Icons and Treasures

Frances Ortiz-Chavez



Laura Avila








Norma Rojas-








Icons and Treasures

For the past 25 years, HOPE has been walking hand in hand with Latinas who are pushing the limits, breaking barriers, and defining what it means to be a leader. In celebration of our 25th anniversary, we are recognizing "Icons and Treasures": those individuals who have made a major impact on the empowerment of Latinas.

An Icon is defined as a Latina leader who has contributed 30+ years to the community and has a lifetime achievement of service. A Treasure is an unsung hero, a Latina leader who has made an impact on the lives of Latinas and works towards the advancement of women. She is a "jewel" in the community.

View HOPE's Icons and Treasures.

Presenting sponsor:

Nominate a HOPE Icon or Treasure!

Please join us in recognizing Latinas in California who are making a difference and advancing our communities. If you know a powerful Latina that is making an impact, breaking the glass ceiling, promoting mentorship/fellowship or advancing causes, let us know! Submit a nominee and they may be profiled in an upcoming HOPE enewsletter! To submit a nominee, send the following items for your Icon/Treasure to talvarez@latinas.org:

  • Bio of Icon/Treasure
  • Contact information of Icon/Treasure
  • A testimonial on why you think this individual deserves to be recognized as a HOPE "Icon and Treasure"

Also make sure that you talk online about Latinas who are making a difference! #HOPEIcon #HOPETreasure

HOPE Icons
Juana Briones

Juana Briones was a woman whose footprint transcended the era in which she lived. She was a businesswoman, humanitarian and landowner - she was praised for these attributes during the 19th century and continues to be admired for them in the 21st century.

Juana was born in 1802 in Villa Branciforte, now Santa Cruz, California to parents of mixed European, African and Native American ancestry. Her mother and grandparents came to California from New Spain (current day Mexico) as settlers in 1776 with the De Anza Expedition, helping to found the present day cities of San Francisco and San Jose.

At the age of 18, Juana married a cavalryman stationed at the Presidio named Apolinario Miranda, with whom she had eleven children. As a young mother, Juana reached out to serve others by providing refuge to sailors, ill from arduous working conditions, whose ships were anchored in San Francisco Bay. Documents from the early years of San Francisco show that Juana separated from her husband and set up another house with her children. Strained by the drunken abuse of her husband, Juana raised cattle and ran a small vegetable farm to provide for her family.

Continuing her focus on the community, Juana aided those in need around her, traveling to Marin County to help manage a smallpox outbreak in 1834. She was known to use medicinal herbs to tend to Native American, English and Mexican people who needed help.

Needing more land for her growing cattle business, in 1844 Juana purchased the 4400 acre Rancho La Purisima Concepcion, in the foothills of today's Los Altos and Palo Alto. She built an earthen-walled home from adobe clay, ran her business and raised her family. Juana was ranching at least into her mid-fifties.

With California's admission to the Union in 1850, new laws challenged land ownership and many families who owned land in the Mexican California government lost their property. Not Juana. She astutely chose good people to represent her in the US Land Commission hearings. Juana not only held on to that rancho, but she waged a tenacious fight to maintain title to another property in San Francisco that rightfully belonged to her and her children after her husband's death. That twelve-year battle went all the way to the US Supreme Court, which ruled in Juana's favor.

HOPE Treasures

Lucy Armendariz

State Bar Court Judge

Lucy Armedariz was born in East Los Angeles. She attended UCLA and later graduated with a law degree from Hastings College of Law in 1997. After a short stint in private practice, she assumed a government position in Sacramento. In 2007, Ms. Armendariz was appointed State Bar Court Judge. Lucy participated in the HOPE Leadership Institute in 2004.





Wendy Laura Avila

Deputy District Attorney Kern County District Attorney's Office

Wendy Avila has always had a deep commitment to justice. She remembers being concerned about issues of "right and wrong" from as far back as the playground in elementary school.  So it was no surprise to anyone when after receiving her B.A. from the University of California, Santa Barbara, that she went on to obtain her law degree from the University of San Francisco, School of Law.  Having studied many of the great social movements in school, Wendy saw lawyers as instruments for community and societal change. 

It has been through her position as a deputy district attorney for the Kern County District Attorney's Office and through her extensive community work that she has made an impact on her community. 

At the district attorney's office, Ms. Avila founded Kern County's first ever Truancy Unit in 2002, creating an award winning program, which has been looked at as a "best practices" model. Additionally, while serving in the Gang Unit for 5 years, Ms. Avila was part of a hands on Street Interdiction Team (S.I.T.), which developed anti-gang efforts in outlying communities traditionally held hostage by gang violence. 

Ms. Avila is a founding board member of Latina Leaders of Kern County and has also served on the boards of Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE), the Kern County Prosecutors Association, the Kern County Women Lawyer’s Association and Teen Court of Kern County.  She gives extensive time to community causes and feels passionate about working with and on behalf of young people.  Ms. Avila is also an adjunct lecturer at California State University, Bakersfield in the Political Science Department.

Elmy Bermejo

Regional Representative for Labor Secretary Tom Perez, Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs at the U.S. Department of Labor

For more than 20 years, Elmy Bermejo has been dedicated to public service in California and Washington D.C. where she has served as Chair of the California State Commission on the Status of Women and as Deputy Secretary for the State and Consumer Services Agency for the State of California. Elmy also served as special assistant to Senator Don Perata, and worked for Senator Burton on issues that impact women and children, supported outreach to the Latino/Latina community and worked with the ethnic media. As a board member of Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE), Elmy chaired Latina Action Day in Sacramento and helped to expand the organization's presence statewide and nationally.

Lidia Martinez

Manager of Community Affairs & Grassroots, Southwest Airlines

Lidia Martinez is the "go to" contact at Southwest Airlines in the West. Despite the fact that she is working with hundreds of organizations, everyone she works with feels like she is their advocate - and it's true. Lidia works tirelessly to support all the wonderful programs that are happening throughout Southern California and is a true champion for the Latino/Latina community.

"Lidia truly exemplifies the mission and vision of HOPE. Her tireless efforts to advance Latinas and our communities is evident...She goes out of her way to help all of us in one way or another, never asking for anything in return. She is a selfless champion and a true treasure not only in San Diego, but she has left her footprint across the state and the nation. We are honored to have her be part of our HOPE family and I am blessed to have her as a madrina and friend!" -Nora Vargas, HOPE Board Member

Lidia isn't just involved with philanthropy at work: she also gives her personal time to support important organizations and causes. Lidia serves on the Board of Directors of the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute (USHLI); the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI); LEAD San Diego; and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). Other key organizations where Lidia represents her company on an advisory level are: the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund; and the California Latino Caucus Institute (CLCI). She is also proud to be a Champion for Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE). Lidia is a treasure to so many because her work makes the work of so many others possible - creating a community that is connected, inclusive and vibrant.

Frances Ortiz-Chavez

Napa Valley Unified School Board Trustee

Frances Ortiz-Chavez is a native of Sonora, Mexico who immigrated to the United States at the young age of 10. She currently serves on the Napa Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees and is only the third Latino resident to serve on the seven-member board. Ortiz-Chavez has a 25-year history of working with the Napa school district, first taking a job in 1978 as an adult school teaching assistant. Since then, she's held various positions at local schools, including working as the principal's secretary at Shearer Elementary School from 1983 to 1997 and the office manager at River School from 1997 to 2001. She is deeply connected to her Napa community and has lived and worked in the NVUSD for over 20 years. Since 2006 she has been director of the Centro Comunitario Puertas Abiertas Organization that connects mainly the Mexican community.

Frances is also a renowned artist her paintings can be found in the private collections in the United States and Latin America.

Norma Rojas-Mora

Special Projects and Supportive Services Program Manager, Housing Authority of the County of Kern President, Latina Leaders of Kern County

Norma grew up in Mettler, CA, a small town in central California. She credits her strong work ethic and family values to her parents who are farm workers. When she was 10, Norma landed her first job planting onions by hand in the winter. She would later work in the fields and packing sheds over the summers. The Bakersfield High School graduate went on to UCLA, where she received degrees in Sociology and Chicano Studies. While at UCLA Norma found a passion for developing supportive service programs when she along with two fellow students, developed a student retention program that still exists on the campus today. Her plan was to return to Kern County to help develop programs for the underserved. Norma has been with the Housing Authority of the County of Kern for the past thirteen years. As the Special Projects and Supportive Services Program Manager for the Housing Authority, Norma is responsible for the development, implementation, and administration of new housing projects and supportive service programs for residents of the Housing Authority. Norma has helped bring millions of dollars to Kern County for housing and supportive service programs through the development of grant proposals and by developing partnerships with local, state, federal, and private entities. Because of her dedication and service to Kern County and the many underserved communities in this region, Norma is a treasure to HOPE as well as a treasure for the entire San Joaquin Valley.

Josefa Salinas

Los Angeles Commissioner Overseeing the Public Libraries and Creator of the "Knowledge is Power" Foundation

Known as radio's "Angelita de la Noche" (Angel of the Night), Josefa Salinas' sensuous, yet commanding voice has delighted listeners throughout California for twenty-three years. This breakthrough Latina DJ, who continues to delight fans on L.A.'s HOT 92.3, has become a role model for women, and a powerful symbol for Latinos. Mayor Eric Garcetti recently appointed Josefa as a Los Angeles Commissioner, overseeing the Public Libraries. Josefa's out-of-the-box thinking is sure to make the Los Angeles Library system a model for the country to emulate!

Josefa was just added to the prestigious roster of women accepted into the Latina Global Executive Leadership Program sponsored by USC Marshall School of Business. She is also a graduate of the HOPE Leadership Institute class of 2007. From 1993- 1997, Josefa became known as the "Angelita de la Noche" at L.A.'s POWER 106, and created the "Knowledge is Power" Foundation.

When asked about her philosophy, Ms. Salinas states, "It is my responsibility to be the voice of those who cannot be heard—to represent the listeners' opinions, celebrations, complaints and concerns. My dream is to continue to provide needed assistance nationwide and give the underserved a voice." Josefa stands by her personal philosophy, and ends her weekly show with, "Stay strong, stay focused and, most of all, stay informed." Josefa has received numerous commendations from both governmental and non-profit organizations for her unending dedication to her community.

Minnie Santillan

Chief of Staff, Assemblymember Henry T. Perea and Owner of Santillan and Devlin, LLC

Minnie Santillan was raised in the central valley of California to a loving family with 11 siblings, including 7 brothers and 4 sisters. She is attended California State University, Fresno where she majored in Criminology. Upon graduating, she gained work experience in a variety of fields including Marketing and Contracting with Vision Care Center, as a Social Worker for Fresno County, and Director of the “California Voter Registration Project” (CVRP) where she gained first-hand experience working on campaigns. She continued her work in politics by helping Senator Jim Costa on his last re-election campaign to the 16th Senate District and was consequently hired by the Senator as a District Representative in his Fresno office. After a year of working in that capacity, she became the youngest District Director in the Central Valley for Assemblymember Sarah Reyes. 

Minnie has worked on over 15 Assembly, Senate and Congressional campaigns in California and has turned traditional Republican seats over to Democrats. In 2010 she started a political consulting business Santillan Devlin, LLC and since then has been a political consultant getting people throughout the state of California elected to public office. She became Chief of Staff to Assemblymember Tony Mendoza and soon after became Assemblymember Henry T. Perea’s Chief of Staff. Where she helps Perea lead the New Democrats, they are a group of center left pro-job Democrats. They often lead to the left on social issues but are middle of the road on business issues.

In her spare time Minnie enjoys traveling the world, she has traveled to over 20 countries. In addition to traveling she also golfs, plays tennis, hikes and mentors young staffers in the Capitol. She has been a member of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art for over 10 years and volunteers with Hispanas Organized for Political Equality and participated as a Water Leader, Class of 2010 through the Water Education Foundation.

Anna Sauceda

Owner ACS GROUP (Associated Construction Services Group)

Born and raised in Los Angeles, CA, Anna Sauceda has always shown a desire and passion to help others. Over the past 25 years she has demonstrated this commitment by providing vital services to communities in the greater Los Angeles area. Anna owns ACS GROUP (Associated Construction Services Group) with her husband Darrel where they have demonstrated the virtues of commitment, integrity and loyalty in all the services they perform since the day they opened in 2005. Anna is a 2003 alumna of the HOPE Leadership Institute.

Delia Tijerina

Assistant Director, University Outreach,
California State University Fullerton

Delia Tijerina doesn't just do her job - she could provide resources and run outreach events to meet her position description and no one would be the wiser. Yet, it's the way that she chooses to do her work and the care and passion that she shows to her role at Cal State Fullerton that makes her a HOPE Treasure as well as a role model for hundreds of college students each year.

Delia is dedicated to student success - she demonstrates this commitment each day, giving countless hours to ensure that each individual student gets the support they need. When her students encounter road blocks, she acts as a sounding board to help them process, weigh options and find their own path to overcome these obstacles. She creates an atmosphere that promotes learning and community - the goal is not to just help individuals to achieve, but for everyone to help each other succeed. One student said:

"From Ms. Tijerina I have learned that it is not enough to educate yourself for your own being but it is important to educate others so that in turn they can too pay it forward." 
-Silvia Zamudio, CSUF Student

Delia organizes a major event for Cal State Fullerton: Welcome to CSF Day, which connects students to the college, makes them feel welcome and helps parents to feel comfortable. She also coordinates Closing the Latino Achievement Gap (CLAGS), Destino Universidad, and HOPE's Youth Leadership Conference. These important events focus on getting students, especially Hispanic students, to realize that higher education is in fact a reality for them:

"Her passion for higher education, her belief in female Hispanic students like myself, and her welcoming and nurturing positive attitude allows students to feel at home at a university...Delia Tijerina is the true definition of a treasure. She's a treasure at her workplace and she's a treasure to the many students she has positively influenced." 
-Blanca D. Navarro, CSUF Student

Delia is a bright spot for Cal State Fullerton and the greater community. The hundreds of students that she impacts each year will not just meet the status quo - they are inspired to do something more, just like Delia.