Alessandra Navidad is the president and CEO of Arizona Animal Welfare League, a community-based, no-kill shelter. “We’ve grown into a statewide animal welfare organization that rescues and rehomes 4,000 animal each year and provides a full range of community services for pets (and the people who love them).” Learn about Alessandra Navidad…
Hometown: I grew up in a tri-lingual household in Miami, Florida, where we spoke English, Spanish and Portuguese.
First job: I was 15 and got a paid internship with the Miami Herald to write a weekly column about homeowners’ associations. It was a fascinating world to cover as a teen because there were plenty of disagreements among adults to write about.
Favorite ways to spend your free time in AZ: Hiking, camping and eating. We just got back from a family camping trip in Monument Valley on the Navajo Nation where we rode horses and visited Lower Antelope Canyon. My husband and I have four teenagers ages 17, 17, 14 and 14 (including identical twin girls) so it was an opportunity to connect with each other and take time away from our phones. Three out of my four kids work in Valley restaurants so we’re a foodie family for sure.
Your biggest accomplishment and why: AAWL recently partnered with PetSmart Charities to conduct the first-ever bilingual needs assessment survey of Hispanic pet owners living in Central City near our shelter. The goal of the survey is to gather data to help low-income pet owners with little access to vet services improve health outcomes for their pets and keep those animals with their families rather than being surrendered or, sadly, euthanized for health reasons. We surveyed 614 respondents, and nearly 60 percent of them said they encountered obstacles obtaining vaccines, spay/neuter services and flea/tick/heartworm preventatives for their pets. It’s an important accomplishment for our organization because it’s the first time we’ve invested in truly listening to the diverse communities of pet owners living near our shelter and engaging them in the process of developing solutions rather than coming in with our own pre-set agendas about how to help people and pets in need.
The biggest obstacle you overcame: This has been a difficult year for many shelters when it comes to disease management and prevention. Sadly, the Covid-19 pandemic made it nearly impossible for pet owners to access vaccines for preventable illness like parvo and distemper and as a result, we’ve seen an increase in the number of cases threatening the lives of our shelter animals. Luckily, we were able to develop a new partnership with the University of Wisconsin’s School of Veterinary Medicine to improve our titer testing and treatment protocols to increase and improve survival rates for dogs like Spears.
Someone who inspires you and why: Although my mom passed away six years ago, she continues to inspire me each day. She was an immigrant from Brazil who came to the United States in the mid-1960s and eventually retired from the Postal Service after decades of service as a government employee. She was very service-oriented, loved organizing clothing drives for communities in need and supported local fire and police groups. She taught me the value of hard work and family. She spoke three languages (English, Spanish and Portuguese) and easily moved between cultures, becoming an avid reader in all three languages. I’m grateful for her wisdom, love and guidance.
Advice to someone pursuing a career path in what you do: Prioritize learning as much as you can from other leaders in your community, including cultivating relationships with them by meeting in person, asking about their goals, struggles and accomplishments. A key to growing and developing into a leader is being resourceful and humble and always wanting to learn more about yourself and others around you. People are amazingly generous with their time and if you’re gracious and respectful with them, you’ll build strong friendships and find new mentors who might even help open doors for you one day.
Favorite quote: I recently saw this quote from Marilou Chanrasmi, who is with an organization called CARE (Companion Animals for Reform and Equity). She recently spoke at an Access to Vet Care Conference about the importance of asking people what they really want rather than telling them what they really need. She says: “I believe in community. That connection begins with conversation, respect, deep listening and an open, non-judgmental heart.” Her quote sums up the important work AAWL is trying to do here in Phoenix to partner with Latinx pet owners to “center their wisdom” and develop solutions to overcome barriers to vet care.
Something someone would be surprised to learn about you: I ride motorcycles. I started riding during Covid-19 and have a small, 250 cc Suzuki bike. But, I’m ready for an upgrade. I have been considering buying a Yamaha SR400 that has a kickstart ignition. Very retro.
What makes someone fabulous: In my world, fabulous people are fulfilled in their daily lives. They have a purpose – could be community-driven or corporate-driven – and they’re humble, life-long learners always curious about people, places, and things.