Latino Town Hall celebrates the contributions of dedicated citizens

August 11, 2004
Santa Paula News

Celebrating the contributions of dedicated citizens was the focus of the 8th Annual Latino Town Hall (LTH) Awards held July 31 at the Community Center.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesCelebrating the contributions of dedicated citizens was the focus of the 8th Annual Latino Town Hall (LTH) Awards held July 31 at the Community Center.Honored this year were Luis Romero for Youth, Victor Reyes for Sports, Xavier “Big X” Montes for Cultural Arts, El Brillante Market (Anita and Sam Salas) for Business, Edward “Ed” Arguelles for Education and Dr. Dora Crouch for Community Service. Jess Victoria was honored with the Raymond Garcia Humanitarian Award named in memory of a LTH founder.LTH President Robert Borrego welcomed the large crowd, noting that “this is a very special occasion for us…it’s gratifying to honor those who help make the jewel that is Santa Paula.”Master of Ceremonies Jesse Ornelas introduced the elected officials and other dignitaries at the event including Mayor Gabino Aguirre, Vice Mayor Mary Ann Krause, Councilman John Procter and Supervisor Kathy Long.Chris Espinosa introduced the keynote speaker, Maria Contreras-Sweet, the former state Secretary of Business, Transportation and Housing, who created the first Department of Managed Healthcare and the founding president of HOPE (Hispanics Organized for Political Equity).Santa Paula Union High School District Trustee Tina Urias presented the Youth Award to Romero, who went from a SPHS student who “desperately needed academic assistance” to an outstanding student and leader with help from Lisa Salas Schmidt, a SPHS teacher.“Luis blossomed” and became active in student government as well as the Student Representative on the SPUHSD board, said Urias.Romero also became active in bringing community concerns to the students and organized canned food drives and a blood drive that was among the most successful in Ventura County, among his many community efforts.“Luis is a very caring individual, an outstanding student and great role model,” whose community pride and involvement “make him one of our brightest and most promising future leaders,” said Urias of Romero, who was celebrating his 18th birthday.Reyes’ Sports Award was presented by Santa Paula Elementary School District Trustee Anthony Perez, who noted that shared sports has always played a big role in their lives.A 1968 SPHS graduate, Reyes has dedicated hundreds of hours helping youth become better athletes, “better students and better individuals in all aspects of life,” noted Perez.Reyes has emphasized sports in personal development and has attempted, “at every turn, to instill respect for the game, respect for the opponent, coaches and officials,” while avoiding the personal limelight on behalf of the players.Reyes’ dedication to youth has changed lives and many he has coached have gone on to successful careers in and out of sports.A talented Little League pitcher, Reyes continues to be active in sports and over the past three decades has coached numerous teams and officiated countless games.Carmen Guerrero presented the Cultural Arts Award to Montes, the founder of the highly successful annual De Colores Art Show and cultural festival and the Fandango.“Most of us are passionate about one thing or another,” and Montes’ is Latino arts. He “worked on bringing music and art and dance to the Latino community,” and as a unification tool for all who love the arts, said Guerrero.A native Santa Paulan, Montes received degrees and a teaching credential from UCSB. An acclaimed artist, musician and educator, Montes was a California Arts Council Artist-in-Residence.“Xavier approaches his work in the cultural arts with exuberance and dedication to performing and teaching with a great combination of discipline and joy,” that has infused De Colores.The event Montes founded has grown from a one-day Depot art exhibit to a full festival featuring top-rated musical entertainment that brings thousands of visitors to the Santa Paula California Oil Museum.SPESD Trustee Ofelia de la Torre presented the Business Award to Annie and Sam Salas, operators of El Brillante Market, a family enterprise for 75 years.
Generations of the Salas family have operated the market “with the same love and determination as the inaugurating members of the family,” that led to the market being the oldest family-owned and -operated retail business in Santa Paula.In 1922, brothers Juan and Jesus Salas with their father immigrated to the United States and settled in Santa Paula. They opened the market in 1929 on South Ojai Street (relocated to Main Street in 1946) and named it after a store in Mexico where the Salas children had purchased candy.“Juan’s customers were primarily farmworkers whose day-to-day survival proved to be a brave struggle,” noted de la Torre. The Salas’ family extended credit to farmworkers and would even “take the store to where it was needed,” the fields where their customers worked.“The Salas family is truly a part of Santa Paula’s historical past,” de la Torre said.Arguelles has long been everyone’s favorite SPHS teacher and SPUHS Trustee Catherine Sepulveda presented him with the Education Award.Arguelles, a SPHS teacher for 27 years, received his BA degree at UCSB and has been honored on the local, state and national level for his commitment to teaching and students.One honor accorded Arguelles resulted from his dedication to a student, Manuel Nunez, who had a brain tumor. Arguelles became his home teacher and worked with Nunez when his physical condition was grave. In 1999 Nunez graduated with his class and the Ventura County Association of School Administrators chose both Nunez and Arguelles as the Student and Teacher of the Year.Arguelles credits two late teachers with deep impacts on his life and career, Robert Raitt who influenced his instructional technique and Ray Sepulveda who enlightened the first year teacher as to Arguelles’ purpose and importance in education, life and death.The circle is complete and Arguelles in turn has been a profound educator in the lives of his students. Arguelles teaches government and creates not only scholars but also engaged community members.Dr. Crouch was presented with the Community Service Award by Joanne Guilin who noted Crouch’s activism on behalf of the community especially housing issues.After retiring from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and teaching at Stanford University, Crouch moved to Santa Paula in 1992 and formed the Modest Housing Group to examine local housing issues.As a member of the county League of Women Voters, Crouch spearheaded an affordable housing study that resulted in “Too High a Price,” noted Guilin.“The findings were shocking,” showing the adverse conditions of available low-income housing.Crouch has also been active in documenting the plight of farmworker housing and formed the Farmworker Housing Group, which led to the first-ever Farmworker Housing Summit in Ventura County.The summit drew over 300 participants who brainstormed novel ways to build affordable housing for agricultural workers.“Dora is committed to investing her energies in keeping the attention of the public on the housing needs of farmworkers and other working families,” while also serving as a Blanchard Community Library Trustee and Board President, reflecting her deep appreciation and activism on behalf of literacy.Borrego presented Victoria with the Raymond Garcia Humanitarian Award, and noted that Victoria’s Main Street shop is the favorite gathering place to “get your shoes repaired and to catch the latest information on important issues facing our city,” the county, state and nation.“Jess is considered by many in town to be the voice of the people,” said Borrego as Victoria often attends City Council meetings to speak on issues of interest to the Santa Paula community.A founding member of Santa Clara Alcoholic Services United and the Latino Town Hall, Victoria is the LTH Vice President.“This award is given to an outstanding individual who has worked to develop and improve the relationships within the community and who recognizes the dignity and value of all people,” said Borrego. “Jess has demonstrated a commitment for caring for others and a love of Santa Paula and its residents,” generous with his time and always willing to help especially when it comes to dealing with the city.

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