Featured Participant: Cecilia Vales

April 21, 2016

For me, the whole GSMP was a life-changing experience. I came back home and quit my job, started a non-profit organization, and welcomed the U.S. Ambassador to see my work thanks to the Embassy. I was a different person; more secure about how my dream of saving the world could come true – especially now that I had the support of so many women around the world. The experience impacted me not only in terms of public relations and networking, which opened many doors, but it also taught me about confidence. I recognized power in myself and the belief that we as women can actually change the world for the better.

Following the conclusion of her time in the Global Sports Mentoring Program, Mexican emerging leader Cecilia Vales has been on a rollercoaster ride of new career adventures.

Two weeks after returning to her country from the program, Cecilia was visited by United States Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power at one of the soccer academies she ran for Gonzo Soccer in Mexico City. Organized by the U.S. Department of State’s Sports Diplomacy office and the U.S. Embassy Mexico, Cecilia played a key role in coordinating the trip and speaking with the ambassador, who played soccer with the academy girls and shared with them about the important role sport can play in their lives. Through late February, the cover photo for the US Mission to the United Nations’ Facebook page was Ambassador Power, Cecilia, and two girls from the academy after playing a scrimmage together.

Inspired by the GSMP, as well as the visit from Ambassador Power, Cecilia also made the difficult decision to leave her position as an executive director for  Gonzo Soccer in order to launch her own non-profit: She Wins Mexico.

Cecilia’s work with She Wins Mexico continues to use soccer as a means for teaching life skills and leadership development to underserved and at-risk girls. For the first academy in Oaxaca, a semi-autonomous, poverty-afflicted state with one of the country’s highest ratio of indigenous peoples, she partnered with a clean energy business, Acciona, which donated $40,000 USD toward opening the academy. Another partner, Fundación Vive Sano, is a local organization in Oaxaca which will manage the life skills portion of the academy pro bono, while Cecilia handles the sports instruction. Since the academy opened in December 2015, approximately 100 children have registered (40 percent are girls) and more are being recruited. In February, Cecilia traveled back to Oaxaca – she is still based in Mexico City – to train the trainers she recruited.

On top of her work with She Wins Mexico, the Mexican Soccer Federation recently reached out to Cecilia as a consultant, alongside the US Embassy, for its first women’s amateur soccer league. The league, known as La Liga, will have two divisions – under-13 and under-16 – and Cecilia contacted the Embassy about bringing Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak or Lori Lindsey as Sports Envoys to coincide with its launch in 2016.

Cecilia has been featured in Mexican media and was also interviewed about her work and the power of sport to transform communities by internet radio host Sean O’Connor for Joy Rider Radio. She is currently in talks with the University of Central Florida and U.S. Embassy Mexico for the first proposed educational exchange of her Action Plan with students from UCF’s Honors College.

You can follow along with Cecilia’s work as the founder of She Wins Mexico on Facebook (link)