EL CENTROÂ â€“ MANA de Imperial Valley held its annual Las Primeras mixer Thursday at The Courtroom restaurant to announce and introduce this yearâ€™s nominees to the public.
MANA is a National Latina organization that seeks to empower Latina women through community service, leadership, and advocacy for women. This year’s nominated women are all embodiments of that cause, according to Maria Peinado, president of MANA Imperial Valley.
The three local women nominated are Norma Villicana, Mona Lisa Vitela, and Mercy D. Valenzuela.
Villicana is the first female Community Development Director for the City of El Centro. She was part of the board when MANA first started in the ’90s, making her journey with the organization come full circle.Â â€œI was very, very honored, and I thought, ‘Me? Really?’â€ said Villicana.
Vitela is the first female Latina Senior Director for Alternative Eduction at the Imperial County Office of Education.
A women’s health nurse and nurse/midwife for Pioneers Memorial Hospital, Valenzuela is one of the first of three certified midwives in Imperial County.
All three women said they were both honored and humbled by the nominations from the community.
â€œWe can show the young girls that we can reach high for the sky and then come back to the community and give back,â€ said Valenzuela.
â€œYou do your job and you donâ€™t expect a reward,â€ said Vitela. â€œI was so honored and itâ€™s very meaningful too.â€
According to Peinado, these women were nominated by the community for being outstanding citizens and role models for the young girls MANA wishes to empower. They are also the first in their fields, hence the name â€œLas Primeras.â€
â€œThey really go above and beyond what they do,â€ said Peinado.
MANA de Imperial Valleyâ€™s Las Primeras is one of the most important fundraisers for the organization.Â MANA has raised at least $120,000 since 2007 for high school and Imperial Valley College scholarships.Â Last year, the organization raised $13,500 in scholarship funds
Tickets for the Las Primeras gala cost $50 for one and $300 for a table of eight, and can be purchase online or from MANA board members. More information can be found online at www.ivmana.org.