Meet the 2021 Women of Courage Awardees

 In Community Initiative, customized giving, philanthropy, PVF Donors, PVF News, Women of Courage

By Savannah Lira, Program Officer

Philanthropic Ventures Foundation has announced the second annual awardees of the Women of Courage Award!

This initiative acknowledges the courageous character and impactful community service of young women age 18-30 who live or work in San Mateo County. These young women demonstrate courage in their life choices and circumstances, make a significant contribution to others, and exemplify the characteristics of compassion, resilience and integrity in their professional and personal lives. The $25,000 award is intended to celebrate the awardees’ accomplishments and contributions, often in the face of enormous obstacles, and to encourage their service into the future.

“I just want to share my gratitude to you for creating the opportunity to celebrate women and changemakers in our community. It is a treasure to share the wonderful stories of everyday heroes living among us. We don’t do it enough.” – Tamara Sobomehin, Nominator of one of this year’s Women of Courage Awardees

The 2021 Women of Courage Awardees are:

“We all have a role to play in our community, and we are never too young to speak up and be heard. And we must speak where decisions are made -- or better yet, to be part of the decision-making itself.”

Ofelia Bello, 28

Ofelia is the Executive Director of Youth United for Community Action (YUCA) in East Palo Alto, a nonprofit organization that encourages youth to advocate for housing support and institutional change. She also serves on the East Palo Alto Planning Commission. Ofelia was raised by immigrant parents in East Palo Alto. She earned her BA from U.C. Santa Barbara, and a Master’s in City Planning from University of San Francisco in Urban Planning and Public Affairs. Combining her understanding of urban planning and public policy with a fierce eye for social change, Bello works on the social issues related to gentrification, homelessness, and racial injustice. When the landlord threatened to sell the building which housed YUCA’s offices, Bello raised the $1.2 million required to purchase the building and partners with two other community nonprofits to offer space to the “Placekeepers” of East Palo Alto. Bello is lauded for being fair-minded, professional, well-prepared, and deeply compassionate.

“It’s not enough to say we have suffered from injustice. It is our turn to speak up to ensure that it does not perpetuate for future generations.”

Carolyn “Carlie” Billie Jones, 28

Carlie is an Instructional Design Manager at StreetCode Academy in East Palo Alto, which teaches coding skills to underserved youth. A survivor of college sexual assault during her time at U.C. Berkeley, Jones transformed her experience into advocacy by reporting the sexual assault and speaking on campuses and at community gatherings. At StreetCode Academy, Jones was responsible for transforming in-person instruction for 300+ students to an online curriculum that now attracts many thousand local and international students. A ferocious advocate for justice, Jones leads inclusion and diversity trainings, and is a well-known community volunteer and public speaker. She has embedded herself in the community where she faced childhood adversity, and transformed herself into a powerful example of courage and change.

“If we can hold onto our best teachers by paying them the same as they would make elsewhere, we can support a whole generation of students. I’m committed to making that possible in Ravenswood.”

Jazmin Sosa, 28

Jazmin is the Operations Manager for the Ravenswood Education Foundation (REF) located in East Palo Alto. At an early age, Jazmin was determined to excel in school. Born and raised in East Palo Alto, she took advantage of every afterschool and summer educational opportunity available to propel her to college, where she earned a BA degree from UC Davis in Sociology and a double minor in Psychology and Chicano Studies. She returned to her community, determined to support the kind of educational opportunities that had supported her childhood. As Operations Manager of REF, a non-profit devoted to supporting schools in East Palo Alto and eastern Menlo Park, Sosa helped raise $9 million in crucial funds to support programs in Ravenswood. She is widely respected for her enthusiastic, respectful approach to the students, families, teachers, and donors her organization serves.

The community initiative was inspired by the lifetime work of Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D – 14, Burlingame), to highlight and support outstanding young women in San Mateo County. The initiative is sponsored by Cynthia Schuman, a longtime Peninsula resident and noted artist, in honor of her friend Jackie.

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