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Meet our Board Member: Catie Licalzi

Catie has worked in the non-profit world for over 10 years and has been with Literacy Now, a non-profit that works with high-risk students in Houston, Texas, for almost 9 years. She is passionate about women's rights, sustainability, animal welfare, and education. She is also the official Texas Book Fairy for the Book Fairies, a global organization that leaves books all over the world for people to find. In her free time, you can find her gardening, hiking, reading, thrifting, and getting involved in her community through different volunteer projects and group meetups!


"Where did you first learn about RISE by Sundara?"

I first learned about RISE by Sundara through a mutual connection. She is a friend I made through a non-profit job board, and when I mentioned that I was looking to join a board, she told me about RISE by Sundara and connected me with Erin, RISE by Sundara’s Founder.

I was specifically drawn to the fact that this non-profit works on women’s entrepreneurship, and I loved the sustainability aspect of the work. I also loved how the non-profit is global, supporting women from all corners of the world.

I wanted to join the board as it was something that I felt was missing in my personal life. I have worked in the non-profit sector for over ten years, spending nine of them at the same organization. I am the Program Manager for Literacy Now, so non-profits already held a special place in my heart. I wanted to spend some of my time supporting a non-profit organization in a different capacity.

I am looking forward to reading the applications from potential fellows and helping find ways to raise funds as I understand how much of an important factor money can be for a non-profit to function.

"What does life look like for you outside of RISE by Sundara?"

I studied Criminology and Art History in college, where I got bit by the non-profit bug. After college, I worked for an art gallery with the top art dealer in the world. I found it to be too mundane and wanted to find more meaningful work. After that, I ended up working for Literacy Now, which is the organization that I currently work for. I have always believed that life is not just about work. I always give 100% to everything that I do, but I want to have a meaningful and rich life, so I also want to make sure that I have the capacity to invest time and energy into my relationships, friendships and community.

One of the ways that I am building community at the moment is through my role as the official Book Fairy for Texas. For the past three years, I have worked with authors, publishers, and my wonderful global community of book fairies. I also run a book club/social club, Book Crush Houston. My boyfriend and I got a state park pass this past year, so we’ve been on lots of road trips and hikes. Pandemic life has definitely allowed me to be more appreciative of everything nature has to offer.

"What is your purpose in life?"

My purpose in life is to build community; building, creating and being part of a community wherever I am is really important to me. I do not identify myself by my work but by how I interact with people while I am on this earth. I’m big on experiences, self-development, and just appreciating the little things in life.

"What is something most people don’t know about you - but should if they really want to understand you?"

A few years ago, I experienced some serious health issues, and I hit rock bottom. It really affected my whole perspective on life. Sometimes I feel as though people might think that I am being negative or pessimistic, but really I just like to look at the whole picture before I make a decision-both the good and the bad. I try to be mindful of my communication, but I definitely have a more rational brain, and I’ve learned to accept that it’s not a bad quality.

"What has been one of the biggest highlights of your life?"

During college, I went on a semester abroad to Spain and initially I was fearful, to the point where the night before, I decided I wasn’t going. I called my mom in tears, and she really helped me through it. My friends did too-they pushed me to go. I was worried about breaking up with my boyfriend as we would not get to spend time together, and I really just had a fear of the unknown. What was going to happen in Spain? This was a while ago, so I couldn’t just google everything.

My time abroad ended up being one of the best times of my life, not just because of the experience but because it really guided the decision-making process I had from then on. It was symbolic of what could happen, or what you could miss when you let fear take over. Anytime I am scared, or I am making a big decision, I think back to this experience and what I would have missed out on had I let my fear take over. Change is hard. Getting out of your routine is hard. But there’s often something better waiting.

"Which aspect of being on the board are you most excited about?"

I am looking forward to reading the applications and supporting with mentoring the fellows. I feel as though I am a really good judge of character, and I have a wide variety of experiences, so I believe that I could add value in this area. I love the idea of empowering people; I do not want to hold people’s hands; I want to help people to grow. I am also looking forward to supporting the organization in creating partnerships. I am excited to utilize my network to support a cause I believe in.

"Who do you admire and look up to, and why?"

There are several people that I look up to, but the first person that comes to mind is Michelle Obama. She has achieved so much in her life, and despite all of the negativity that has been thrown her way, she has remained above it all. I admire that so much because I don’t know if I would be able to do the same in her position. She is a really strong person who is not afraid to stand up for what she believes in. She is funny, extremely smart, and has run so many initiatives that have really impacted the lives of so many people.

"Summarize your life motto in one sentence."

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”. I really like this saying as it keeps me grounded. Although education is key and I feel very passionately about education, taking the heart out of it can remove your humanity. Change won’t happen without keeping an open heart and mind.

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