The CanDo Spirit shines through this year’s Hilary Zunin CanDo Spirit Award winner, Nyah McWilliams. She serves as the Prevention Specialist at Mentis, a local nonprofit, where she supports mental health for the teens in our community.
“My passion and understanding of the youth are things that I really value within myself. Many adults have forgotten what it feels like to be a teen. Through this work, I find myself being reminded of what it was like to be a teen. Teens are humans. Teens can go down a path with less support, growing fear, and being closed off to the world. But there’s another path where they get the support and love that they need to reach their potential and the positive things in life”, says McWilliams.
In McWilliams’s nomination, Jeni Olsen, Prevention Director of Mentis wrote “Nyah is thoughtful and courageous, and she encourages everyone to be the best version of themselves. Throughout this past winter and spring, teens from Mentis’ Teen Council worked with a local artist to create a series of mosaic tile stepping stones with mental health and wellness themes. This project took place over a period of months, and Nyah’s dedication to our organization, community, and the teenagers we work with made it possible. Additionally, she planned a debut showcase of the tiles and then worked with each high school in Napa County to permanently ‘plant’ the stones and documented the project on Instagram. Nyah’s work has a lasting impact on our community – the tiles are a permanent reminder of mental health and community to each person who views them.”
When asked what motivates her, McWilliams said, “Being a teen is tough so adding in these supports and resources creates a new reality for teens of Napa County. They get to explore their purpose, passions, and connections to the community through the Teen Council.”
Thank you Nyah for your work to support those in need of mental health care and to destigmatize mental illness in our community.
Another COVID year. Worse yet, we lost our co-founder, Hilary. She conceived of this award so we’ve renamed it to honor her legacy.
The CanDo spirit clearly shines through this year’s Hilary Zunin CanDo Spirit Award winner, Tania Coronado-Basulto of OLE Health.
Tania was inspired by the COVID pandemic to single-handedly design and implement a COVID testing project at the onset of the pandemic. Her program set up services in multiple wineries across the community to help test people who might otherwise not have access. Tania also organized a COVID mass vaccination clinic, ultimately helping thousands of Napans get vaccinated.
In her nomination of Tania, Shira Revzen, Director of Clinical Operations for OLE Health, said “Tania tackled the project with enthusiasm and perseverance. OLE continues to provide vaccination services and Tania is integral to its success.”
“Growing up as the eldest of 3, I always helped my parents navigate through difficult situations, as many children of immigrants do. I’ve seen my parents through a lens that’s shown me how to be compassionate, patient, and to offer care to everyone around me. I chose to work in the nonprofit field because I know there are more people like my mother and father who are going through tough times and need support and guidance.”
Tania’s father developed diabetes when she was in high school; this led to her pursuing a degree in Nutrition. She became her family’s first college graduate when she received a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition from UC Davis. And OLE Health was her family’s health care home. She notes: “OLE Health aligns with my core values and mission to help the underserved and diverse populations in obtaining the high-quality care everyone deserves.”
“The greatest reward from working at OLE Health is being able to give back to my community, especially during unprecedented times. Although this pandemic has been incredibly challenging, I am grateful for all the opportunities that have come my way. We’re still working to overcome the current challenges of removing any trust issues our patients or community members might have related to misinformation about the COVID vaccine, and having the community view OLE Health as a high-quality medical home.”
Napa Valley Education Foundation
The CanDo Spirit is alive and well in Napa County, even – or perhaps especially – in 2020.
It’s that spirit that inspires Kristin Anderson of the Napa Valley Education Foundation (NVEF), this year’s CanDo Spirit Award recipient. Even a global pandemic, two major fires, suspension of in-person teaching, and a major economic downturn could not quell that spirit.
“I can be fearless in trying new things and seeing what sticks. I think, this year especially, our programs are no longer operating the same way. We have had to change structures and policies that have been in place for decades. Our organization’s success is directly linked to how we respond to these obstacles and I am not afraid to try something new,” says Anderson. “I am not afraid to make mistakes and admit that something didn’t or isn’t working. Our organizations need to be fearless and compassionate with our coworkers, our partners and our community.”
Says Jennifer Stewart, NVEF Executive Director, “Kristin is the heart of our organization … [she] has helped NVEF grow the Music Connection, started a scholarship program, and expanded donations to provide nearly 900 instruments. Kristin always looks for new ways to engage and expand our mission.” She has created camps, clinics, virtual events and much more in partnership with teachers, all focused on providing great enrichment activities for students.”
Kristin’s needs drive her. “I NEED to feel as though I am fighting to be a positive force in my community, and I NEED to be allowed to flex my creative muscles.”
Our community is glad she does.
Immigration Institute of the Bay Area (IIBA)
As the daughter of an immigrant, Madeline Hernandez knew to her bones the struggle her mother faced as she learned a second language and searched for a stable job while raising a family. Likewise, growing up in Oakland, CA she witnessed discrimination that immigrants faced in her community.
Those early experiences led to what became a mission: to help create a community where immigrants are fully valued, contributing members of their communities with full access to justice and economic opportunity. Hernandez pursues her passion as an immigration attorney making a difference in the lives of residents who need help navigating the complex immigration system.
As the North Bay Regional Director and Staff Attorney of the Immigration Institute of the North Bay (IIBA), “Mady” Hernandez mentors fellow staff and brings her keen legal skills to help individuals gain a more safe and secure future. “Serving my community is extremely rewarding. In my clients, I see great parents, intelligent and driven students, responsible and honest workers, and strong resilient people. I admire the courage and strength I see in my clients. When clients are approved for an immigration benefit, I am filled with joy.”
Ellen Dumesnil, Executive Director of IIBA, describes Hernandez as “A fearless and compassionate advocate for immigrants . . . tireless and relentless in her pursuit of justice.” Dumesnil highlights Hernandez’s ability to inspire and motivate others and her collaborative orientation. As an active community member, she is part of Congressman Mike Thompson’s Immigration Advisory group, on the Board of Ole Health, member of the Community Leaders Coalition, collaborates with local community-based organizations and is always ready to speak in public forums on behalf of immigrants.
In her six years with the IIBA, 1726 citizenship applications have been filed resulting in 1281 new citizens in Napa County.