Las Primeras Awards Gala and Scholarship Fundraiser will be held Friday October 21st in El Centro.
El CENTRO – MANA de Imperial Valley, a National Latina Organization will recognize three honorees during the 2016 Las Primeras Awards Gala and Scholarship Fundraiser 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. The honorees are nominated by community members.
This year, MANA de Imperial Valley will be honoring Mercy Diana Valenzuela a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner/Nurse Midwife from Pioneers Memorial Hospital; Norma Villicaña, Community Development Director for the City of El Centro; and Monalisa Vitela the Senior Director at Imperial County Office of Education – Alternative Education.
“The Annual Las Primeras Gala and Scholarship 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,” said Maria Peinado, President of MANA de Imperial Valley.
This is the twenty-first year of Las Primeras in Imperial County. Since its inception, sixty-one women in Imperial County have been honored.
The honorees will be recognized at the Las Primeras Awards Gala and Scholarship Fundraiser on Friday, October 21, 2016. The event will be held at the Old Eucalyptus School House in El Centro at 6:30 pm. The cost per attendee is a $50.00 donation.
Proceeds from the event will go to fund college scholarships, educational and cultural programs in Imperial County. Information about donations and tickets are available with Maria Peinado, MANA President at (760) 996-0679 or with any MANA de Imperial Valley Board member.
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.
MERCY DIANA VALENZUELA
Mercy Diana Valenzuela is a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner/Nurse Midwife at Pioneers Memorial Hospital and at Women’s Health at Pioneers Health Center. She was born and raised in Brawley, CA to parents that always supported and encouraged her.
After high school, Mercy attended a trade school to become a surgical technician and soon began her career at Pioneers Memorial Hospital. Subsequently, Mercy returned to school to further her education and obtain a degree as an Associate Registered Nurse (RN) followed by earning her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from University of Phoenix she then pursued her Masters of Science degree in Nursing (MSN).
Mercy accomplished this while working as a charge nurse, Lead Clinical manager, educator and interim director in the Perinatal Department at Pioneers Memorial Hospital in Brawley. In 2015 she completed her Masters of Science Specialization in Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner/Midwife, making her among the first nurses in the Imperial Valley to complete the dual program at SDSU.
She received her licensure through the State of California for nurse practioner and nurse midwife in 2015. As a nursemidwife, Mercy is a pioneer for women’s health practices in our County. Not only does she deliver new babies but midwifery encompasses more than childbirth, it includes a full range of primary health care services for women.
Apart from her professional goals, Mercy also makes time to give back to the community by working closely with the March of Dimes to improve the health of moms and babies through professional and community outreach. She also participated in the inaugural Imperial County STEM Conference for junior and senior high school girls where she discussed the importance of education and encouraged nursing as a career.
She serves as a role model to other aspiring and working nurses who want to take the next professional step in their career. She is respected as a nurse and educator for being holistic in her approach and her willingness to mentor those around her. Mercy is married to Robert Valenzuela and is the proud mom of two children – Natalia (11) and Nathan (5)
Norma Villicaña is the Community Development Director for the City of El Centro. She was raised in El Centro and is a product of our local schools. She attended elementary school and high school in El Centro and continued her education at Imperial Valley College. In 2004 she completed her Master’s Degree in Public Administration at San Diego State University.
Norma has been an instrumental part of major projects and development within the City of El Centro where she has held various positions. She started as a Community Development Specialist, and then became Associate Planner to Interim Planning Director. In 2013, she was promoted to the Community Development Director making her the first female Director of the Planning and Zoning Department for the City of El Centro.
She has led a Department that has worked on major projects and developments within the City of El Centro, for example the City’s Skate Park and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Sports Pavilion. In addition, she serves as the Chairperson for the City’s Environmental Assessment and Administrative Committees. She’s a member of the American Planning Association, California Planning Association and American Society for Public Administration.
Norma makes time to serve as an adjunct faculty member at Imperial Valley College. Norma is a role model for women and Latinas in our community who seek to make their career in local government. She is the proud mom of two sons, Ernie and Erik.
MONALISA G. VITELA
Monalisa G. Vitela is Senior Director at Imperial County Office of Education – Alternative Education, a position she has held since 2007. She is the first Latina to serve in this position for the program.
Monalisa grew up in Imperial County and attended local schools in El Centro. She is a graduate of Imperial Valley College where she received her Associates Degree in Behavioral Science and then continued to San Diego State University where she completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Studies. She has a M.A., Ed. Administration Credential and a M.A. in Counseling with a PPS Credential from the University of Redlands.
Monalisa started her career in the early 1990s as a Juvenile Officer with the Imperial County Probation Department and then moved on to Alternative Education where she has grown professionally. She is well known for her work and establishing effective partnerships with the Imperial County Probation Department, Department of Social Services and Imperial Valley Regional Occupational Program (IVROP).
Monalisa is committed to working with at-risk youth in the system as demonstrated by her contributions to youth that go far beyond her professional duties and beyond Imperial County. She is the past Chair for the Juvenile Court, Community, and Alternative School Administrators of California. Monalisa was the first and only Latina to have served in that position in forty-seven years.
For the past two years she has served in the Annual “Giving Flight to Your Success/Dandole Alas a Tu Exito, Lanzate! Travel Award Program sponsored by Southwest Airlines and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU). The program awards round-trip passes to undergraduates and graduates and/or their families to travel to/from college/university.
Monalisa is highly regarded by leaders throughout the State of California due to her knowledge and expertise. Monalisa was nominated for the Las Primeras Award due to her contributions to the field of Court and Community Schools for over 23 years and her commitment to serving the community, youth, and exemplary approach to the Latina community. Monalisa is married to Marco Antonio Vitela and is mom to Christian Joshua, Alyssa Marie, and Marc Anthony.