GEN Staff | Girls Empowerment Network

Julia Cuba Lewis - Executive Director

Julia Cuba Lewis, Executive Director

Education:

BA in Women’s Studies, Creative Writing, Literary Studies, Beloit College, Beloit, WI; Master of Science in Social Work, University of Texas at Austin

 

Experience:

Before joining the Girls Empowerment Network team as Executive Director in 2006, Julia worked for eight years at the Girl Scouts of Central Texas running various outreach programs that served at-risk girls.  Prior to that, she worked in Chicago at several grassroots women’s agencies on equal employment opportunities, international women’s issues, mentor programs and emergency rape counseling.  She is the recipient of numerous professional and academic awards, including Austin Under 40.  While earning her Master’s degree at UT, she was honored as the NASW Student of the Year for the City of Austin and again for the State of Texas, and was the student commencement speaker for her graduating class.  She is past Secretary and two-time Chair of the Austin Commission for Women, and is a graduate of Leadership Austin and Leadership Texas.  Julia was also a Visiting Scholar and Community Sabbatical Recipient through The University of Texas Humanities Institute.  Julia teaches a fundraising course at The UT School of Social Work graduate program as adjunct faculty, and also co-teaches a certification program called The Executive Director Lab, which provides real leadership resources and strategies to emerging leaders.  She is a Trustee on the board of the Headwaters School.  She was the narrator and troop leader in an award-winning documentary about a program she directed while at the Girl Scouts called Troop 1500, which aired on PBS to more than 800,000 viewers in March 2006 and was highlighted in O Magazine, People Magazine, This American Life and won the runner up “Audience Award” at SXSW.  The documentary, about a Girl Scout troop with incarcerated mothers, had a successful U.S. tour with Julia as its spokesperson and can still be seen on PBS today.

 

What I like about GEN:

I love that GEN is addressing critical issues girls face today, both locally and nationally. GEN is an amazing catalyst for change because we are educating our community about the unique pressures of growing up female. The staff members of GEN are as passionate about women’s and girls issues as I am, and that makes our work environment not only energetic, but educational and very fun. Together we are committed to being a resource for our community – so that when a parent, educator or girl calls us for help, we have a way.


Operations Department
Steve bio pic

Steve Hamilton, Operations Director

 

Education: BA in English from the University of North Texas, Denton, TX; MBA from the University of Texas at Dallas

Experience: Steve spent more than 10 years managing the operations of nonprofit organizations. Prior to that, he spent 20 years in banking, financial planning, investment management, and running the operations of various professional firms. He also taught middle school language arts for a year. He has two talented and passionate daughters, both in their 20’s. In his spare time he enjoys reading, writing fiction, hiking, and rock climbing even though he has acrophobia.

What I like about GEN: When girls grow up comfortable in their own skin, owning their power and their seat at the table, the world becomes a better place and we all win. GEN gives girls the skills to do this. I am thrilled to be part of the team, providing operational support to the GEN programs and women who empower girls!


Amy Wolfgang, Administrative Specialist

Education: BA in American Studies from Cabrini College, Radnor, PA; MA in American Studies from Baylor University, Waco, Texas

Experience: Amy serves as GEN’s first Administrative Specialist. She found GEN through an event sponsored by her favorite zine, and came back later to volunteer at the We Are Girls Conference. She is passionate about creating space for teams to do their best work. Amy holds her MA in American Studies from Baylor University, and honed her organizational and administrative skills in nonprofit, state government, and museum settings. A transplant from Pennsylvania, she enjoys giving back to her adopted city by volunteering at nonprofits like Project Transitions, a local organization supporting those living with HIV/AIDS in Central Texas. When not at work, you can find Amy nestled in a bookstore nook, enjoying the amazing cultural events around town, or tending to her stoop garden.

What I like about GEN: As a former Girl Scout, I experienced first hand the power that girl-positive spaces can have on a young person. GEN’s work not only provides girls with the programs and skills to cultivate strength, it connects women and girls across ages. I am so excited to be a part of what GEN is doing for the next generation of girls!


Development and Community Engagement Department

Ami Kane, Development Director

 

Education: BA in Political Science, Psychology, and Gender Studies from Butler University, Indianapolis, IN; MPA in Nonprofit Management from Indiana University-Purdue University,ami Indianapolis, IN.

Experience: Ami is from the Indianapolis area which is where her passion for girl services began. This interest was sparked through volunteerism and her undergraduate political science and gender studies programs where she was honored as the Servant Leadership award winner in 2007. Her commitment to girls was further inspired by over four years of work with Girls Incorporated of Greater Indianapolis, during which time she also received her masters. After arriving in Austin in late 2009, Ami worked briefly with Foundation Communities before going back to her girl service roots with GEN. Ami managed the annual We Are Girls Conference for three years, serving thousands of girls, before moving into her present role as Development Director in January of 2013. She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Impact Austin, the Leadership Austin Emerge class of 2014, and was an Austin Under 40 Finalist for excellence in nonprofit work in 2017. Her largest volunteer commitment is leading the girls’ giving circle, Girls Giving Grants, through Impact Austin. In her free time Ami loves to watch movies, read, volunteer, try new nail polish, blog, and swim at Barton Springs.

What I like about GEN: Having worked in girl services since 2005, I know firsthand how vital GEN’s empowering messages and skill building activities are for girls. I am so happy to be a part of an organization led by women working to make a real difference in the lives of girls. It is because of a commitment to our mission that I’m honored to work with our community to ensure the necessary resources to support our fabulous, life changing programs for girls.


 

Angie Velazquez, Community Engagement Specialist

Education: BA in Advertising from the University of Texas at Austinangie

Experience: Angie first became involved with the Girls Empowerment Network in 2015 as a fundraising intern. Before beginning at GEN, Angie started her career in the non-profit sector by interning at the Helping Hand Home for Children as the Marketing and Development Intern. She then went on to work as the Marketing and Communications Coordinator at United Way for Greater Austin where she supported media and PR efforts, designed branded marketing materials and planned donor events. While interning at GEN Angie also served as a clubGEN volunteer at Paredes Middle School where she fell in love with the direct service aspect of GEN. In her current role as Community Engagement Specialist Angie gets to wear a few different hats by assisting the comm/dev department with the growth and expansion of the We Are Girls Conference, as well as working on the program team by leading clubGEN groups. In her free time Angie can be found at a local concert, hiking the greenbelt or planning her next trip around the world!

What I like about GEN: GEN is changing so many lives! GEN’s programs are allowing us to reach young girls allowing us to create positive change for our future, which I believe is so crucial. I love that GEN values individuality, inclusiveness and holistic approaches when working with women of all ages. It’s also so inspiring to work with such strong, motivated, and mission-driven co-workers who are all here for one reason: to help every girl know she is worthy.


 

Blair Stirek, Project ManagerGENwebsite

Education: BA in Communication Studies from University of Nevada Las Vegas

Experience:  Blair moved to Austin, Texas at the end of 2012, after being in Las Vegas for 17 years. She started her work with non profits in 2005 when she organized all the events for an organization called Women’s Empowerment Network. After working with a few different marketing companies and doing brand management Blair found herself working for Aid for AIDS of Nevada, the largest non profit in Southern Nevada to support people with HIV and AIDS. She held a role with AFAN for almost 2 years as Development Coordinator, which entailed planning the Las Vegas AIDS Walk, which would have more than 8,000 attendees. Blair always had a dream of going to Africa, so she put her mind to it and personally fundraised over $5,000 to spend July 2012 in Uganda building sustainable businesses for schools. Shortly after returning from Uganda Blair was contacted by Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation of Nevada, an organization she had been volunteering with for years.  They invited her to come on temporarily to manage their 5K and “Knockout Cancer for Candlelighters Kids” an amateur MMA fighting event. Immediately after the execution of these events Blair moved to Austin, Texas. Blair also volunteers locally at LIVESTRONG, Animal Trustees, and Texas Veg Fest.

What I like about GEN: GEN is near and dear my heart. I remember what it was like to be a young girl just like it was yesterday. There are so many challenges EVERY moment of the day. GEN wants to take those challenges and help young girls through them before it is too late. How could someone not believe in an organization like this?


Brittany Yelverton, Community Relations & Volunteer Manager

Education: BA in Communications, English and Women’s/Gender Studies, Elon University, Elon, NC; MA in Media BrittanyStudies, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa.

Experience: Brittany is the Community Relations and Volunteer Manager at GEN. Though originally from Texas, Brittany pursued her undergraduate degree at Elon University in North Carolina where she earned a BA in Communications and English and minored in Women’s/Gender Studies. After graduating from Elon, Brittany was selected as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar and earned her graduate degree in Media Studies at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa. Brittany first began working in the Austin nonprofit community when she served as the AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer Specialist at GEN in 2011-2012. Most recently, Brittany served as Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas’ Community Outreach Specialist and was awarded the 2013 Reproductive Equity Award from the Lilith Fund. Brittany is a past advisor for Impact Austin’s Girls Giving Grants program and served as the Board President for DOVIA (Directors of Volunteers in Austin). She is currently a member of the Leadership Austin Emerge class of 2018.

What I like about GEN: I have an overwhelming amount of respect for the work that GEN does, and I am thrilled to be able to contribute to an organization dedicated to empowering girls and creating inclusive and supportive programs for young women. Additionally, I am exceptionally excited to connect Central Texas community members to valuable opportunities for engagement with this incredibly significant and impactful organization.


Elena Carey, Development Manager

Education: BA in Anthropology and Environmental Policy, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VAElena_headshot_cropped

Experience: Elena began at GEN in August 2015 and is thrilled to combine her passions for nonprofit management and girls empowerment. Before beginning at GEN, Elena worked as Administrative Director at Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems, a green building and sustainable design nonprofit. Beyond work, Elena is YWA Connect Co-Chair and provides pro bono development consulting for three nonprofits: Lone Star Victims Advocacy Project, Austin Bat Cave, and STEMed Labs. She runs, reads, writes, and creates mixed media cards often. She is originally from eastern Pennsylvania and attended the College of William & Mary.

What I like about GEN: Each of GEN’s core values resonates with my own principles. There is one unlisted but present value spun throughout GEN’s narrative: empathy. I believe in the profound power of empathy. I have empathy for my younger self, who would have benefitted tremendously from GEN programming, and for all girls, at every age, but especially those just beginning to carve out their role in the world. I have empathy for girls navigating challenges unique to their generation, geography, race, and socioeconomic level. I believe GEN’s work is critical to ensuring we empower girls with a compassion for others and themselves that fuels self-realization and strengthens community.


Program Department

Caroline Crawford, Program Directorphoto

Education : BA in Communications and Minor in Sociology, College of Charleston, Masters of Science and Social Work, The University of Texas

Experience : Caroline started her work with youth over a decade ago. She has been a mentor and volunteer through several organizations including HeadStart and Boy Scouts of America. Her passion for girls empowerment stems from her time at Camp Greystone, an all girls residential camp in North Carolina. From 2007 to 2010, Caroline was a counselor working with girls on self-confidence and self-worth. She went on to pursue her passion for empowering others through obtaining her masters degree. In 2011-2012, Caroline worked at Winn Elementary performing individual counseling and volunteered with GEN co-leading a clubGEN girls group at Maplewood Elementary. In 2013, Caroline worked with Pheonix House, a residential rehabilitation organization designed for at-risk youth 13 to 18, leading group therapy. From 2013 to 2015, Caroline was promoted from Assistant Director to Director at Camp Champions. Using the camping venue, she created intentional frameworks and programs to support and to reach out to every girl at camp. Caroline could not be more excited about joining the GEN team as their Program Director and working with a mission driven organization empowering young females.

What I like about GEN : Living in a society that covets air-brushed models and unrealistic expectations for women, girls are experiencing more pressure than ever. I love that it is GEN’s mission to help girls navigate through the messages they receive everyday from the media, our culture, and their peers. GEN creates a safe space for girls to be wholeheartedly vulnerable and authentic while exploring who they are and who they want to be. Growing up, I would have truly benefited from a supportive group of women and girls telling me my self-worth was more than just my body or my looks. I hope every girl who participates in GEN programming walks away with a sense of self-confidence and knowing they are worthy of friendship, success, and love.


Chelsea Dean, Program Coordinator

Education: Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Texas at AustinView More: http://joycetongphotography.pass.us/utswofficers

Experience: Chelsea served as a social work intern for the Girls Empowerment Network in the spring of 2015. During her time at GEN she helped co-facilitate several groups in multiple schools around the Austin area. As well, she assisted in workshops, after school clubs, and was involved in community networking. Prior to her involvement at GEN, Chelsea spent many volunteer hours at Project Transition’s Doug’s House – a hospice for those diagnosed with AIDS, Front Step’s the ARCH – Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, and Inside books – a nonprofit dedicated to sending books to Texas prison inmates. During her time at the University of Texas at Austin, Chelsea was heavily involved with the College Senate and served as her school council’s Vice President during her senior year. She recently graduated from UT with her Bachelor of Social Work in May of 2015. Chelsea is from Brenham, Texas where she grew up with Blue Bell ice cream and bluebonnets. In her spare time you can find her at Zilker Park with her dog, Max. Chelsea’s most important form of self care is quality time with her partner and closest friends.

What I like about GEN: I love that GEN fosters such positive relationships between young women, both in their services and in their office. Having strong female supports was so important in my adolescent years and I love being able to create spaces where young women can meet their peers and form meaningful, supportive relationships. Young women face unique pressures in today’s society and it is so important for them to have a safe space to discuss those issues and collectively explore positive ways to handle such conflict.


Chloe LaPorte,  Program CoordinatorChloe

Education: BA in Political Science – International Relations, Tulane University, Masters of Science in Social Work, The University of Texas at Austin.

Experience: After graduating from Tulane, Chloé worked in education reform with Teach For America in New Orleans, LA as a teacher, then an administrator for five years. Chloé pursued a Masters of Social Work because of her interest in mental health and her desire to work with adolescent girls and young women. In graduate school, Chloé worked in a correctional setting, providing group therapy to female inmates. Additionally, Chloé interned with an organization in Sydney, Australia, CanTeen, for adolescents and young people affected by cancer by providing online and phone counseling, as well as facilitating camps and programs for the young people. Chloé loved working with youth in this way, providing psychosocial support in a fun, peer-supported, and wholly nurturing environment. Chloé is thrilled to be a part of the Girls Empowerment Network team and is dedicated to improving the lives of girls by helping them find their power.

What I like about GEN: I love that GEN’s mission and values so closely align with my own personal beliefs. I love that GEN educates girls to be critical thinkers, to challenge the norm, and to be their true, wonderful selves. I love that I work with a diverse group of passionate, dedicated people who are so committed to the girls we serve and our community. I love that I get to work alongside brilliant and powerful girls as they begin to change the world.


Claudia Arellano, Outreach Program Coordinator

Education:  Bachelor of Science in Family and Consumer Sciences from Texas State University, San Marcos, Texasclaudiaa

Experience: Claudia is a Program Coordinator. She has had a variety of roles at GEN, first as a volunteer with the 180 Program in 2013, then as an intern the following spring, and on staff the summer of 2014 through the AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate program. Throughout these many months she was able to co-facilitate and observe groups, workshops, and camps. For the 2014-2015 school year, Claudia served as the Hays County Program Coordinator in the area where she went to school in for 4 years. In her current role, she works full-time with girls in all of the agency’s programs. Claudia was born and raised in Austin, specifically a proud member of the Dove Springs area. She is excited to be a first generation college graduate from a large family. Claudia likes to find time to hang out with her friends and family, listen to music, go to concerts, and find different workout classes to be active in.

What I like about GEN: I love the fact that GEN is so passionate about it’s mission. The environment is welcoming and motivational. It’s a pleasure to be a part of an organization that is open to so many young women in the Central Texas area. I like being a part of a movement that is helping girls become confident in making their own choices for their future. As a Latina, I love seeing the work that is being done in bringing different cultures together in our devotion to bettering the future of the young women we are working with.


Isabelle (Izzy) Harrison, Program Coordinator

Education: BA in Psychology from Sewanee, The University of the South; Master of Social Work from Tulane University School of Social Work

Experience: Izzy has always loved engaging girls in conversations about the unique pressures of girlhood since she led a girls’ wellness club as a high school peer counselor. As an undergraduate student, Izzy studied women and gender and served as a group facilitator for FEED, Full Embodiment: An Empowering Dialogue for women. She also interned for Thistle Farms’ residential recovery program in Nashville, TN where she worked with women survivors of trafficking, prostitution, and addiction. During her time with Thistle Farms, Izzy learned that the majority of residents had endured abuse beginning in childhood, sparking her passion for addressing childhood trauma. She completed her Master of Social Work degree at Tulane University and interned with the Children’s Bureau of New Orleans where she provided general, as well as grief and trauma counseling, for children and adolescents. Izzy recently moved from New Orleans, LA and enjoys exploring her new city of Austin.

What I like about GEN: GEN provides a safe and supportive space for girls to come together, learn, grow, and be themselves. Most importantly, I love that GEN’s programs equip girls with the tools and skills needed to navigate the pressures of girlhood and become flourishing members and leaders of their communities. I am so excited to be a part of the GEN family and contribute to GEN’s mission of investing in and empowering girls!


Jasmine Castleberry, Program Manager

Education: BA in Political Science, MA in Sociology; both from Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, TXProfile Pic

Experience: Jasmine is GEN’s first full time Houston based staff person, overseeing GEN’s program in the Houston region. She has had a long time commitment to helping students of all ages and their families. Prior to joining GEN full time in fall 2017, Jasmine served as the Program Manager for Innovation and Development at BakerRipley (formerly known as Neighborhood Centers Inc). She spent five years before that working for the Harlem Children’s Zone as a program director for arts and academic program for students K-12 in New York City. Before that, she ran afterschool programs for elementary students in Austin with the Austin Independent School District.  In 2010, she was introduced to the Girls Empowerment Network where she helped facilitate and expand the Girl Talk Workshops in Central Texas. In spring of 2017, Jasmine got reacquainted with GEN by assisting with outreach and promotion of  the We Are Girls Houston Conference. Not only has she chosen to dedicate her career to helping youth, their families, and the community she continues this drive in her personal time; serving on several community and civic engagement committees and boards in various organizations throughout Houston.  Additionally in her free time, Jasmine can be found eating tacos and exploring the cultural arts scene in her new hometown.

What I like about GEN: There’s nothing like getting around a group of girls and watching them come up with their own ideas and solutions.  GEN gives them the tools and resources to be strong and powerful to be able to do just that!  It’s also great to be around such like-minded people; those who invest time and energy to see our girls grow into self-sustaining, EMPOWERING game-changers.  What a time to be with GEN!


Natalia Ornelas, Program ManagerNataliaOrnelas

Education: BA in Psychology from St. Edward’s University in Austin, TX; Master of Science in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin

Experience: Natalia has worked with Texas youth and families for over eight years. She is passionate about creating opportunity for marginalized communities. Natalia’s professional experience in serving regional non-profits has focused on youth and family development and success through case management, inclusive individual/community support services, policy advocacy, strategic program development, community organizing, and leadership.

What I like about GEN: Society expects girls to fit a certain mold. GEN breaks the mold by empowering, supporting, and guiding girls to live as their authentic, unique, and individual selves. I love that the GEN team works side by side with girls so that together, they create a stronger, inclusive, and supportive community for girls.


Sidney Kenley, Program Manager

Education: Bachelor’s of Social Work; Baylor University, Waco, Texas

Experience:  Sidney previously worked with Afterschool Centers on Education (ACE), and did her BSW field internship with Communities in School (CIS) in Waco. Throughout these experiences Sidney saw a trend of bullying and low self-esteem issues in the girls that she worked with and developed a passion to work with girls to help resolve issues that come with being a girl. Upon moving to Austin in May 2014, she began searching for opportunities to work with girls and young women and discovered GEN. She began as an intern in September 2014 and spent a semester helping to plan and coordinate the We Are Girls Conference. She was also a clubGEN program coordinator at Dawson Elementary. Sidney is thrilled to have the opportunity to assist with direct service and programs, as well as the operations that keep GEN running.

What I like about GEN: The GENvironment is extremely welcoming and encouraging. GEN provides incredible programs that target specific needs and age groups of girls. Our mission to support and guide girls through girlhood and our message of empowerment gives girls strength and confidence to make their own choices, be who they are, and stand up for what they believe in. I am excited to be a part of an amazing team that is committed to help girls live healthy and happy lives.