EL CENTRO – The local chapter of MANA, A national Latina organization, which is a nonprofit advocacy group created to encourage and empower Latinas hosted its 22 annual Las Primeras Gala & Scholarship Fundraiser here on Friday at The Old Eucalyptus Schoolhouse. Latinas took center stage and celebrated their accomplished and distinguished honorees chosen for their leadership, community service and advocacy within the community. The three honored were Dr. Sandra Kofford, Esperanza Colio-Warren, and Dalia Rodriguez.
The Imperial Valley Chapter of MANA, established in 1993, has provided young Latinas with opportunities, such as field trips to area universities and colleges and mentors. MANA Imperial Valley offers young Latinas the opportunity to meet accomplished Latinas who hold distinguished careers in corporations, government, and civic leaders who encourage and motivate young Latinas. The leadership development through MANA schools the next Latina generation in advocacy work, and community service which in turn provides future leaders, all working to create a better quality of life for Hispanics. All of this is possible with the support of its members, corporations, numerous foundations and government grants, according to the MANA website.
Events like Las Primeras Gala & Scholarship has funded the Hermanitas (little sisters) program which is designed to support and encourage adolescent girls ages 13-16. The program helps them to connect with their community, and other Latinas, and to raise their self-confidence and expectations to stay in school, to pursue high academic and career goals, and to maintain their health both physically and mentally.
The smiles of the nominees shimmered brighter than the lit candles decorating the tables. The inspirations and dreams of young Latinas in attendance struck a stronger chord then those of the musicians playing table to table during the dinner reception. If young woman needed to find inspiration in someone, this was the night with a room full of inspirational women willing to share their rise, finally leading to their achievement and recognition Friday night.
“The honorees tonight represent dedication, volunteerism, and strength, in building for the future. These women received their education and experiences from running their businesses or their professional careers with serious hard work,” Imperial Valley Mana President Monica Lepe-Negerete said. “They all went at it in different ways. Despite all what they accomplished, they continued to give back to the community in amazing ways. Not only do they promote education, but they also promote volunteerism. They are three amazing women this year and they all serve as incredible role models for our youth.”
“It’s just beautiful to know that the work that we enjoy doing is being noticed by someone else,” explained MANA Nominee Dr. Sandra Kofford about her nomination. “We have to continue working hard for those that need it the most. That’s what we do when we contribute to the community to make it a better place for the future generations.” Dr. Kofford continued, “It humbles me to know that I am a part of this group and I am so grateful to MANA and the board members for thinking of me in this way and I am very
privileged to be a part of this group.”
“It’s an honor and I am proud to be Latina. I don’t think we should receive a prize for the work we love to do, but I am honored that they even thought about me, someone thought that I could be someone who could represent the community.” Esperanza Colio-Warren said about her nomination. “I think the whole purpose of this organization is to encourage upcoming generations to succeed and use us as examples and I am so grateful that they thought of me as an example, I wish I could do more but the day only has twenty-four hours.”
“Just being recognized is a wonderful feeling,” said Dalia Rodriguez on nomination. “I didn’t expect it. It means the world to me to be recognized by this community. I’m from here, and went away and came back. So, I really appreciate them recognizing who I am.”
Rodriguez spoke on the importance of young women becoming active and involved in the community, “They need to go in there and say; ‘How can I also help this community’, you’re never too young to help. I think as young Latina women they don’t really know that they have a voice but they do have a voice and they need to step in there and that promotes success,” said Rodriguez.
MANA of Imperial Valley holds monthly MANA meetings on the second Thursday of the month at 6:00 p.m. at the County Administration Building, rooms C & D on the second floor, 940 West Main St. El Centro.