BY NATALY VASQUEZ
The Las Primeras Awards Gala & Scholarship Fundraiser took place on Oct. 20 at the Old Eucalyptus School House in El Centro. The event is the premier fundraiser for MANA de Imperial Valley, an all-volunteer association that will award its proceeds directly to scholarships.
During the Las Primeras Gala, MANA President Monica Lepe Negrete called out the honorees who were selected for 2017 Las Primeras awards.
The honorees are picked by nominations. MANA sent out a call for nominations early during the year and asked people to nominate a Latina woman from within the community.
The honorees are women who showcase valuable characteristics, such as professionalism and advocacy for education. They are women who are leaders and role models for the community and local youth.
“We are lucky to have amazing role models. They are women who obtained a higher education in different ways and different times in their life. So that gives our youth the opportunity to see how you can get an education regardless of your age and regardless of the way you try to get it, said Negrete. “There is no one magic way to get an education, as long as you never stop trying.”
The honorees were Dalia Rodriguez, owner of Fitness Oasis Health Club and Spa, Dr. Sandra Kofford, senior director of the Migrant Education Program, Imperial County Office of Education, and Esperanza Colio Warren, community and economic development manager of Imperial County. All three women had the opportunity to give a speech after they received their award. Each honoree spoke about their journey and the challenges they had to overcome.
One of the things that Rodriguez mentioned in her speech was that, “we must encourage our youth to view and accept those individuals that appear to be different from them with an open heart and an open mind. We are all different, we are all unique, and we should all be entitled to dignity and respect.”
“We must encourage our youth to combat racism, sexism, and all forms of prejudice and injustice,” said Kofford, sharing her educational experiences and how she applies it in her occupation.
“I had the opportunity to be part of two educational systems, in Mexico and the United States and everything that I learned in my educational journey, I continue to use to offer opportunities to migrant students,” she said.
Colio Warren explained the difficulties of learning a new language, stating, “I learned English at the age of 32 and it was the most challenging thing in the world.”
This year, MANA for the first time awarded scholarships to both female and male recipients. In order for students to qualify for the MANA scholarship, a student must meet the minimum grade-point average requirements, be a graduating senior from a local high school, and have an acceptance letter from a college or university.
MANA de Imperial Valley encourages students to not be afraid to ask for help. It welcomes the opportunity to help the students with questions about college or if they need help volunteering.
MANA can also provide the students with a letter of recommendation. The scholarship application is posted on the MANA website. Applications will be open by late April 2018.