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Dr. Carissa Purnell, Woman of the Year

Carissa Purnell

Salinas, Calif., April 6, 2021 — Dr. Carissa Purnell, Director of the Alisal Family Resource Centers Network, was named State Senate 12th District Woman of the Year by State Senator Anna Caballero. The award was presented in a virtual ceremony on March 15, 2021.

Dr. Purnell has been at the helm of the Family Resource Centers since 2015. Under her leadership, a team of 25 staff members provides support to thousands of families in the Alisal, historically one of the most neglected areas in Salinas and Monterey County. Like most operations during the pandemic, the Center’s staff continued meeting community needs online. 

Born and raised in Sacramento, Dr. Purnell arrived in Salinas in 2008 to work for the César Chávez Library as a librarian and ESL teacher. At the time she was pursuing a Masters in Library and Information Science from San Jose State University. She went on to earn a doctorate in education from San Francisco State University. Dr. Purnell has a B.A. in English from UC Santa Cruz. 

Under her leadership, the Family Resource Centers have increased the services provided to Alisal families. In addition to ESL programs and Plaza Comunitaria, the center provides parenting courses and online parent groups; information and referral services; referrals to financial assistance; wrap-around services such as home visits, coordinating delivery of desks and chairs to students; and delivering meals to thousands of families. For a complete list of services, click here

In addition to being recognized as Woman of the Year, Dr. Purnell was selected in February by EdWeek Magazine as one of 10 “Leaders to Learn From.”  As part of the award, Dr. Purnell will take part in a three-day symposium to explore the top issues and challenges confronting leaders today. A recognition and celebration ceremony for Dr. Purnell and other leaders is scheduled for Wednesday May 12, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. 

“These cutting-edge district leaders drew on the foundations they laid and a wellspring of strong relationships to meet their students’ and staffs’ needs during the COVID-19 pandemic and other challenges of the school year,” EdWeek said.

Dr. Purnell’s love and dedication to the community knows no bounds. In addition to the long hours she dedicates to Alisal families, it’s common to see her volunteering during the weekend at various events, be it delivering food or helping coordinate vaccination for farmworkers. 

Congratulations, Dr. Purnell. Thank you for all you do for our students, their families, and our entire community.