El Concilio Family Services presents 25th Annual Latino Leadership Awards
Two university professors, a college and career counselor, an attorney, a coordinator of a college-readiness program, a gifted high school student, a successful high school and a police sergeant will be recognized when El Concilio Family Services presents its 25th annual Latino Leadership Awards at a gala on Saturday, May 31 at the Oxnard Performing Arts Center.
“The Honorees, each in their own unique way have gone beyond and contributed in a great way to make life better for Latinos and for citizens in the county,” said Yvonne Gutierrez, executive director of the Oxnardbased organization. “El Concilio is honored to recognize and to bring the exemplary work of these leaders to the attention of all.” Awards will go to Frank P. Barajas, a professor at California State University Channel Islands; Edlyn Vallejo Peña, assistant professor at California Lutheran University; Susan Carrasco, a college and career counselor; attorney Frankie Villasenor Guzman; Thomas D. McCollum, an AVID coordinator at Hueneme High School; Jorge Ochoa, a senior student at Oxnard High School; Vanessa Prado, a graduate of Hueneme High School; and Alejandro Rangel Jr., a sergeant with the Oxnard Police Department.
Barajas, born and raised in Oxnard, is a graduate of Oxnard High School and Moorpark College. He earned his bachelor’s degree in history from CSU Fresno and his doctorate degree from Claremont Graduate University. His father was a native resident of Rancho Sespe who grew up in Santa Paula and Moorpark. His father met his mother, from Chihuahua, Mexico, at the Seaboard Lemon Packing House in Oxnard. Barajas began as an educator at Cypress College in Orange County before returning to Oxnard in 1991. Barajas said he considers himself fortunate to be one of the first 13 tenure-track professors at CSU Channel Islands. Upon returning to Ventura County, Barajas said he was inspired by the leadership in the community to help the underserved community achieve justice, leading him to participate in demonstrations and write opinion essays in various local publications. His research focuses on the history of Southern California and has published peerreviewed essays on agricultural labor in Ventura County, the Sleepy Lagoon Trial and the implementation of the civil gang injunction in Oxnard. “In 2012, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the United Farm Workers of America union, Barajas, along with 49 other activists from throughout Ventura County were recognized for service in the community,” according to a nomination letter. “University professors are members of a learned profession, officers of an educational institution and are also citizens. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship … Frank Barajas, as a professional and a member of his community, has done that: Expressed his feelings, beliefs, position and opinions about issues that greatly impact the Latino community — past, present and future.”
CIHS Alumni, District Employee
Carrasco, born and raised in Oxnard, attended Santa Clara High School, Channel Islands High School and Ventura College, where she served as Associated Student Body president and president of Ventura College MEChA. She also landed the first female comedy role on the Latino Fox Television’s “The Culture Clash Show” and is still the only female member of the comedy troupe “The Chicano Secret Service.” She earned her associate’s degree from Ventura College, her bachelor’s degree from CSU Channel Islands (where she founded the university’s first MEChA chapter) and her master’s degree from the University of La Verne. She has been employed with the Oxnard Union High School District for 14 years, is a college and career center adviser, the last seven as the MEChA adviser. She is the community liaison for Oxnard and Ventura Colleges, CSU Channel Islands, Upward Bound, Future Leaders of America and other local organizations. In her acceptance letter, Carrasco said she pays “homage to the Chicana/o activists who fought to establish equity in colleges and universities. They modeled the way. I learned also by my family’s value of education and from local Oxnard educational intellectual educators who served as excellent role models, to give back to our community and to focus on the youth and families’ assets, not deficiencies, and to see the potential in all people.”
McCollum, originally from the East L.A. community of Montebello came to Hueneme in 1996. Working his way through college, he attended Santa Ana College and CSU Fullerton, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education, with a minor in history and biological sciences. He served as assistant basketball coach at several schools, colleges and universities before becoming head coach at El Rancho Jr. High School, Carpinteria High School and Hueneme High School, where he has completed his 18th year with the Oxnard Union High School District. In 2002, he was given the honor of becoming the coordinator of the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program, where seniors have attained more than 90 percent college admission and have earned more than $100,000 in scholarships and grant-in-aid. McCollum said he is proud to have contributed to increasing the number of graduating students and the growth of the AVID program over the years. “ ‘If it is to be, it is up to me.’ Tom McCollum has imbedded this inspirational quote in the minds of many generations of students, who have been fortunate enough to have him as their AVID … program teacher and coordinator,” according to one nomination letter. “Tom has used his own humble life experience growing up in a neighborhood similar to Oxnard’s community to inspire and teach students the realistic implementation of taking control of their actions to create a positive influence in order to succeed in life beyond high school graduation … Tom’s commitment to help students succeed is evident through the academic achievements that have given Hueneme High School a reputation of producing exemplary graduates.”
Ochoa was born in Oxnard but moved at an early age to Bakersfield. Both his parents had limited education and so the family moved to several locations between California and Texas in search of work. Ochoa returned to Oxnard when he was 12 and went on to earning A’s in most of his honors and advanced placement courses at Oxnard High School. On Advance Placement Exams, he has earned 5’s in U.S. History, Chemistry and English Language composition, earning 4’s in European History and Biology, and earning a 4.58 Grade Point Average, ranking number one at the high school. He was selected as a Questbridge Scholar, an honor bestowed to only 400 students from the U.S. out of the total of 5,000 fi nalists. He has earned early admission to his top university, Stanford, with a full $250,000 scholarship. Ochoa also serves as a peer tutor for underprivileged students as a Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement (MESA) member since the 7th grade. He supplements the family income by tutoring and workings weekends by helping his father as an auto mechanic. “Jorge is a first-generation college bound student,” according to one nomination letter. “Both parents are immigrants with limited education His mother dropped out of elementary school to work and help the family and his father only finished junior high school. In spite of this, they have instilled a hard work ethic and have motivated Jorge to excel academically. His family is proud of his accomplishments. Jorge’s struggles have taught him responsibility, determination and have strengthened his character. In 20 years as an educator, I have not met a more deserving and talented young man.”
Prado was born in San Dimas, lived in Chino Hills before moving to Port Hueneme. She is a graduate of Hueneme High School and is the commanding officer of the Hueneme High Navy Junior ROTC union that was awarded a four-year $180,000 Navy ROTC scholarship. Prado was one of 10 students in the Southern California/Arizona area chosen to receive the award. Prado also gives back to her community by volunteering numerous hours of service to the Oxnard Police Department’s Kid Safety Program, the Oxnard Alzheimer’s Association, Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) Annual Toy Drive. She also helps her parents with the family business. She now to attends Norwich University, a military college in Northfi eld, Vermont. Retired U.S. Navy Commander John Mills, who teaches Navy ROTC at Hueneme High School, wrote in a nomination letter that Prado has a bright future in the Navy. “I’ve been doing this for 13 years and she’s in the top three of all the students I have taught. She has those leadership skills necessary for the Navy of the 21st century. She leads by example and never complains. She’s extremely good in motivating others into moving. She’s a very patriotic individual, very hardworking. I’ve never had a high school student as good at teaching other students.”
About El Concilio Family Services
El Concilio is a nonprofit community service organization whose primary mission is to provide services to the underserved Latino community. The majority of its clients come from the agricultural industry. Since its establishment in 1975, El Concilio has grown to serve on average more than 22,000 clients per year. El Concilio has programs in youth leadership and development, family education and literacy and client assistance.
The 25th annual Latino Leadership Awards will begin with a reception at 6 p.m. Saturday, May 31 at the Oxnard Performing Arts Center, 800 Hobson Way, Oxnard. Tickets are $200 each or $1,600 for a table of eight (8). For more information on El Concilio’s programs and services or reservations for the awards gala, visit www.elconciliofs.org or call 805-486-9777.