Cox hosts first Latino Inspire Awards

Hanford Sentinel
Cox hosts first Latino Inspire Awards

October 22, 2019

SELMA – California’s District 21 Rep. TJ Cox may have a new nickname after the inaugural Latino Inspire Awards ceremony that took place Oct. 19 at Selma’s City Hall.

“You know what the TJ stands for, right? Todo juntos,” Cox quipped at the ceremony. In English, that translates to ‘all together.’ Recipients of the awards said that’s just what they each should be doing to help, not only their hometowns, but the Valley, state and nation.

Selma City Councilman Louis Franco was among local representatives on hand. He commended Cox for starting this awards program and was glad to have a chance to have the city highlighted as well.

“The fact he chose Selma to host this first awards program is fantastic, and not only for the community. It exposes our City to people from throughout the Valley. It also shows Selma the caliber of people in our Valley. If we work together, it could make the whole Valley better.”

After hearing the local educators, community activists, political representatives and organizations honored that morning, Franco said the progress being made in each area of the congressman’s district is impressive.

“If you step back and take a look, you see all the great work that’s being done, and still needs to be done, not only in our Valley, but California and our country. It makes you realize, we are all making a difference if we all do our part where we live.”

Cox invited State Senator Melissa Hurtado to co-host the event. She said hearing all the honorees’ accomplishment helped remind her of why she wanted to become a public servant in the first place.

“It’s really inspiring to all of us here. It reminds us of why it is we do the work that we do and to continue the work we need to do here in the Central Valley.”

Among those honored were Kings County recipients Alicia Jacobo, Alvaro Preciado and Robert Isquierdo, Jr. and Fresno County’s Magdalena Gomez.

Jacobo is a district representative for Sen. Hurtado. She’s credited with dedicating more than 25 years of her life to improving the quality of life for Central Valley families through her work with government offices and the non-profit sector.

“She can also be found working after hours at community meetings and resource fairs because she cares so deeply about the Central Valley and the families here,” Cox said.

Jacobo has worked in the non-profit sector with HandsOn Central California and in her hometown of Kettleman City.

Jacobo was described as “a real asset” by Hurtado.

“She’s done a lot for millions of people here in California. In Kings County, she is at everything. She’s done a lot for water issues and I know that she continues to, when I can’t be present, keeps me really well informed about what’s going on so we can work to help them out. I’m beyond proud of Alicia and all the work she’s done for our office and Congressional District 21, but also beyond that. The work she puts into this expands beyond our region.”

Jacobo said she was honored to be surrounded by others who are “not going to accept ‘no’ for our communities, right? Whether it’s Stratford, Avenal or Kettleman City. We’ve all refused and we’ve not accept ‘no’ for answer when it comes to helping our communities. That’s the job I take great pride in in doing my work for Sen. Hurtado. We hear it a lot from state agencies and other folks who don’t think our communities are worthy of investment but I see young people here, the Dreamers, who are all worth the investment. I’m honored to be in a room full of people that I myself look up to.”

Alvaro Preciado has served as Avenal’s mayor and continues to serve as a councilman. He and his wife maintain a community garden which provides healthy food options for Avenal at no cost. He’s a member of the California Latino Water Organization, the Citizens Advisory Committee of the San Joaquin Air Quality Control District and the special city selection committee with the San Joaquin Air District. Preciado is also involved in his local Catholic parish and serves on the community response team of the Avenal Police Department.

Preciado said his main goal when he became involved politically was to bring accurate information to the people so they would not be misled. Now, he said relies on his community to continue the fight against racism.

“Everybody has the power to become somebody who can make a change. It’s a fight that will never end. There’s still racism in the United States. We see it every day, but we just don’t give up.”

Robert Isquierdo Jr. is a teacher at Hanford’s Sierra Pacific High School. He helped establish a public library in his hometown, London, and is a leader with the community organization, Reestablishing Stratford. He’s advocated for the creation of a community center, increased youth services and is helping bring solutions to the ongoing water issues in Stratford. When he isn’t teaching in the classroom, he can be found mentoring and coaching on the soccer field.

“This is what I call an ‘MTB moment’ meaning it was meant to be. I don’t believe in coincidence any more. I met these two for a reason, and there are a lot of people I know in this room for a reason. It’s for all of us to work together,” Isquierdo said.

Magdalena Gomez serves on the State Center Community Colleges board representing Region 4. She uses her background in finance, education and labor management relations to advocate for the public schools as a foundation to create opportunities in the impoverished, rural Central Valley.

“Everyone here is like family, so I hope we walk out knowing each other’s names, phone numbers and texts, because all we can do together is fight as one.”

Cox added that he’s surprised there had not been a Latino recognition program in the District before as Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, but was glad to recognize the culture’s contributions to the state and nation.

“Each of these leaders has something in common. They know our beloved Central Valley has incredible potential and incredible people. They’re not waiting for anyone’s permission to make their communities the best they can be,” Cox said.

At the ceremony, the United Farmworkers Foundation, California Farmworker Foundation and Central Valley Scholars organizations were honored with awards.

Other honorees included:

Abigail Solis, president of Earlimart Elementary School District. She coordinates the city’s action community and is a leader with Self-Help Industries.

“Because of people like everyone in this room, we are finally making an impact in the San Joaquin Valley but there’s is so much work to do. We live in the district with the highest poverty in California and that needs to change. I encourage you all to keep doing what you’re working so hard to do.”

Aidee Cardenas, who coordinates the Mujures and Medicina program at Kern Medical. The pathway program motivates students to pursue careers in health care.

“[The] program brings high school students into our hospital to expose them to different medical careers. In talking with our staff, we hope to inspire them to build those careers and learn from people who are successful leaders, not only the mujeres, but Latino leaders in general.”

Dino Perez, an advocate for Mendota youth, he leads the Westside Youth program that offers meals and mentorship. He’s a substance abuse counselor and organizes food distributions.

“What motivates me is young people,” he said pointing out a Mendota youth in the audience, Damian Reyes. “It’s young people like that and his family that drive me to serve my community. I feel like a part of a big family here because we’re all doing great work.”

Flor Medina, an advocate for Salvadorians in Mendota, Medina helps others access services and organizes pupusa sales and car washes to help families with unexpected costs. She has also brought a Salvadorian consulate to the city.

Reyna Olganuez, South Kern Sol’s executive director, Olganuez guides youth as they shed light on health and social justice disparities through the youth media platform in Kern County.

Valerie Gorospe works at Kern County’s Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment where she advocates for youth to bring awareness to the dangers of pesticide exposure.

“I humbly accept this in honor of my mom who I adore and love so much and miss. It’s an honor to continue her to continue her legacy,” she said of her mother, Teresa De Anda.

Gorospe encouraged the group to work collaboratively as the next elections approach.

“Let’s do that for 2020. Let’s bring energy, let’s bring intentions, let’s bring love into 2020 to kick ass and work with our youth, farmworkers, mixed-status families and so many of our marginalized communities.”