“Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.” – Maya Angelou
Karina Barillas is a native from Guatemala. Through a Fulbright scholarship in 1996, Karina earned her BA, with a minor in English, Psychology and Education, at the University of Louisville. She received her Masters in Education with a concentration in Counseling Psychology from the University of Louisville in 2002. She started working with women’s issues as President of the International Students Organization at the University of Louisville in 2000. Karina worked for eight years advocating, accompanying and supporting Latina victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault at the Center for Women and Families. For three years, she was the co-host of the first Spanish TV Show in Kentucky, Amigos en Louisville, a social, informational and educational program. She was awarded the National Conference for Community and Justice’s Peace Maker Humanitarian Award in 2004. Karina was featured in Louisville Magazine’s 2004 edition, as one of the 12 “Women to Watch.” She was named as “One of the 25 most influential Hispanics in Louisville,” by the Spanish newspaper “Hoy en Las Américas.” In 2006, Karina was awarded the Arte Sana National Latina Advocate Award for her work with victims and survivors of sexual assault.
She is one of the co-founders and currently works as the Executive Director for La Casita Center, a Community of Latinx Hospitality, unique in the state of Kentucky that enhances the well-being of Louisville’s Latino community through education, empowerment, advocacy, and wellness. La Casita works intentionally to build a thriving community based on mutual support and respect. She was featured in the 2013 Leo Weekly’s People Issue and in the March 2014 Today’s Woman Magazine Issue. In 2015, she was awarded the “Alden Fellowship” by the Community Foundation of Louisville, to attend the Duke Executive Certificate in Nonprofit Leadership. In October of 2016, Karina was awarded the Tower Award on Service and Advocacy by Presentation Academy. In April 2017 she was awarded the University of Louisville Community Spirit Award by the College of Arts and Sciences. The Spanish Newspaper, Al Dia en America, awarded Karina as one of the three 2017 Most Outstanding Latin@s in Louisville. Most recently, in April 2018, the Community Foundation of Louisville named Karina one of the 13 “Forces of Good” in our community, honoring her work by featuring her work with a billboard. In May of 2018, she was awarded with the Peace Medal by Trinity High School. In February 2020 Karina received the Business Women’s First Enterprising Women Award for her leadership as the ED of La Casita Center. In November 2020, the Mexican Government presented Karina with the Ohtli Award, an honor that recognizes invaluable work and assistance to the Mexican Community living in the US. In the summer of 2020, the Courier Journal featured Karina in the article “Matriarch of La Casita dedicates life to amplifying voices of Louisville’s Latinx Community”.
During the Covid19 pandemic Karina’s commitment to the well-being of the Latinx community has been documented in several local media outlets, as well as in the Washington Post, and New York Times. In November of 2021, the well-known Latino photographer, Guillermo Sollano, did a series of pictures called “Constellations” where he featured Karina in Louisville Magazine. During 2022 Women’s Heritage Month, the Center for Women and Families honored Karina as a Woman of Distinction, for her 22 years of work accompanying families victimized by Domestic Violence. In that same month, Metro United Way and Louisville’s Office for Women highlighted Karina as one of Louisville’s Impactful Women. On June 17, at the inaugural Juneteenth Jubilee Celebration Gala, Mayor Greg Fischer announced Karina as one of the three recipients for the 2022 “Keepers of the Dream Freedom Award”, being the first Latina to receive such an honor and recognition. Karina is the proud mother of Ali and Fatimah, and loves to dance salsa, sing, garden and cook with her loving husband Louis.