Las Primeras Awards Gala and Scholarship Fundraiser was held on October 16h in El Centro.
El CENTRO – MANA de Imperial Valley, a National Latina Organization recognized three honorees during the 2015 Las Primeras Awards Gala in Imperial Valley. Each year MANA de Imperial Valley honors Latina women from Imperial County who embody the values and philosophy of the organization of empowering Latinas through leadership development, community service and advocacy.
This year, MANA de Imperial Valley honored Maria Elena Nava-Froelich, Mayor Pro Tem for the City of Calipatria and Migrant Education Program Coordinator for Calipatria Unified School District; Lorena Lacar, Veterans Services Representative for the Imperial County Veterans Services Office; and Haydee Rodriguez, a National Board Certified teacher in Social Studies at Central Union High School and a commissioner of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
Maria Peinado, President of MANA de Imperial Valley stated that, “the Las Primeras Gala and Fundraiser is a great opportunity for MANA to recognize local women who are making exceptional contributions to our community and who are positive role models for our youth.” This is the twentieth year that the Las Primeras event has taken place in Imperial County. Since its inception, fifty-eight women in Imperial County have been honored with the Las Primeras Award.
The honorees were recognized at the Las Primeras Awards Gala and Scholarship Fundraiser on Friday, October 16, 2015. The event was held at the Old Eucalyptus School House in El Centro. Proceeds from the event help fund college scholarships, educational and cultural programs in Imperial County.
MANA, a National Latina Organization, was founded in 1974 as the Mexican-American Women’s National Association. MANA’s original intent was to provide a voice for Mexican-American women at the national, state and local levels. The organization has now expanded into a diverse group of Latinas who continue to develop their abilities in political, social and professional fields. MANA empowers Latinas through leadership development, community service and advocacy.
Maria Elena Nava-Froelich is a spirited, passionate, ever-moving activist in the communities of Calipatria and Niland. She has earned a reputation as a “doer” while serving her community through volunteering and public service. If there is an event going on in the cities of Calipatria or Niland, you will find Maria there welcoming guests and visitors.
Born in Brawley and raised in Niland, Maria is motivated and has a passion to see her community flourish. Maria is the Mayor Pro Tem of the City of Calipatria, having served as Mayor in 2014 and a member of the council since 2011. She also serves as the city’s representative for many organizations, such as the Imperial County Transportation Commission and Imperial County Resource Management. In her volunteer role with the Calipatria Chamber of Commerce, Maria personally coordinates annual events hosted by the Calipatria Chamber of Commerce, including “Christmas in the Dark”, Fourth of July Celebration, and established the annual Calipatria Citrus Festival. Aside from her volunteer community service and serving as a public official, Maria serves as the Migrant Education Program Coordinator for the Calipatria Unified School District.
Maria is constantly concerned for the environmental health of her community, spending countless hours advocating for the prohibition of importation of sludge in Imperial County, having served as the 2007 Vice-President of the Imperial Valley Residents for Health and Safety First. Maria also participates in health-related organizations that deal with hazard mapping and air monitoring in Imperial Valley. Maria and her husband Christian reside in Calipatria and have three adult children, Ralph, Andres, and Priscilla.
Lorena Lacar is the Veterans Services Representative for the Imperial County Veterans Services Office, also known as ICVSO. The ICVSO is charged with ensuring that all Imperial County veterans, their spouses and dependents receive their benefits earned for having served their country—and receive them in a respectful, courteous and professional manner. This is a position that Lorena has held since January 1995, when she became the first female Veterans Service Representative at the ICVSO.
Lorena was born in Mexicali, but became a United States Citizen soon after birth, where she attended local schools and graduated from Central Union High School in 1989. After receiving a degree in accounting, Lorena was hired by the County of Imperial as an extra-help employee in 1990 until she was later transferred to the ICVSO in 1995. During her 20-year career with the ICVSO, Lorena has assisted over 20,000 veterans, dependents, and widows claim their earned benefits amounting to over
$15 million in retroactive, monthly award, and lump sum payments, thereby enabling our veterans to enjoy a quality of life respectfully due to them for their service. Lorena has developed a vast array of resources and professional relationships to enhance the quality of life for veterans. Aside from her professional career, Lorena has also devoted herself and generously given her time afterhours to assist veterans in need of shelter, subsistence, crisis counseling or dependents in need of emergency services. She has earned the love and respect of the veteran community. Lorena and her husband, Tony Navarrete, reside in El Centro. They have two adult children, a daughter and son, Clarissa and Anthony Navarrete.
Haydee Rodriguez is a bilingual/bicultural National Board Certified teacher with the Central Union High School district where she has been since 2005. During her tenure with the school district, Haydee has taught AP Spanish Literature and Language, Humanities, US History, US Government, and AVID. Furthermore, Haydee has advised the Interact Club and as coach has taken the ACADEC and Mock Trial teams to victory at the county-level and on to state competitions.
Haydee is originally from Calexico, California. She is the youngest of three children and attended Vincent Memorial High School and later received her bachelor’s (with distinction) in History from San Diego State University and earned a master’s in education in 2002 from Stanford University. While a graduate student at Stanford, she participated in the founding of East Palo Alto High School, a student- centered/teacher-led school. She returned to the Imperial Valley because of her strong desire to give back to her community. Being a child of an educator, Haydee understands the unique needs of the youth in Imperial Valley and strives to serve the school, her students, and the community as best as possible.
Haydee has received various awards and fellowships, among them the merit-based Governor’s Teaching Fellowship in 2001, in 2008 she was named ACSA Imperial County Teacher of the Year and was selected by Rotary International to represent Southern California in a group study exchange in Ghana and Togo. She currently serves on the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) Board of Directors. In 2014, Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Haydee to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. She has demonstrated her commitment to equity, access and social justice by serving on various boards such as the AAUW-Imperial County, Orphanaid Africa, and Literacy Volunteers of America. Haydee currently resides in El Centro.