Carbajal Honors 2019 Congressional Women of the Year Award Winners

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Santa Barbara, March 29, 2019 | comments

Today, to mark the conclusion of Women’s History Month, Rep. Salud Carbajal announced the winners of the 2019 Congressional Women of the Year Award. The six winners of this year’s award are: Jill Anderson (Lompoc), Tania Israel (Santa Barbara), Dr. Leola Dublin Macmillan (Morro Bay), Yessenia Marroquin (Santa Barbara), Anahi Mendoza (Santa Maria), and Sandi Sigurdson (San Luis Obispo).

The annual 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.  

“The recipients of this year’s Congressional Women of the Year Award are all doing incredible work to improve the quality of life on the Central Coast, often without the recognition or compensation they deserve,” Carbajal said. “From creating spaces for compassion and understanding in our communities, to improving healthcare for our underserved populations, it is a privilege to recognize these trailblazers for their indelible contributions to our community.”

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.

Below is a full list of this year’s honorees:

Jill Anderson (Lompoc)

Ten years ago, Jill Anderson and her husband founded Shadow’s Fund, an organization to help find homes for senior and difficult-to-adopt dogs. Starting the organization with only a few dogs, they have now grown to caring for 42 dogs on-site and even more in foster homes. Along the way they established a sanctuary for those dogs, as well as pigs and wild horses. Jill has developed programs in the Lompoc community working with with local residents on dog ownership, as well as bringing the community to their sanctuary. She also created a program to rescue Pitbull puppies from backyard breeders, socialize and train them, and make them breed ambassadors. Jill works 60-70 hours a week as a volunteer for Shadow’s Fund. It’s an honor to recognize Jill’s efforts to make the Central Coast a more humane place for animals and a happier place for its residents!


Tania Israel (Santa Barbara)

Dr. Tania Israel is a Professor of Counseling Psychology at UCSB who has provided leadership in the Santa Barbara community and beyond for decades. In 2010, Dr. Israel collaborated with several Santa Barbara nonprofits to lead a community-based participatory research project which surveyed the LGBTQ community about their perceptions and concerns, which led to a mandatory 5-hour workshop on LGBTQ issues for all sworn police officers in the City of Santa Barbara. The workshop almost immediately proved to significantly improve relations between police and the LGBTQ community.

Most recently, Dr. Israel has designed and presented a two-hour interactive workshop, titled Beyond the Bubble, to help participants engage in productive dialogues across political lines by building their skills in active  listening, managing emotions, and perspective taking. Hundreds of people in Santa Barbara County have taken advantage of Beyond the Bubble in workshops delivered to the Santa Maria-Lompoc NAACP, the Santa Barbara Progressive Coalition, Congregation B’nai B’rith, and a League of Women Voters community forum, among others. Dr. Israel has not charged any of these organizations or their participants for her time and expertise, instead describing the workshop as her offering to our community.


Dr. Leola Dublin Macmillan (Morro Bay)

Dr. Leola Dublin Macmillan serves on the board of Just Communities Central Coast, is on the steering committee of RACE Matters SLO County, and is a member of the SLO Police Department’s Police And Community Together (PACT) community group. She has taught as a Lecturer at Cal Poly for the Ethnic Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies departments. Leola is deeply invested in making our community a more just and equitable place. She has organized and led many workshops on the Central Coast, sharing her extensive knowledge about how difference (in race/class/gender/sexual orientation/(dis)ability) is understood within US contexts. Above all, she is a passionate advocate for her students. She has been supporting and guiding students in pursuing their own advocacy projects, including helping with organizing the UnstoPPable Conference at Cal Poly and bringing to the attention of SLO City Council the need for improved lighting in neighborhoods surrounding Cal Poly campus. She selflessly and patiently educates our communities on difficult to discuss topics such as structural racism.


Yessenia Marroquin (Santa Barbara)

Yessenia has been serving our community for over 20 years through her work at Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics - and she is not even 40 years old! She came to this country from El Salvador as a child and has excelled ever since due to her intelligence, perseverance and good nature. She began at SBNC in college as a volunteer. Over the years, she has worked as a  medical assistant, clinic manager and now serves as the Director of Operations. She is an unsung hero of SBNC according to her colleagues. She has remained dedicated and calm through multiple challenges and the clinic almost shutting its doors. Through it all, Yessenia and her warm smile were a beacon for its employees and patients. She has led numerous initiatives at SBNC that have resulted in better patient care, coordination with other community partners and ensuring SBNC is meeting the needs of the Hispanic Community. I am glad to recognize her work to make Santa Barbara healthier, especially for the most vulnerable.


Anahi Mendoza (Santa Maria)

After graduating from Harvard University, and working two years on immigration cases in New York City, Anahi Mendoza realized that the city she grew up in, Santa Maria, is largely populated by Hispanic agriculture people and many of these people are immigrants in risk of been deported and been separated from their families. Starting with her passion for civil rights and immigration law coupled with the help of generous donors, Anahi founded the Santa Barbara County immigrant Legal Defense Center. The center has been helping many immigrant families in our local community. Anahi has been conducting Know Your Rights presentations in Santa Barbara County so that immigrants are informed of their rights should they encounter Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). She has worked extensively to create community clinics to screen individuals for immigration relief, assess their criminal record, and determine whether they have a final order of deportation. Anahi works alongside pro-bono attorneys in the area to help immigrant individuals in detention centers. Thanks to her efforts, she is definitely making a huge impact within the Hispanic community on the Central Coast.


Sandi Sigurdson (San Luis Obispo)

Sandi Sigurdson’s fierce commitment to community, to professional excellence and to the kind of hard work that creates meaningful change has served the Central Coast, especially its women, well. Her early concerns about the environment moved her from the hospitality industry into a senior position with the then-fledgling ECO SLO. She grew the organization in visibility and prominence, creating mainstream awareness of environmental issues. Sandi’s adroit management abilities and love of music led her next to the SLO Symphony, where for fifteen years she managed an award winning organization that made its way to Carnegie Hall and concert performances in Europe, spawned a youth symphony and brought music to the masses, especially to young children. She mentored her young female employees, many of whom today hold executive positions throughout the country. And for the last eight years as executive director of Leadership SLO, Sandi has taken her talents to an even larger stage. Sandi is first to raise her hand when help is needed, proud to speak up on topics needing a voice and is a woman who always, truly always, keeps the greater good firmly in her sight.


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