services in Madera, Tulare, and Alameda counties. She holds a Ph.D. in Public Health from the University of California, Merced; an M.P.H. in Health Policy and Administration from the University of California, Berkeley; and a B.A. in Biology with a minor in History or from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Do-Reynoso emigrated to the United States from Vietnam at the age of nine, at the time speaking no English.

Casie Killgore, Santa Barbara

Casie Killgore has served as Principal of Franklin Elementary School in Santa Barbara Unified School District for nearly 15 years. In that time, her leadership has gone beyond supporting the teachers and students – shaping the entire Eastside neighborhood with her dedication to supporting our community and its next generation.

Her dedication to our students and our families has created resources like the Franklin Neighborhood Center, and made Franklin a campus that her colleagues and parents have shared as a trusted resource for SB Unified families. Her service goes beyond her work at Franklin, as she serves as a board member of Central Coast nonprofits like Old Spanish Days, the Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation’s Education Outreach program, and the Mariachi Festival.

Kathleen Minck, Arroyo Grande

Kathleen Minck is a teacher, activist, and advocate whose passion has been felt here on the Central Coast and around the world.

In San Luis Obispo County, Minck has dedicated herself to a number of outstanding causes: from childhood cancer to diversity, tolerance, and education, as well as supporting refugees relocating to the Central Coast from Ukraine, Syria, and Afghanistan. Her work on the board of the Diversity Coalition San Luis Obispo County as the Education chair has provided our communities with programming highlighting important topics from civil rights and immigration to Japanese internment and the plight of refugees. She is also dedicated to supporting those experiencing difficult times, like she herself did when losing her sister to cancer at a young age, through volunteering with Wilshire Hospice and making routine trips to Cottage Hospital to read and spend time with the children receiving treatment for cancer.

After retiring from a 32-year career as an educator at the Lucia Mar School District, Minck also turned her attention to helping promote education access and human rights around the world–traveling to Kenya to help build much-needed school and Thailand to build a home with Habitat for Humanity, and serving as a human rights observer in Cuba and Venezuela. Her work earned her the Peace & Justice Human Rights Award from the California Teachers Association in 2013.

Janna Nichols, San Luis Obispo

Janna Nichols has a long history of service to the communities of the Central Coast.

For the past decade, she has served as the Executive Director of the 5Cities Homeless Coalition, spearheading the development of initiatives and collaborations that have supported the needs of so many of the Central Coast’s more vulnerable populations while tackling one of the most pressing challenges in our region: housing.

In 2021, Nichols and her team oversaw the coordinated entry process for over 550 households – more than 1,300 adults and children. In 2022, her work saw through the opening of the Cabin Project in Grover Beach, providing wraparound services and on-site case management for 20 cabins to families in need.

She also served as Chief Professional Officer for United Way of San Luis Obispo for nine years, overseeing the daily operations for the nonprofit and its all-volunteer board, and as part of the management team at United Blood Services-overseeing life-saving blood supplies for all three counties of California’s 24th Congressional District.

Nichols also currently serves as Co-Chair to the Supportive Housing Consortium, was a founding board member of the San Luis Obispo County Housing Trust Fund, served eight years as chair of the City of San Luis Obispo’s Human Relations Commission, and has served with several other community development efforts.

Laura Selken, Santa Maria

Laura Selken has been a leader of a wide range of community organizations in Santa Maria, including the American Association of University Women (AAUW)-Santa Maria, League of Women Voters of Santa Maria Valley, Orcutt Lions Club, and Women’s March Santa Maria Valley–holding various leadership posts and working across organizations to events and efforts to improve our community.

Laura is dedicated to supporting the next generation of Central Coast leaders. She is the Chair of AAUW Santa Maria’s Tech Trek Program, which sponsors five rising 8th grade girls to spend a week taking STEM courses at UCSB in the summer. She also organizes the Lion’s Club annual speech contest, and works behind the scenes to encourage young women to speak out and make their voices heard on community issues and the challenges of today.

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