As a place-based initiative, GAVA's mission, vision, and actions are guided by those who live, learn, work or worship in 78744 and 78745.  The diagram below shows how the residents form issue-based and geographic teams, which are then supported by GAVA operational staff, our Advisory Committee, our Board of Directors, and our Executive Director.

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GAVA's backbone operations are housed within Marathon Kids, our fiscal sponsor.  These staff guide the strategic actions of the coalition as a whole, taking direction from the residents.

Backbone Operations

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Carmen Llanes Pulido

Executive Director

Carmen is a native of Austin, TX, and has been organizing in Austin’s Eastern Crescent and fostering inter-agency collaborations since 2005. After receiving an interdisciplinary B.A. at the University of Chicago in Environmental Studies she returned to Austin as a staff organizer and research analyst for People Organized in Defense of Earth and her Resources (PODER). She later ran a program at Marathon Kids called the Wellness Team Initiative, engaging parents and teachers at 18 elementary schools in Austin’s Eastern Crescent to increase fitness and nutrition opportunities in their communities; this program eventually created the framework for GAVA’s School Sector in its early inception and implementation. Carmen cares deeply about community relationships and intergenerational organizing, and participates in public health and anti-racist networks in Central Texas and across the country. She currently serves as Vice Chair on the City of Austin’s Hispanic/Latino Quality of Life Commission, is an inaugural member of Austin’s first Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, and is serving on the inaugural Community Strategy Team at the Department of Population Health at the University of Texas - Dell Medical School.

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Andrea Casares

Development Director

Andrea was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley. She is passionate about immigration and birth work for women of color. Prior to joining GAVA, Andrea served as development director for Austin Region Justice for our Neighbors, a nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services to immigrant families in Central Texas. Andrea earned Master’s degrees in Public Policy and Human Development with a focus in Social Protection Financing and Design from the United Nations University - Merit. During the completion of her BA in Political Science and Spanish from the University of Nebraska Omaha, she carried out her AmeriCorps serving as legal outreach coordinator for Justice for our Neighbors in Omaha, Nebraska.

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Estrella de Leon

GAVA Program Manager & Dove Springs Community Organizer

Estrella was born and raised in East Austin, and is now a resident and organizer in the 78744 community.  She received her BA in Mexican American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. Her background includes 9.5 years of experience working with grassroots communities around youth arts and food access in Seattle. Estrella builds and manages geographically based resident-led teams in 78744 to work on cross-sector issues. She is a resident and organizer in the 78744 community. 

 

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Sarah Jovinelly, MSSW

Development Associate

Sarah received a Masters in Community and Administrative Leadership Social Work from the Steve Hicks School of Social Work at the University of Texas, and a BA in Anthropology and Gender Studies from Rice University. She is a passionate member of the gender equality and reproductive health movements, and currently serves as the Outreach Coordinator for The Bridge Collective. Sarah currently manages GAVA's finances and grant discovery, application, and reporting processes. 

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Frances Acuna

78745 Community Organizer

Frances has lived in Dove Springs (78744) for almost 20 years and has been involved in community work for more than seven. She is a Texas State Certified Community Health Worker and has worked for the Latino Healthcare Forum and Lone Star Circle of Care in Austin. She is passionate about helping residents of 78745 advocate for health equity by providing leadership development and resources to address community issues to improve safety, physical activity, and health.

Cynthia Vasquez

School Sector Organizer

Cynthia is born and raised in East Austin,TX and recently left her position in Austin ISD after 16 years to join forces with GAVA. As a Parent Support Specialist in Austin ISD she garnered a passion for organizing parents to impact positive changes at their campus. She is inspired to make community members part of the decision making processes by listening to their stories. Cynthia currently works as the School Sector Organizer for GAVA to support Coordinated School Health at nine Austin ISD schools in 78744 and 78745.

 

Coalition Partners

GAVA also works with organizers housed at our coalition partner agencies, working to unify the content expertise and resources of existing Austin nonprofits to achieve our common goal of equitable access to health for all.

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Joelynn Avendano

Early Childhood Sector Manager - at United Way for Greater Austin

Joelynn has been working to increase health at childcare centers with GAVA and United Way for Greater Austin since 2017. She works with childcare providers and parents to increase access to physical activity and healthy food for children under five. She has lived in Austin for 7 years now, and every day she falls in love more and more with this city! Her hobbies include going on hikes with her dog, Rocky, and finding the best tacos in town!

 

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Cynthia Rodriguez

Physical Activity Sector Community Organizer -  Austin Parks Foundation

Cynthia has been organizing physical activity sector teams with Austin Parks Foundation and GAVA since 2015, helping them bring improvements to local parks and greenspaces. Before joining GAVA, Cynthia spent 3 years working with at-risk youth in Austin. She also spent 2 years in the border city of Tijuana, documenting human rights violations along the US/MX border and researching the effects of deportation on families. Cynthia holds an MA in Latin American Studies from San Diego State University. She received a BA in Journalism and a BS in Communication Studies from the University of Texas at Austin.