Diana Sierra, Director of Women’s Empowerment
We are excited to welcome Diana Sierra to the YWCA as our new Director of Women’s Empowerment. Diana will oversee our MotherLove program, as well as get our new program dedicated to women’s financial empowerment up and running.
Diana was born and raised in Brooklyn, the first generation of her family to be born in the U.S. – her father is Dominican and her mother is Puerto Rican. She moved to Northern Virginia while she was in high school, and attended James Madison University for undergraduate studies, where she “fell in love with the mountains and the outdoors.” Diana received her Masters in Social Work and then worked for 8 years in the education field. Most recently, Diana ran social services and family engagement for the East Harlem Tutorial Program.
Diana has lived in Asheville since June. “I’m loving it! I had been visiting for the past 5 years. I finally thought: ‘I’m coming down here all the time – I might as well move here.’” She enjoys hiking, canoeing and kayaking, running, and working out. She’s also a “big foodie” – she loves trying new restaurants, wine bars, and baking.
Diana has hit the ground running in her work. She says: “I’m most excited about the combination of working with a reputable, long-standing program like MotherLove, combined with launching a new program focused on low-income parents that can fill in service delivery gaps. Being a licensed social worker will allow me to infuse that clinical depth to our women’s empowerment programs.”
Diana believes that the YWCA is a great fit for her: “The YWCA is a well-known organization with long-standing roots in the community. I like that there’s a variety of programming – there are so many things going on – and that there are children in the building. I really believe in the mission of eliminating racism and empowering women. I want to be part of an organization that puts that at the forefront.”
Gerry Leonard, Volunteer Coordinator
We would also like to welcome Gerry Leonard, our new Volunteer Coordinator. As part of Gerry’s position at the YWCA he will also help coordinate outreach activities and the Stand Against Racism.
Gerry is a native to Jakarta, Indonesia but grew up in Richmond, VA. Gerry attended Virginia Commonwealth University, where he graduated with a BA in anthropology with a focus on Cultural Anthropology. After graduating, Gerry traveled many parts of Europe and South America, and also worked on a dairy farm in Utrecht, Netherlands for six months. He only has lived in Asheville for a year; he chose to move to Asheville for the mountains, rich culture, vibrant music and art scene, and all the delicious food that Asheville has to offer.
Through Gerry’s passion for traveling, he helped start and organize the first ever Richmond Hostel, where he worked in outreach, fundraising, and volunteer coordination. Gerry has also worked in the field of animal welfare for about 7 years, highlighted by his time working at the Richmond SPCA as an Adoptions Counselor. Most recently he has worked at Charlotte Street Animal Hospital and in the YWCA’s Drop-In Child Care.
Describing his interests outside of work, Gerry says: “I like to play and see music, which Asheville has an abundance of. I’m an avid reader, with a huge literary soft spot for fantasy novels and comics… I write poetry on the side! I love soccer, both playing and following my favorite club, Liverpool FC. I also enjoy hiking, running, biking, being outdoors and enjoying life in Asheville. Probably my favorite thing is hanging out with my dog Fernando – he and I do everything together.”
Gerry was drawn to the YWCA because of the organization’s diversity, positive energy, and rich history. Most importantly, “the mission of eliminating racism and empowering women is at the core of my own philosophy and beliefs. It coincides well with my own personal mission statement. It’s very rewarding to be a part of such a great organization like the YWCA.”
In his role he’s looking forward to developing personal relationships with volunteers and other organization members. “In my role I’m in a unique position where I get to meet people one-on-one before they go on and become volunteers. To be able to get to know someone’s background and story, and also why they want to get involved with the YWCA – I think that’s one of the neatest things about my job.”
Gerry is also excited about his involvement in the Stand Against Racism. “Racism is a big topic that many people aren’t conscious enough about. I think getting the awareness out there, so that it becomes something in the forefront of all of our thinking, is really important. Hopefully the great work that Stand does here in the community of Asheville will ultimately lead to a bigger movement.”