EL CENTRO – MANA de Imperial Valley, a National Latina Organization, recognized three local Latina women during the Pre-Gala reception that took place September 3 at Inferno Restaurant in Brawley.
MANA was founded in 1974 as the Mexican-American Women’s National Association. Each year, the group 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.
“Every year we select three Latinas from our community who are first in their field or are doing a fantastic job in community services,” said Maria Peinado, president. “Sometimes choosing is a very difficult decision because we have fabulous people who get nominated,” she added.
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 Teaching Credentialing.
“I am very honored and grateful to have received this award. I have given my heart to the community and have embraced them as my family. I strive to bring efforts, community services, and have strived to do what is best for the community,” said Nava.
“Maria Elena Nava-Froelich is a spirited, passionate, ever-moving activist in the community of Calipatria and Niland,” said Peinado. “She has earned a reputation as a ‘doer’ while serving her community through volunteering and public services. She has been a major part of the district’s parent involvement activities and classes, including a health and resource fair, positively impacting many families who still seek her advice and guidance years later.”
Nominees are selected by members of the community, and they have the freedom to nominate anyone they feel is worthy of this yearly recognition. Ballots are submitted to the MANA of Imperial Valley Organization where they are reviewed by a committee who then select the top three nominees. Anyone can be nominated.
“It is a great honor to be here, it’s a good feeling. I was notified about a week ago, and wondered if they had dialed correctly. I was very surprised. I am honored,” said Lacar.
“Lorena Lacar became the first female Veterans Representative at the ICVSO (Imperial County Veterans Service Office),” said Peinado. “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 services. Aside from her professional career, Lorena has 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 he love and respect of the veteran community,” explained Peinado.
MANA is also involved in helping local students further their education. This year to date, MANA has awarded 34 scholarships to local students in the sum of $500 each.
“I am incredibly honored and flattered. This is huge, as a woman who prides herself as being a role model. I think this is something great to have my students aspire to,” said Rodriguez of the MANA distinction.
“Haydee Rodriguez 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,” Peinado explained. “She currently serves on the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards Board of Directors. In 2014, Governor Jerry Brown appointed Haydee to the California Commission on Teaching Credentials. Haydee is a positive, humble role model for all of her students and constantly presents authentic assignments,” Peinado said.
Rodriguez is the daughter of Gloria Vazquez, who was also a MANA honoree in 1998.
The honorees will be recognized at the Las Primeras Awards Gala and Scholarship Fundraiser on Friday, October 16. This event will be held at the Old Eucalyptus School House in El Centro at 6:00 p.m. The cost per attendee is a $50 donation.
Proceeds from the event will help fund college scholarships and educational and cultural programs in Imperial County. Information about donations and sponsorship opportunities are available with Maria Peinado, MANA President at (760) 996-0679.