Women's History Month

Women's History Month Opening Ceremony
Keynote Speaker: Erika Prosper Nirenberg, First Lady of San Antonio

Tuesday, March 2
11 a.m. –Noon

A Vote of Consequence: Why Lifting Women, Lifts the Nation

Erika Prosper Nirenberg will discuss why supporting women’s issues and rallying around policy that matters in their diverse economic recovery will be the most consequential actions we must take as a country today.

Giveaways include PAC swag.

Register to attend

Speaker Bio

Growing up as a migrant in the Rio Grande Valley, Erika now holds a Master’s in Communication from the University of Pennsylvania Annenberg School, and a B.A. in Plan II Liberal Arts and a second Bachelor’s of Science in Advertising from the University of Texas at Austin. She is employed as an executive at H-E-B’s headquarters. 

Erika was the 2018 Chairwoman of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, having served on its Executive Board for 6 years. She is also a member of the H-E-B Corporate Diversity Leadership Council and various workplace Task forces. A former board member of Say Si Youth Arts, she now sits on the Girls Scouts of Southwest Texas Board, the Latina Power Network board and is part of the advisory Board for iempower and the Mexican American Civil Rights Institute. 

In 2019, she was named the Woman of the Year by the San Antonio Business Journal and in 2018 she was honored as a Leadership Texas Luminary Woman, having been a Leadership Texas 2015 graduate. In 2017 Erika was honored with the Rising Star Award by the SA Women’s Chamber of Commerce and in 2016, she received the prestigious H-E-B’s David Ashworth Community Service Award and has received the Corporate Diversity Excellence Award for 2015 and 2016, as well. Her proudest honor, however, was receiving the 2010 Association of Migrant Educators of Texas’ Migrant Alumni Award. 

As a co-founder and 2015/2016 Chair of the Latina Leadership Institute, much of Erika’s passion revolves around efforts to help improve quality of life among underserved populations through girls & women empowerment, entrepreneurship education and literacy.  She has led the creation of multiple education and economic development white papers, as well as an internationally available, bilingual workbook aimed at helping elementary school-aged children develop entrepreneurial mindsets. Erika and her husband, San Antonio Mayor, Ron Nirenberg, have one son, Jonah.

STEM Panel

Thursday, March 4
11 a.m. –12:15 p.m.

Join us for a panel discussion featuring women in STEM careers. Panelists include Elsa Amaya, Susan Jee-Ashley Kuretski, Susann Kazunas, and PAC student Phoenyx Ali.

Giveaways include STEM Center swag.

Register to attend

Speaker Bios

Elsa C. Amaya

Elsa C. Amaya is a nursing professional with 37 years of experience. In 1983 she attended and completed her Licensed Vocational School. After becoming a licensed vocational nurse, Elsa graduated with her Associate Degree in Nursing. She completed her bachelor’s degree in 2001, and she completed her master’s degree in 2007.

Working in a small-town hospital, Elsa had the opportunity to work in many different areas, including Medical/Surgical, Pediatrics, Outpatient Surgery, and Skill Nursing Unit. In 1990, she transferred and trained in Obstetrics. As Elsa worked toward her master’s degree, she was employed with Coastal Bend College as a part-time instructor in their nursing program. She also worked with Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi as a clinical instructor for an obstetrics rotation. Currently, Elsa is in a case management role that oversees registered nurses.


Susan Jee-Ashley Kuretski

Susan Jee-Ashley Kurestski is a Korean adoptee, a first-generation college graduate in her family, and a registered nurse. She is currently a graduate student in computer science at the University of Illinois–Urbana Champaign. In her professional career, she has worked as a critical care nurse and a software engineer. Susan hopes to advocate for equitable artificial intelligence, especially in healthcare.


Susann Kazunas

Susann Kazunas is Vice President of Manufacturing at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas (TMMTX), located in San Antonio, where Toyota’s Tundra and Tacoma trucks are produced.

In this role, Susann is responsible for overseeing the management of all manufacturing areas, including the production assembly line and operations of the weld, stamping, paint and plastics shops.

Susann began her career with Toyota in Georgetown, Kentucky, as a cooperative education student at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. (TMMK). She was later hired as a specialist in manufacturing in 1998. Susann served in a variety of roles at TMMK, primarily in the stamping and weld area. In 2012, she transferred to a production engineering role where she oversaw North American stamping activities related to new model and manufacturing improvement initiatives.

Prior to her current assignment, Susann worked in Toyota City, Japan, at the Toyota Motor Corporation Commercial Vehicle Company. In her role, she led production engineering activities related to the North American truck business. Susann became Vice President of Manufacturing at TMMTX in the summer of 2019.

Susann grew up in central Kentucky and studied mechanical engineering at the University of Kentucky. She later received a bachelor’s degree in organizational management from Midway College. Susann was recognized as a 40-Under-40 emerging leader by Automotive News in 2014. She received a Women in Manufacturing STEP Award from the Manufacturing Institute in 2015. This award recognizes excellence and leadership in science, technology, engineering, and production.

Susann resides in San Antonio, Texas, with her husband and two daughters.


Phoenyx Ali

Phoenyx is a Computer Programming student at Palo Alto College, where she is the President of the Girls Who Code College Loops club. She is a former member and Alumni of the national Girls Who Code program. She is originally from Brooklyn, New York, and enjoys theater, music, art, gaming, and coding. Phoenyx is a firm believer in equality and diversity. In the future, she would love to have her very own video game company.

Entrepreneur Panel

Wednesday, March 17 
12:30 p.m. –1:45 p.m.

This panel will feature women entrepreneurs. Panelists include Julissa Carielo, Clara-Nicole Sustaita, and Bernadette Peña.

Giveaways include PAC swag.

Register to attend

Speaker Bios

Julissa Carielo

Julissa’s continuous drive to transform dreams into reality inspired her to Co-Found the DreamOn Group. She takes a very thoughtful and careful approach to development projects. Julissa co-founded DreamOn Group to develop, construct, and manage properties that bring economic, environmental, and cultural value to the communities she serves. Working with governmental agencies, non-profits, and cultural organizations to bring forth change in communities and create the opportunities that people deserve has been Julissa’s prime motivator in all she does.

As a pioneer in the construction industry, Julissa gained industry experience from the ground up by working for an architectural firm, a building manufacturer, and eventually for a general contractor. In 2006, with a dream and her 401K savings, she started her own construction company. Tejas Premier Building Contractor, Inc. was born out of hard work and determination and now stands as a principal contractor in the San Antonio area. She is a dedicated business leader and educator who has committed much of her life to implement programs that address equity in the community.

Her commitment to San Antonio and making it a better community to live in is at the heart of her business focus. She is a leader in identifying needs and solutions, knowing how to accomplish the goal, and seeing it to the end. In 2010, Julissa saw the vision of converting an unused elementary school into an entrepreneur center by creating a space where local small businesses could come and receive training, get advice, and obtain the tools necessary to expand their business. Today, the Maestro Entrepreneur Center (501c3) is led by a working collaborative with public agencies, non-profits, and private partners to foster economic growth in the poorest zip code of San Antonio.

Julissa often works with community leaders to find best practices to improve our city and is highly sought after to speak at community events to inspire others to get involved and do the same. She draws upon her experience and expertise as a small business owner, design-builder, and serving on non-profit boards. Her expertise is known for bringing community partners to work together for the greater good. Julissa has served on numerous boards throughout her career and has been involved in exciting community leadership programs. She was honored to take part in the Leadership San Antonio (LSA) Class 40. Julissa has represented San Antonio in many national organizations like Presidential Leadership Scholars Class 4, a national leadership program where she was selected among 800 applicants nationwide to represent in Washington DC.

Julissa’s drive is unmatched, and community leaders know that she will bring a community vision with integrity and passion for bringing the leadership needed to complete the project. She served at the Mayor’s invitation to co-lead the Economic Transition Team during COVID-19 to help identify local businesses having trouble developing a plan to get them back to business. Julissa co-created the needs of an economic playbook that numerous large and small companies utilized to open their business back up safely.

Julissa is a native Texan and grew up in San Antonio. She is a graduate of St. Mary’s University and is highly involved in the community. Julissa’s greatest passion is her family, and she enjoys time spent with her husband, Oscar, and their two boys.

Bernadette Peña

Bernadette Peña is the owner and creative director of Miella Media, founded in 2017. Believing the need for representation transcends over the ages, Nuestra Gente: A Tribute to Hispanic Innovators and Dreamers
and Brava Mujer! honors the journey and achievements of innovators, dreamers, and visionaries. These creative tools connect audiences to the past, influencing present and future generations. This seed of
knowledge encourages a healthy sense of belonging and self-identity, celebrating cultural diversity and acceptance of differences.

Bernadette began her banking and finance career in 1997 with Frost Bank, rising over the years to Vice President of Investment Services. Gaining a wealth of knowledge on customer relations, employee
management, and compliance regulation. A natural-born planner, she ventured into the national production arena as an event producer, kicking off her new endeavor with the premier Latino event at the
2012 Democratic National Convention. Bernadette has co-produced national events alongside political leaders, celebrated athletes, and renowned figures.

Bernadette is an avid supporter of organizations focused on accessible programming for underserved communities, most notably in South San Antonio. She has worked directly with corporate partners to secure funding for programs and services for south side residents living with physical and intellectual disabilities. Bernadette served as a board member for Eva’s Heroes and the Epilepsy Foundation of Central and South Texas.

Bernadette believes in applying her time, knowledge, and experience toward the advancement of the community. Bernadette is board member for Mission TIRZ - City of San Antonio. She served on San Antonio College and Palo Alto College Scholarship Committees, Committee for the Empowering Voters Project-League of Women Voters of San Antonio, and Executive Board Member for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce serving as Co-Chair for the SAHCC Census Committee.

Bernadette was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, is married to her husband, Joe Peña for twenty-three years. She is most passionate about spending time with family and her beautiful granddaughter, Ella.


Clara-Nicole Sustaita

Clara-Nicole is a proud wife, a busy mom of four, a devout Christian, and a successful multi-business owner. It was her creative and entrepreneurial spirit that piqued her curiosity to try her hand at making a wreath for her home, which quickly mounted to another and then another. In 2013, she officially registered her business while still maintaining her 17-year career at AT&T. In 2016, she took a leap of faith and left her corporate desk job to pursue her growing business full-time.

Clara-Nicole has been featured several times at wreath designer conferences and has collaborated on several successful tutorial video launches with her talented designer friends, and has enjoyed the oppotunity to meet so many in the industry. She also has been a regular monthly Craft/Fashion guru on the local San Antonio Living show since 2017.

In May 2018 she opened her first storefront, Creators’ Clubhouse LLC, in hopes of teaching classes, but it quickly became a small warehouse of wreath supplies that she was selling. In 2019, she upgraded to a larger space to push the unique idea of a DIY Studio, Boutique and women’s fellowship meeting spot all-in-one. She invited fellow designers to host classes and workshops and also hosted meetings for fellow creatives. Several private parties were booked for various crafts and food. Soon the boutique side of the business was proving more successful and Clara-Nicole was pivoting away from creating decor regularly.

In 2020, as the world came to grips with the Coronavirus pandemic, Clara-Nicole closed her store to spend time with her family. She returned to her store in April that year and experienced record sales for the boutique. She also joined Tik Tok and within two days went viral for sharing her entrepreneurial story, hitting 2 million views and gaining 33,000 new followers in under a week. In October 2020, Clara-Nicole rebranded, changing her store name and dropping the original business, She’s Crafty Too.

Clara-Nicole & Co. continues to thrive during difficult times. She wants her boutique store to be a happy place for all her customers, to leave with a positive lasting impression of great service, quality products, and exceptional experience.

Women's History Month Speaker Dr. Rashida Crutchfield

Monday, March 22
11 a.m. –Noon

Advancing advocacy: Addressing equity, gender, and student basic needs

Research and practice show that the colloquial “starving student” narrative of struggle to meet basic needs has downplayed the trauma and barriers students face as they progress in college. This discussion will explore the experiences of students who are food and housing insecure and how their lack of basic needs informs their progress in education. It will address how basic need insecurity is of particular concern for marginalized groups with compounding effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for women. This talk will leave the audience thinking about The Alamo Colleges District’s commitment to advocacy for diversity, equity, and inclusion and how this commitment can further address student basic needs. 

Giveaways include PAC swag.

Register to attend

Speaker Bio

Dr. Rashida Crutchfield is an associate professor in the School of Social Work at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) and an advocate committed to amplifying the voices of marginalized communities through research and service. Prior to her work at CSULB, she served on the staff of Covenant House California, a shelter for 18-to-24-year-olds experiencing homelessness. This experience blossomed a love and passion for this population.

Dr. Crutchfield was a Principal Investigator for the California State University Office of the Chancellor study on food and housing security. Her work has been instrumental in the development of programs and services for students experiencing housing and food insecurity at all 23 CSU campuses. She has supported the development of specialized program opportunities for students. Her continued research and advocacy on basic needs for students has garnered statewide and national attention. She has provided input on state policy and provides consultation and support to agencies, and higher education staff, faculty, and administrators across the nation. 

Dr. Crutchfield has authored or co-authored many articles, including “The starving student narrative: How normalizing deprivation reinforces basic need insecurity in higher education” and  “Jumping through the hoops to get financial aid for college students who are homeless: Policy analysis of The College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007” in Families in Society. Co-authored with Drs. Ronald Hallett and Jennifer Maguire, her text Addressing Homelessness and Housing Insecurity in Higher Education: Strategies for Educational Leaders is used as a manual for developing programs and services to support student basic needs across the country.

Day of Service: Pop-Up Market

Thursday, March 25
1 p.m. –5 p.m.
Palo Alto College | 1400 W. Villaret Blvd., San Antonio, TX

The Alamo Colleges are hosting Pop-Up Markets in collaboration with the San Antonio Food Bank to provide healthy food to students, employees, and the surrounding community through no-contact, drive-through events. Students and employees may participate at any location. All participants must register in advance.

This is an on-campus volunteer event. Volunteer shifts available via link below. PAC Students that register to volunteer and attend will receive PAC SWAG day of event, while supplies last.

Volunteer sign-up

Costmetology Mini Facials

Monday, March 29 
1 –2 p.m.

Join Palo Alto College Esthetic faculty and students as they teach participants to make their very own facial at home!

The first 30 students who sign-up by Sunday, March 14 will have the materials delivered from Amazon to their home for free! The registration for the event with free materials is for students only and opens Friday, March 5.

You must attend the live event if you're receiving free materials.

Register to attend

Food Demo

Tuesday, March 30 
5 –6 p.m.

In celebration of Women's History Month, join us as we welcome special guests Judith Menchaca-Lilly, ex-restaurateur and Student Life staff along with Alma Segovia, chef to the little Palominos on campus as they host a food demonstration. Judith will be teaching students how to create a Mexican classic with a twist, Enchilada Verdes. Alma will teach us how to make the perfect salmon, laid on a fresh garden salad. 

Register to attend

Women's History Month Library Exhibit

Standing up for Change: African American Women and the Civil Rights Movement

African American women played a crucial role in the American Civil Rights Movement. The National Women's History Museum provides a view into the work of  the strong and powerful women who helped shape America. 

This exhibit was made available with permission from the National Women's History Museum.

View exhibit


WHM 2021 Zoom backgrounds

Download our Zoom backgrounds to use on your next meeting to Celebrate Women's History Month 2021!

Black History Month Zoom Background 1


Black History Month Zoom Background 2



For information, please contact Student Life.

Phone: (210) 486-3130

Sponsored by the Student Activities Fee and the Working Writers Series.