I first met Sylvia in 1997 when I was interning at AIDS Services of Austin (ASA) while pursuing a Master’s Degree in Social Work. I had left the practice of law after 12 years and was embarking on a new career. Being an intern, again, was challenging to my ego but I was determined to make the best of it. One of the requirements for the internship was to become involved with a “group” project. At the time, the only group existing at ASA was the Women’s Rising Project. Full of confidence and determination I approached Sylvia (who did not know me from Adam) and asked if I could work with her and the Project. Without even glancing my way she gave me a resounding “No.”
I was a bit disarmed by her abrupt response and slunk away. However, I had to have a group project to fulfill the conditions of the internship so I tried asking Sylvia again…and again…again. For reasons I will never know (perhaps she felt sorry for me or had heard I was an attorney), she finally relented and agreed to allow me to participate with the Project. And that was the day my life changed.
My involvement with the Women Rising Project has continued to this day and my respect and admiration for Sylvia has never wavered. Over the years she has become a wonderful friend and mentor to me. And not just to me. So many women who have passed through the doors of the Women Rising Project have enjoyed Sylvia’s encouragement, wisdom, determination, commitment, and love. She is truly a Mother to Many. She changes lives. Without Sylvia’s dedication and her fierce protection and advocacy on behalf of the women, the Project may have folded long ago.
Sylvia is a warrior on behalf of women living with HIV and AIDS. Her efforts and energy know no bounds. Sylvia has initiated many of the activities of the Project such as Rising Star University (a series of classes regarding all aspects of living with HIV and AIDS), Together We Rise (a support group), participation by the women in national conferences, a number of advocacy efforts, and opportunities for the women to come together and support each other (the weekend retreat is a favored activity). And there is so much more.
Sylvia changes lives.
Sylvia, through the Women Rising Project, has provided less tangible resources such as strength, hope, faith and fun to the women. The Women Rising Project is Sylvia’s life’s work and a precious jewel to be treasured by us all.