Welcome to my Journey – Gianna Elvia (’19. MDiv)

Community, Activism, and Entrepreneurship

There is no stopping Gianna Elvia (Journey M.Div. ’19) when it comes to community building. At Iliff, she served as the Student Senate Co-Chair. In this leadership role, Gianna brought both residential and Journey students together on a regular basis to explore ideas about activism, spirituality, and ministry. It was a wonderful opportunity for both groups of students who normally do not interact as a community.

The Journey program also provided Gianna with the freedom to have a full-time job as a community organizer. Each course that she took aligned with things she experienced at work. Gianna feels deeply connected to her hometown community of San Antonio, Texas, and the Journey program has allowed her to live in the place she calls home.

For Gianna, the Journey program offered her the flexibility while also allowing space, and recognizing a need, for gathering together as a united Iliff community. Gathering Days always feel like a big reunion. Gianna says that while extremely tiring, Gathering Days allows time to just be in class with professors and classmates and engage more deeply with the online conversations.

While actively involved in Iliff, her community in San Antonio, and Student Senate, Gianna’s passion (and drive towards the Journey model of learning) grew out her traveling book store: Echale Books.

Gianna founded a traveling bookstore that specializes in Chicanx/Latinx books, politically progressive books, WOC/POC centered books, LGBTQ books, bilingual books and books in Spanish. Gianna’s context is the Westside of San Antonio, Texas, a predominately Latinx population that is also one of the most economically impoverished areas in the city.

Echale offers affordable books to not only promote literacy in the area (1 in 4 people are illiterate or functionally illiterate) but also to promote consciousness raising. After the 45th president was elected, Gianna struggled to find something to give to her community that wasn’t a protest in the streets. Out of this, Echale Books was born and is celebrating two years in April.

Gianna, both in her activism and in her entrepreneurial ministry, has been greatly impacted by the voices of Dr. Miguel De La Torre, Dr. Jennifer Leath, Dr. Julie Todd, and Dr. Andriette Jordan-Fields, as well as Dr. Elizbeth Coody who helped Gianna see Echale, her business, as ministry.

Many of these professors, Gianna says, pushed her to re-examine her beliefs but also created a safe-space for questioning almost everything.

Gianna was one of the two students who was given the Students of the Year 2019 award.