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2015 Latino Impact Awards Finalists

Cross Border Leader

Eduardo Acosta, R.L. Jones

Not only has Acosta been in the import-export business for 20 years, he also serves as president of the Otay Mesa Chamber of Commerce and is a standing board member of Tijuana EDC. He and his company regularly participate in binational events representing the cross border brokerage and logistics industry.

Gerardo Alcalá, Entravision

​Alcalá develops new business and works with companies on both sides of the border for one of the largest U.S. media companies that caters to Hispanics in the U.S. He preaches the binational message nationwide, and always helps with promotional efforts to better position Baja California and the Hispanic population of Southern California.

Denice Garcia, City of San Diego

Garcia joined Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s staff in 2014 after graduating from the prestigious National Urban Fellows program. She was an instrumental force behind the historic memorandum of understanding between Faulconer and Tijuana Mayor Jorge Astiazarán, and is helping to strengthen San Diego’s relationship with Tijuana to promote commerce, trade, and tourism.

Enrique Gonzalez, San Diego County Office of Education

Gonzalez served on the Institute for Mexicans Abroad Advisory Council for the 2006–08 term. As secretary of its Education Affairs Committee, he has been instrumental in convincing Mexico’s congress to fund 10 million pesos a year (more than $780,000 U.S. dollars) in IME-Becas grants that allow Mexican immigrants access to funds supporting their education in the U.S.

Rebecca Morales, San Diego Foundation for Innovation

Morales founded the San Diego Foundation for Innovation and has partnered with the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, Tijuana Innovadora, the CaliBaja Bi-National Mega-Region Initiative, the City of San Diego International Affairs Board, and TEDx to help reward novel solutions to social and economic needs. She led the Kiwanis Club of La Jolla to sponsor a new club in Tijuana. 

Leticia Oseguera, Academy of Our Lady of Peace

Oseguera conducted a groundbreaking study on the plight of transfronterizos, students who cross the border on a weekly or daily basis to attend school in the U.S., after discovering there was no research documenting their experiences. Her study examined the social and mental challenges these students face and the academic consequences of having to cross the border regularly.

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Entrepreneur of the Year

Tayde Aburto, Hispanic Chamber of E-Commerce

Aburto took all of his savings to start his company, which helps Hispanic and family-owned businesses connect to the Internet and become more competitive. Blending the values of a nonprofit with the innovation of a startup, HISCEC also provides social media training, business consulting, and media management.

Dr. Carlos O. Chacon, Divino Plastic Surgery

Dr. Chacón goes beyond the call of duty in his efforts to help raise health awareness in the Latino community, and for his dedication, talent, and skill in improving the lives of many people by providing unparalleled reconstructive and cosmetic plastic surgery services. He is fluent in English, Spanish, and Italian, and tries to speak his patients’ native language whenever possible.

David Favela, Border X Brewing

Favela founded the region’s only Latino-owned brewery, which brings the flavors of Mexico to San Diego, like the Jamaica-inspired Blood Saison and Abuelita’s Chocolate Stout ale. Favela sits on Barrio Logan’s development committee and helped the neighborhood’s revitalization by opening Border X Brewing’s second location there. 

Yoland Hernandez, Five Star Tours & Charter Bus Company

Hernandez provides transportation and tours for thousands of visitors coming to experience San Diego and Tijuana as a cross border destination. She pioneered ways for her vehicles to cross the border up to three times daily with a simple process for her guests. She served more than 20 years as a board member for the San Ysidro School District.

Lucia Matthews, DIÁLOGO Public Relations

Matthews founded a leading public relations firm that works on behalf of national consumer brands that serve Latino communities. The agency has offices in La Jolla and New York. The Hispanic Public Relations Association honored Matthews as its national PR Practitioner of the Year. Matthews also created Diálogonet, a communications platform that is now one of the largest Latino blogger communities. 

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Inspirational Leader

Ruben Barrales, GROW Elect

Barrales recruits, trains, and supports Latino candidates for public office in California. He served as president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and in the White House as deputy assistant to the president and director of intergovernmental affairs. He was the first Latino elected to the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors.

Osvaldo Blackaller, Cueva Bar

As a business owner, “Chef Oz” inspires his crew to always do their best as employees and as human beings, because this passion will transfer to what they bring to the table and to their success in life. Through his media channels, he encourages his community to dream big and believe that anything is possible.

Linda Caballero Sotelo, Toltec Media

Caballero Sotelo runs her own media firm that uses grassroots marketing and is the executive director of the New Americans Museum at Liberty Station, which celebrates the contributions of all immigrants in the U.S. She was also president of the San Diego Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and National Latina Business Women Association San Diego.

Naomi Chavez, First 5 San Diego

Chavez has improved the lives of infants and children in San Diego, especially in the Hispanic community, with dental care, quality preschool, and family support during their most critical years of development. First 5 San Diego helped more than 90,000 children and parents from 2013–14, and more than 70 percent of the children served by First 5 are Hispanic.

Robert Chávez, Urban Corps of San Diego County

Chávez is passionate about giving young people the opportunity to have positive working roles in their communities. He ensures that 400-plus young adults per year, 40 percent of them Latino, receive paid job training and a second-chance high school education. He actively builds partnerships with government agencies and industry leaders to fulfill Urban Corps’ mission.

Amanda Cheyney, San Diego Workforce Partnership

Under Cheyney’s leadership, MANA de San Diego—which empowers Latinas through education, leadership development, and advocacy—awarded more than $30,000 to Latinas pursuing higher education and served 700 uninsured women and families. She has shared information about MANA de San Diego on Univision’s Despierta San Diego morning show, and on Univision Radio’s De Viva Voz with Mery Lopez-Gallo.

Albert Clark, San Diego County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Clark’s father is African American and his mother is Panamanian. He was raised in Panama and came to the U.S. to attend Bradley University. He moved to San Diego in 2005 and has built his reputation as a trusted insurance adviser with focus on creating cost-efficient programs in the Hispanic community. 

Jose Cruz, Barrio Logan College Institute (BLCI)

Cruz believes that education is the great equalizer and a ticket out of poverty. He helps disadvantaged families prepare their children for college through the BLCI College Success Program starting in the third grade. To date, every single program graduate has enrolled in college, with 94 percent earning a degree.

Jose Cruz, San Diego Council on Literacy

Known in the region as “Mr. Literacy,” Jose Cruz has spent his 30-year career engaging with top San Diego foundations, individuals, elected officials and community members to promote literacy. He underscores the importance of literacy challenges for Latinos in both the workplace, at school and in the household environment. Cruz also volunteers with Catholic Charities and serves on the board of directors of the Boys and Girls Foundation.

Yessica Diaz-Roman, Mana de San Diego

Dr. Diaz-Roman has served in MANA de San Diego’s nationally recognized mentoring program for 13 to 18-year-old Latinas. She has worked with MANA’s family health fair, which provides screenings, testings, and exams in low-income Latino communities. Her research focuses on chronic disease management, reduction of oral health disparities, and Type 2 diabetes self-management.

Adela C. Garcia, IBM

Garcia founded MANA de San Diego’s Latina Success Leadership Program, a seminar series at National University’s Sanford Center in La Jolla, to address the fact that Latinas are underrepresented in managerial positions but overrepresented in the low-wage service sector. Seventy Latinas graduated from the program this September. 

Amber George, Junior League of San Diego

George is a first-generation Mexican who put herself through college and two grad school programs. She has successfully balanced a career as media director for InnoVision Marketing Group while spearheading the Junior League’s Oktoberfest fundraiser, which supports efforts to stop human trafficking.

Elena Gomez, National Association of Hispanic Journalist San Diego-Tijuana / NBC 7 San Diego

Gomez is a reporter at NBC San Diego, and as San Diego-Tijuana president of NAHJ, she leads local journalists by organizing seminars, mixers, guest speakers, and meetings on a monthly basis. She recently arranged tours of San Diego’s border patrol office with Sector Chief Paul Beeson, as well as Tijuana’s Televisa news station.

Jaime Alonso Gomez, University of San Diego

Alonso Gómez has been a distinguished professor at USD for more than 20 years, teaching international business and strategy to MBA classes, and was named dean of USD’s School of Business Administration this August. He has also served as founding dean of the Graduate School of Business Administration and Leadership at Tec de Monterrey campuses in Mexico City and Monterrey.

Alvina Gumbayan Alexander, San Diego Gas and Electric

Gumbayan Alexander has made education her priority. She frequently mentors the residents of Lemon Grove’s Sullivans residential youth facility, encouraging them to continue in school and complete their education.

Celia C. Lanning, Wells Fargo

A 24-year Wells Fargo veteran, Lanning oversees more than 1,900 team members and 115 banking stores throughout San Diego and Imperial Counties. Prior to her role in San Diego, Lanning served as regional president for North Orange County and area president for Wells Fargo’s Riverside and San Bernardino markets.

Lilia Larin, Mana de San Diego

Having been raised and educated in both the U.S. and Mexico, Larin is bicultural and binational. Her leadership transcends borders by creating a vision that gaining health for our community does not stop at an imaginary line. She is treasurer for the American Association of Women Dentists and was a board member of MANA de San Diego.

Gloria Limas, Media Magic Marketing

An award-winning broadcast journalist who has worked in Dallas, San Diego, and Los Angeles, Limas has a huge heart when it comes to Hispanic youth and always finds time to mentor and be a role model to those who want to know more about journalism. She still works as a freelance journalist and assists nonprofits through 501C Economics.

Kathlyn Mead, The San Diego Foundation

In her first year as president and CEO, Mead met with 400 executives and individuals throughout the region to make informed decisions on how to directly improve quality of life in San Diego. The foundation granted more than $50 million to support the county’s most critical needs. 

Venus Molina, Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation

Molina serves as vice president of operations for MANA de San Diego, which assists Latinas through education, leadership development, community service, and advocacy. The organization has more than 260 volunteers and roughly 1,800 members and supporters. Molina was instrumental in finalizing MANA’s policies and procedures as well as promoting its work through her involvement with other organizations.

Nicole Murray-Ramirez, LGBT and Latino Activist

Nicole Murray Ramirez has been a Latino and LGBT activist for more than 45 years. As “Queen Mother of the Americas,” he oversees chapters of the Imperial Court System in 68 cities in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. He has served seven mayors of San Diego, including a current position on the Commission on Gang Prevention and Intervention and as co-chair of Mayor Faulconer’s LGBT Advisory Board.

Alberto Ochoa, San Diego State University (SDSU) & Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE)

Dr. Alberto Ochoa is an expert on school desegregation, language policy, and student achievement. He has worked with more than 60 California schools on bilingual instructional programs, curriculum programming, and staff development. Since 1985, he has chaired the Latino Advisory Committee to the San Diego Unified School District Superintendent and the County Superintendent of Schools.

Carlos Ramirez, SolarCity

​Ramirez started as a director of safety at SolarCity and within four years built his way up to vice president. He has designed hardware to protect the safety of his engineers and has put standards of practice in place to ensure the safety of all his employees.

Adina Veen, United Way of San Diego County

Veen has a long history in the nonprofit sector, where she has spent the majority of her career focusing on leadership development and female empowerment. At United Way, she develops volunteer programs to solve community problems; while at the Junior League of San Diego, she focused on diversity and inclusion.

Dr. Pablo Velez, Sharp HealthCare / Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center

Dr. Velez is dedicated to providing high-quality patient care to families in San Diego’s South Bay region. He even lists his personal phone number on each patient satisfaction survey. As CEO of the closest hospital to the border, he works with Sharp’s Global Patient Services to help provide vital patient resources in the U.S. and Mexico.

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Volunteer of the Year

Ben Aguilar, Law Offices of Ben Aguilar

Aguilar practices immigration and family law, focusing on serving underprivileged individuals who would not otherwise be able to retain an attorney. He offers consultations to Mexican nationals who are referred to his office by the Mexican consulate. He serves on the board of San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association and was recognized by the San Diego County Bar Association for his volunteer work.

Dayana Silva-James, Girl Scouts San Diego / Junior League of San Diego

Silva-James is the single person responsible for ensuring that Girl Scouts San Diego has the volunteers and resources it needs to offer all of the city’s girls a chance to do something amazing. She ensures that girls and adults of all backgrounds and all communities are engaged by offering flexible ways to become part of the organization.

Juan Carlos Hernandez, ACCION San Diego

Hernandez has 26 years of experience in consumer and business banking and is now at ACCION San Diego, a nonprofit that provides microfinancing to small businesses. He is on the board of the San Diego County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce as an advisor for the development of community programs, and helps members access capital through microlending.

Gabriela Hooshmand, MANA de North County San Diego / Oceanside Unified School District

Hooshmand has served the Latino community through the public schools in San Diego County for the past 28 years. She has shown her leadership at the Parent Institute for Quality Education and in the Vista Unified School District. She has expanded MANA’s Hermanitas mentoring program in schools across North County to improve the future of Latina teens.

Danny Melgoza, Office of County Supervisor Greg Cox

Melgoza helps shape public policy on mental health, safety, food security, poverty alleviation, senior issues, and community development. He is the supervisor’s liaison to the cities of Chula Vista and National City, and is on the Campaign to End Homelessness in Downtown San Diego. He is also involved in a number of civic and volunteer boards.

Enrique Morones, Border Angels

Since 1986, Morones has dedicated his life to the prevention of thousands of migrant deaths that happen on the U.S.-Mexico border. He has given a human face to countless migrants, offering them compassion in the form of food, water, clothing, education, and advocacy.

Rebecca Ruelas, Reality Changers

Ruelas dedicates six hours every week volunteering at Reality Changers, a nonprofit in City Heights that supports low-income, inner-city youth in becoming first-generation college students. As a Latina first-generation college student herself, she inspires youth to follow her example and work hard to change their realities.

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