Monday, August 9, 2021

“STORIES OF TRUTH AND TRANSFORMATION,” “PROJECT UPLIFT,” Women’s Global Connection with the Girls Global Summit Rising

Dr. Allison Buck, UIW Education and former Women’s Global Connection leader, Yesenia Caloca Yafout, Assistant Director of the Ettling Center, Sr. Martha Ann Kirk, active in the founding of WGC and the Ettling Center, Mayra Levy, Program Specialist with the Ettling Center, Dr. Joan Labay Marquez, UIW Education Department and leading the Young Women’s Leadership Project, Mary Labay Marquez, a leader in the SA to the UN gathering, Brother Patrick Tumwine, educational leader in Uganda pursuing a Ph.D. at UIW

Like spring which returns despite flowers being cut down, the spirit of Women's Global Connection with its Girls Global Summit is rising and shining. The physical office called "Women's Global Connection" closed February 2020 after hosting an extremely inspiring Girls Global Summit that month. That was the eighth annual event. (See Persistent girls such as Tatum Spriester with women friends would not let the energy die. (See ) The ninth annual event was an online transition presenting in the forum with the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in March 2021.  Read about that and see all the presentations on the UIW YouTube channel. (See ) An article about this will be coming out in Global Sisters Report soon. 

Energy has been building with a presentation in "STORIES OF TRUTH AND TRANSFORMATION:  Compassion, Civic Engagement, Teaching Social Justice," August 5, 2021, and "PROJECT UPLIFT: My Motivation," August 7, 2021,   

In the presentation, August 5, "Young Women’s Global Leadership Program- Facing and changing gender inequality one girl at a time" shared by Dr. Joan Labay Marquez, Erika Haskins, Linda Gjergji, moderated by Yesenia Coloca Yafout, Ettling Center for Civic Leadership and Sustainability Assistant Director, people were invited to consider roots and to look into the future. The Young Women’s Global Leadership Program and Summit is a international citizenship leadership training program that provides girls and young women the opportunity to discover how they can influence and create positive change at home and abroad. This leadership program supports the mission and ministry of the University of the Incarnate Word, by teaching our young women about the university’s strong commitment to service, the responsibilities of global citizenship and how entrepreneurship can create social change.

Dr. Joan Labay-Marquez is the Graduate Studies Coordinator for the Dreeben School of Education (DSE) and serves on the NASPA Review Board for the NASPA Journal of Women and Gender in Higher Education. She is a lawyer and her teaching focuses on law and social justice in higher education. She is an inaugural fellow of the SA Compassionate Institute 2020, serves as advisor to the Compassionate Student Peer Organization at UIW and is part of a phenomenal team of faculty, administrators, community leaders, graduate students and mentors that are organizing "Young Women's Global Leadership Program San Antonio and Girls Global Leadership Summit. Read of what is developing


Erika Haskins is a UIW doctoral student and also holds a UIW Bachelor’s in Business and a Master of Arts in Religious Studies. Erika’s research focus includes women’s and girl’s leadership and leadership in early Spanish, Mexican and Texas history. Her most recent academic research, Linda Marie Pace, has been published in The Handbook of Texas Women. As the former Executive Director for the Hispanic Heritage Center of Texas, she served as principal investigator on the travel exhibition, Las Damas de Tejas: Notable Women in Texas where she presented to numerous schools and museums around the state of Texas.

She has served as a historical consultant on the History Channel and as a consultant for an official San Antonio Tricentennial project. In 2010, she worked with Sister Dorothy Ettling, Mongu, Zambia, teaching workshops. Erika presented “Youth-Led Advocacy for Gender Equality: A Model for Global Summits” at the 65th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Her current dissertation study, ”Examining High School Girls Experiences in a Mentorship Program: A Qualitative Exploratory Case Study,” examines the positive benefits of participating in young female leadership programs.

Students from Uganda, Kenya, and Kosovo are planning to be in the 2021-2022 Young Women’s Global Leadership Program with the students from Incarnate Word High School and St. Anthony’s Catholic High School.


Linda Gjergji is pursuing her PhD in Adult Education, Social Innovation, and Entrepreneurship at the University of the Incarnate Word. She is currently working as a Program Specialist for PTAC Center, part of the Institute for Economic Development at UTSA, and coordinates the procurement assistance for 37 counties in San Antonio area. She has earned a Master’s in Business (MBA) from the University of Incarnate Word in 2017, and Bachelor’s degree in Banking, Finance and Accounting from University of Prishtina. She is USAID fully funded scholar for the Transformational Leadership Program in Kosovo. Her research interests are related to: Women entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship in developing countries, and Women issues in developing countries. She established a Non-Profit organization for women empowerment in Kosovo in 2017, which has enhanced the participation of woman in community engagement, in small communities in Kosovo. Linda believes that increasing women’s education, leadership and business involvement is the first step towards improving gender gaps in access to economic opportunities in developing countries.


See pictures of them and more about this at



August 7, 2021, “PROJECT UPLIFT: My Motivation," gave an opportunity for about 20 females and one male, Brother Patrick Tumwine, CSC, an educational leader from Uganda now in the Ph.D.  Program in the UIW Dreeben School of Education to gather in the UIW International Conference Center.  Dr. Allison Buck had continued our relationship with a Women's Global Connection friend. We were delighted to see Hildah (Claire) Nyongesa and girls of the Chango Secondary school which is located within Vihiga County, Kenya, near the  Majengo Market.  Lydia, Capadonna,  Millicent, Lynne, Vallary, Sentrine, Linah, Melvin, Knight, and Lavender.  

Also joining us online, through the friendship of Brother Patrick, leaders in Holy Cross Lakeview Senior Secondary School, located in Jinja District, Eastern Uganda. They are generously giving their time to mentor their girls participating in the global leadership program this year. They are Father Prosper Atukwatse-Mukama, CSC, Deputy Principle in charge of administration and Mr. Emmanuel Ijonai, Director of Studies. 

We also had some San Antonio friends and the outstanding guest speakers, Judge Rosie Speedlin Gonzalez, San Antonio City Council Woman Shirley Gonzalez, and Michelle McWilliams. UIW graduate student Jennifer Stuart worked on the program planning with Mayra Carbajal Levy and Yesenia Yafout Caloca who spoke and gave models for young women. 

Brother Patrick wrote, It was a wonderful day to be with you all with such uplifting presentations and engaged discussions. I am honored to be part of this awesome community of friends. God bless you all. 


Mayra Carbajal Levy,  Program Specialist  the UIW Ettling Center explained a little of her rich experience work experience and the multicultural gifts she brings. She has worked with CASA  Child Advocates San Antonio “insuring every child’s voice is heard.  CASA supports children and families involved in the child welfare system. Our volunteers advocate for the best interest of a child and make informed recommendations for the child’s physical and emotional well-being to the judge.” Mayra, as both someone with Mexican-American understanding growing up in Del Rio on the Rio Grande border and someone with interfaith understanding married to an Israeli Jew, is a leader helping people listen and grow.  


Yesenia Caloca Yafout and Brother Patrick converse about Africa during a break.

 Yesenia Caloca Yafout, Assistant Director in the UIW Ettling Center holds an M.Ed. in Global Studies: International Education Administration and Leadership from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She brings understanding from growing up in southern California with family roots in the Nayarit area of Mexico, studying at a UIW sister school in Korea, and interfaith understanding married to a Moroccan Muslim. They visit family in Morocco. Previously she worked with TRIO empowering UIW students. She has served in a Women’s Global Connection trip to Peru and did some needs assessment there.


Displaying the bags made in the service project which will be given to Lemonade Circle.

Content unfolded on gratitude, knowing our government, self-reflection in light of our names, and doing a service project of re-cycling a tee-shirt to make a bag for people using public transportation.  The Lemonade Circle led by Brandi Coleman, UIW Education Department, will be given these to share.

Judge Rosie Speedlin Gonzalez emphasized the importance of service to community.  She has devoted her career as an attorney to obtaining fairness and justice for the disenfranchised and the voiceless and continues to be committed to ensuring that women have a seat at the policy making table. She has been awarded by many groups and the PRIDE Center nominated her for the San Antonio Women’s Hall of Fame.        

Former Councilwoman Shirley Gonzalez just completed, the longest amount of time allowed in that position representing District 5, the West and near South sides of San Antonio. On the council, she chaired several committees for Planning and Land Development, Transportation and Mobility, and authored the City’s Equity Budget policy requiring allocations based on need. This is a process for investing in those areas of the inner city which were neglected for decades.

Sister Martha Ann Kirk reminded her of June 20, 2019, the first SA City Council session with the newly elected majority of city councilwomen. Lauren Gonzalez and Selena Casanova, ECCLS student assistants; Casey  Ogechi Iwuagwu, President of the UIW Pre-Law Society; Nicole Foy, WGC Interim Executive Director; Tamarra Mencey, WGC Director of Administration; Erin Jaques, WGC Summer Fellow from Leadership in Educational Equity; and Sister Martha Ann presented each of the female leaders a WGC Alternative Giving Certificate indicating that in her honor and in gratitude for her public service a woman in Tanzania or Kenya would receive a dozen hens to develop a family business.

Shirley Gonzalez remembered that day and her delight with that gift. She went on to speak of her experience on the council when they changed to a women majority. The women understood how it felt to be “spoken over as women.”  Though on the council they might express different points of view, they listened. They worked for the common good paying attention to different voices.

 Michelle McWilliams currently serves as the Assistant Director for Career Development at Trinity University. Using design thinking theory, she advises students who are exploring majors and interests to help them realize their career paths. She served as the president of the San Antonio Colleges and Universities Career Center Association (SACUCCA).  She motivated all at “PROJECT UPLIFT,” to think of themselves, to think of our names, to think of our potential. 


Mary and Joan Labay Marquez, Gabriella, Mary, Elizabeth and Ana Vallor.  

Dr. Ana Vallor, Chair of the UIW Biology Department who attended with her three daughters, shared reflection on her name and story. 

Dr. Joan Labay-Marquez who attended with her daughter Mary enthusiastically invited students to register for the Young Women’s Leadership Program. Learn of serving with that and with UN Generation Equality at

 By Sister Martha Ann Kirk, CCVI

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