Six San Diego Latinos have been named local heroes as part of the Hispanic Heritage Month Local Hero Awards, a program honoring outstanding members of the Hispanic community. The heroes were selected for their exceptional commitment and contribution to San Diego through community activism, the arts, business, education and social services. The honorees include Sylvia Galvez, Jovita Juarez, Beatrice Fernandez, Mario Aguilar and Beatrice Zamora Aguilar, and Lupe Ortega.
“We receive countless nominations of qualified and dedicated San Diegans for this award, and because of the outstanding accomplishments of these honorees and others nominated, every year the selection process becomes more difficult,” said Maria Gallo, senior vice president and diverse markets administration of Union Bank of California, which sponsors the program. “The difference each of these honorees makes in our community is truly inspirational. Tireless and rarely recognized for their dedication, these are truly unsung heroes.”
The Local Heroes were honored at an awards reception in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month Thursday, September 16 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the KPBS Copley Telecommunications Center. Union Bank of California is sponsoring Hispanic Heritage Month on KPBS Television, which will televise profiles of the honorees throughout the month.
This year’s Local Heroes are:
• Sylvia Galvez, founder and executive director of Sullivan’s Group Home and Sylvia’s Place, in the category of social services, for providing homes for young girls, ages 10 to 17, who have been molested, abandoned and/or abused and have become wards of the state, and for providing transitional housing for these women after they turn 18. Galvez, a high school dropout who had her first child at 16, and three sons by the time she was 21, says she teaches the young women that a rough start doesn’t have to mean a rough finish. She resides in Jamul.
• Jovita Juarez, prevention specialist for the North City Prevention Coalition, for her community activism and taking a stand against alcohol, tobacco, and other drug abuse. After realizing that many major companies target Latino youth during the Cinco de Mayo holiday, she organized her first march for an alcohol-free Cinco de Mayo, which resulted in more than 10,000 participants. As part of her continuing campaign, she gives workshops to schools, PTAs and community groups. She started the San Diego chapter of Cinco de Mayo con Orgullo, an organization founded in the San Fernando Valley in 1997, which now has grown significantly to include chapters in more than 32 cities and eight states, with a mission to promote the true meaning and family nature of the Cinco de Mayo holiday, while raising awareness of the destructive impact of tobacco and alcohol upon Latino and other communities. She resides in Chula Vista.
• Beatrice Fernandez, teacher/coordinator for San Diego City Schools and San Diego Parent University, in the education category, for her work with families from underserved communities. As a schoolteacher, second language learner and parent, she uses her personal experience to organize free classes, and hires and trains instructors to help more than 150 parents each week become academic coaches for their children. She resides in Chula Vista.
• Mario Aguilar and Beatrice Zamora Aguilar, capitan and capitana at the Mexi’cayotl Indio Cultural Center, in the arts category, for introducing a dance group called Danza Mexicayotl, which has become a well established dance group known throughout San Diego, the U.S. and Mexico. They consistently give free dance classes in San Ysidro and Sherman Heights, two of the most underserved and predominately Mexican communities of San Diego and encourage leadership, team building, artistic and creative development, physical and musical abilities and spiritual and community commitment. Because of their tireless work, many other dance groups throughout California and the Southwestern United States have formed and learned about the songs, dance and spiritual movement of this ancient tradition from Mexico. They live in Chula Vista.
• Lupe Ortega, consultant for O’Day Consultants and owner of Lupe Ortega Enterprises, in the business category, for her tireless volunteer work and participation in numerous nonprofit organizations. In addition to her work at O’Day Consultants, a civil engineering firm in North County, and as a real estate agent, she serves on the boards of directors of numerous organizations and donates her photography and accounting skills. She resides in La Costa.