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.
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 email@example.com:
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.