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Roses in the Garden

June 21, 2023

We’re incredibly excited to reveal the 8 women featured in our newest mural by artist Bill Louis, “Roses in the Garden”! In partnership with the Utah Historical Society, Wasatch Community Gardens, and NeighborWorks Salt Lake, we commissioned this mural to honor women who have shaped Salt Lake City’s westside neighborhoods. It stands in the Rose Park Community Garden at 871 N. Cornell Street. Read the news story here.

We received dozens of submissions from the park’s neighbors in Rose Park, Poplar Grove, Glendale, and Fairpark to nominate women for the mural. There are so many people who have built up Salt Lake’s westside communities and deserve to be honored. Unfortunately, the mural panels only have space to feature eight women, but we’ll be adding many of the other nominees to our bios page in the coming months.

Our community partners at the Utah Historical Society and NeighborWorks Salt Lake decided to feature four living women and four who have already passed on. The four living women don’t know that they’re in the mural – they’ll find out tonight! More detailed biographies are available at the following links for each of the women who have passed on: legislator Bobby Florez, Italian immigrant and store owner Cristina Caputo, Red Iguana founder Maria Cardenas, and youth advocate and community leader Nettie Gregory.

Read on to learn more about the current women featured in the mural!

Cencira Te’o

After receiving her associate’s degree in social work from Snow College, Cencira Te’o worked in social service field as a data specialist. In 2015, Cencira co-founded Pacific Island Knowledge 2 Action Resources (Pik2ar), a local nonprofit that seeks to empower Pacific Islander women in Utah. Pik2ar hosts educational events about domestic violence, offers mentorship opportunities to female entrepreneurs, provides translation, and supports events to celebrate Pacific Islander culture. The organization has hosted numerous seminars and offers culturally-informed therapy and resources to victims of abuse. Since its founding, Cencira has served as a board member, case manger and as grants coordinator of the organization. During COVID, she helped acquire grants to assist Utah’s Pacific Islanders in buying food and paying rent. Cencira has also worked with the National Tongan American Society chapter in Utah, and served as a board member for NeighborWorks and the Sorenson Multicultural Center on Salt Lake’s west side. Cencira’s compassion and commitment to her community is unmatched and will continue to touch the lives of women throughout Utah.

Karina Lugo-Villalba
Woman standing with a garden hose over some grass.

Courtesy of Heather Newell.

A lifelong resident of Rose Park, Karina Lugo-Villalba advocates for all children by helping to provide them with the support and resources they need. She was a driving force behind efforts to secure funding for a bridge over the Jordan River that gave Backman Elementary students safer, easier access to the school. She also advocated to expand resources and opportunities for outdoor recreation by creating outside classroom space where students could explore canoeing and other outdoor activities. When many families lost access to free school lunch programs during the pandemic, Karina worked with local nonprofits to deliver bags of free food to students so their online learning would not be hindered by hunger. Today, she works as a child advocate at Colors of Success, a center for K-12 students.

Sharing what motivates her to advocate for young people, Karina said, “I refer to us as the roses in the park. That’s what we want children to believe…that they are growing and blooming and cared about.”

Maria Garciaz

As the daughter of migrant farm workers, Maria Garciaz grew up watching her mother and other migrant women work hard and advocate for their children. When she was 14 years old, Maria’s family moved to Salt Lake City, where she found mentors who encouraged her to pursue her education. She subsequently earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Utah, a master’s degree from Utah State University, and completed a community development program at Harvard University. Early in her career, Maria worked as a probation officer for high-risk youth in juvenile court. But she wanted to do more to help young people stay out of the criminal justice system in the first place. She began volunteering with local nonprofit NeighborWorks, and after eight years with the organization, Maria was promoted to CEO at the age of 29. She has continued to prioritize the needs of at-risk youth in Salt Lake City for the past 30 years.

Maria believes that people “can lead from the front or lead from the side or lead from behind. The goal is that no matter where you stand, you bring others along.”

Sylvia Abalos
Woman standing with two children.

Courtesy of Ross Colligan.

Sylvia Abalos came to Salt Lake from Argentina and has dedicated her time to fostering confidence and curiosity in Rose Park’s children. One neighbor wrote that Sylvia “works so tirelessly everyday to bring joy to not just the kids she cares for, but for all the kids in the neighborhood. My family and countless other families are so grateful for the love and care she provides to her community.” Sylvia also works as a librarian at the Chapman Library and recently raised money to put a Little Free Library in front of her house for a book exchange in the neighborhood. Another neighbor shared that “Sylvia is a Rose Park icon…She has dedicated her life to serving others and enriching the lives of children in our community.” In addition to mentoring many children, she’s a proud mother and grandmother and enjoys creating art. As someone who’s helping the children of Rose Park to love learning and have a brighter future, she has touched countless lives.