In conjunction with our Women of Impact event, which recognizes a Notre Dame alum and a woman in the community, we are pleased to recognize four alums who are also making an impact in their communities.
Author & Student, Occidental College
Currently a student at Occidental College in Los Angeles, Ella Čolić’s focus has been her recently published book, Trees Without Roots. The book has been translated into Bosnian and proceeds will fund a project called My First Book, which will support young authors in Bosnia to have their works published.
Although her literary credentials are not extensive, her young age and interest provide a new outlook into the historical world of her family and culture. Her curiosity for the past and a strive for a better future is what pushes her to be an upstander. Inspired by her Notre Dame justice immersion trip to Tanzania and living with the Maasai community, as well as other forms of social justice activism, Ella plans to pursue a career in reconstructive surgery, focusing on the humanitarian aspect of the medical field. During the peak of the pandemic, Ella participated in the PPE Portrait Project with Occidental professor and founder of the project, Mary Beth Heffernan, as her mentor.
City of Morgan Hill
Malisha is director of homelessness and problem solving at the Bill Wilson Center. She holds a B.S. in anthropology with an emphasis in human services and an MBA from Santa Clara University. For more than 20 years she served as CEO of a successful manufacturing company in Morgan Hill while raising her two children, Lili and Jacob. During her time at Notre Dame, Malisha’s love for community, empowerment and service was sparked. She fondly remembers volunteering at Agnews Development Center, helping to set up the Halloween haunted house, as well as many other service projects. Notre Dame’s emphasis on women leadership and solidarity challenged her to find her voice. Malisha is very active in her community serving as an advocate for children with Autism and other special needs, as well as for those living with Eosinophilic Esophagitis She serves as an advisor for the Interact Club at Central High School in Morgan Hill, and is a volunteer for the Edward Boss Prado Foundation and South Valley Community Theater. She serves as chairperson of the City of Morgan Hill Planning Commission where she puts the needs of the community at the forefront as they tackle an increasing need for affordable housing across the state.
Gabriela Ornelas '13
Community-Based Researcher & Organizer, Law Student
Gabriela will be studying law at Columbia Law School this fall with the highly selective full-tuition Public Interest Fellowship, awarded to those who show exceptional promise for leadership in the public interest law field. Moreover, she will receive automatic acceptance to Columbia’s Public Interest/Public Service Fellows Program, paired with an activist-scholar mentor and guaranteed funding for two summers of public interest work. In 2017, Gabriela graduated from Pitzer College with honors and a B.A. in sociology and Chicanx-Latinx studies. Most recently, she worked as a capital defense investigator for the Habeas Corpus Resource Center, conducting mitigatory investigations for the defense of petitioners in death penalty habeas corpus proceedings. Gabriela’s passion for public interest law lies in dismantling the mechanisms of structural racism by reshaping our social systems to best meet the needs of those most impacted: low-income Black, indigenous and people of color.
Founder, Compassion in Oakland
Katrina founded Compassion in Oakland (CIO) in February 2021 in response to the rise of violent attacks against the Asian American Oakland community. The impetus began on social media when a friend offered to walk with anyone in the Chinatown neighborhood feeling unsafe. In less than a month, CIO was born. Ramos now co-leads the grassroots organization having vetted, onboarded and organized more than 1000 volunteers. She is the interim executive director and heads community outreach, development and volunteer operations. Given the deluge of community interest, Ramos is helping build CIO’s capacity and infrastructure including managing their app development team. Compassion in Oakland provides chaperone services or Uber rides for anyone feeling unsafe, organizes self-defense workshops, and provides food give-aways and safety kits for the community. Since February, they have expanded their efforts to include Compassion in San Francisco and Compassion in San Gabriel Valley.