Trendsetter to Know: Alessandra Navidad, President & CEO of Arizona Animal Welfare League

Name: Alessandra Navidad

Twitter: @alessasoler

Facebook: www.facebook.com/alessandra.soler.9

Instagram: @asoler1214

Website:  aawl.org

Age: 47 

Title: President and CEO

Married/Single: Married

Kids: Nicholas (17), Isabella (16), and identical twins Niala (14) and Maya (14)

City you live in: Phoenix

A typical day in my life includes… gym, taking the kids to school or dive practice, and walking the kennels. I head into work around 8 a.m. and use this time to walk the kennels. By that time our Animal Care Team (who is typically on-site at 6 a.m.) has already walked and fed the animals and cleaned their kennels.  It’s usually a lot quieter and less hectic in the mornings so it allows me to clear my head, plan for the day and prioritize what needs to be done that day or week. This precious time with few distractions allows me to think about big things, such as how to reduce stress levels for the cats and improve their housing, or how to reduce the length of stay for the animals, which is a huge priority when you’re running a shelter.  The goal is to make sure the animals are healthy, vaccinated, and spayed/neutered so we’re able to find them their furever homes as quickly as possible.  But a lot of times, they might have more serious medical problems that need to be addressed, or more complicated surgeries that need to be scheduled, which ultimately means they end up staying at the shelter for longer periods of time.  In those instances, we try to find fosters to care for the animals in the home environment where they are less stressed. 

I was born… in Miami, Florida. 

My favorite thing about Arizona…  Being able to hike in Phoenix and ski in Flagstaff on the same winter day.   

I’m listening to… Doja Cat’s Planet Her Album.  

My family…is large and loud.  There are seven of us in the house.  Four teenagers ages 14-17, my husband, myself, my mother-in-law, plus the two dogs, so sometimes it can be a bit hectic around breakfast and dinner time.  Guess, that’s why I love going to bed early and waking up early – it’s my quiet time.   

If I could have dinner with anyone, it would be… Allison Cardona, California State Director, for the Koret Shelter Medicine Program. They founded the first veterinary residency program for shelter medicine programs and have been leading the way when it comes to best practices on how to operate shelters in innovative, progressive, transformative ways.  More importantly, though, is she has over 20 years of experience in the animal welfare world and is Latina, which is an inspiration to me since there aren’t many women of color working in animal services or shelter medicine.  She’s the daughter of Colombian immigrants; I’m the daughter of Brazilian-Argentine immigrants, and she’s deeply committed to racial justice and equity work, and so am I.  Would love to spend an evening just picking her brain about what she’s learned over the years in her career when it comes to leading teams and serving marginalized pet owners of color with limited access to pet services and resources.  

One thing I cannot live without… peanut butter.  

When I was younger, I wanted to be… a veterinarian.  Twenty years ago, I quit my job as a reporter for the Miami Herald to pursue my dream of going to vet school. While I was taking my pre-requisite science classes, I was hired as a vet assistant at a vet clinic in Miami, where dogfighting of pit bulls was prevalent, despite a ban on owning them dating back to 1989 that did more harm than good. I cared for hundreds of dogs who were abused and mistreated, who came into our clinic with deep puncture wounds and broken bones. Most of the time they never made it through the weekend. Ever since then, I’ve been a pit bull rescue mom. My new role as CEO & President of AAWL allows me to embrace my pit bull love (I’ve adopted three over the years). 

I’m inspired by… Jyothi V. Robertson, who is a shelter medicine veterinarian leading diversity, equity and inclusion work with shelters across the country.  She has this amazing side project called the Journey You Own, which is a podcast where she profiles women of color doing impactful social justice and animal welfare work.  Her passion and commitment to building more inclusive shelters is inspiring on many levels and I love that she home schools her kids so she can travel with them internationally.   

The one person who motivates me is… my mom.  She passed five years ago when she was only 65 and I know she would want me to be the best mom, wife, mentor and leader I could be. 

If I could change anything in the world, it would be…college would be free to any student who wants to enroll.   

The perfect day would be…going to bed at 8 p.m. every single day😊 

My first job was…when I was 15. I got a job at the local paper, the Miami Herald, writing a column about homeowner’s associations.  Lots of HOA drama to cover. Had no idea how contentious those meetings could be.  

My favorite escape… any place where there’s an ocean. 

My life…is full of humility, gratitude, and lots of intellectual curiosity. I will never stop learning. 

I’m currently working on…our five-year strategic plan for the future of our shelter.  Trying to figure out how to raise more money to fund four initiatives to find adoptable homes for animals, keep families and pets together, provide affordable accessible veterinary care for underserved pet owners and retain and recruit diverse, talented staff.  

Always…take time to listen … really listen to your kids, your staff, your partner. 

Never…judge the increasing number of pet owners who as of late (because of housing and economic struggles) have had to make the difficult decisions, sometimes through no fault of their own, to surrender their animals.  It’s up to all of us –  our government, our local non-profits, our community of animal lovers and shelters to help support each other and our beloved pets and do what we can to keep them out of the shelter system altogether.  

Favorite Quote… If you will stay close to nature, to its simplicity, to the small things hardly noticeable, those things can unexpectedly become great and immeasurable. Rainer Maria Rilke

Biggest Dream…to win the lottery and go to veterinary school. 

My Pet Peeve(s)…people who throw trash out their car windows.

Bio-on yourself/company: The Arizona Animal Welfare League is a non-profit, no-kill shelter located in Central Phoenix that provides a full range of services for animals and pet owners, including adoptions, behavior, and low-cost veterinary care. The AAWL community includes people from all walks of life who save animals’ lives every day by volunteering, adopting, fostering, and donating to our shelter. At our shelter, people and pets help each other thrive. We have saved over 100,000 animals in our first 50 years, and are working together with community members to solve pet overpopulation issues and continue our mission of saving dogs and cats.  Over the next five years, as part of our strategic initiatives, we are working to keep families together by providing pet owners with support services to prevent owner-surrenders and providing affordable, accessible veterinary care for pet owners who otherwise would be unable to afford care.  

Alessandra Navidad joined AAWL in March 2021 after serving as executive director of a non-profit legal advocacy organization in Phoenix, Arizona. She is the proud mom of both the two- and four-legged kiddos, sharing a home in South Phoenix with her husband, Alex, their four kids ages (ages 14, 14 (twins), 16 and 17) and two fur-babies, a pitty rescue named, Charli, and Olie, their cattle dog rescue. Alessandra graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and an MBA from the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management. She was born and raised in Miami, Florida to immigrant parents from Brazil and Argentina and speaks fluent Spanish and Portuguese.

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