2010 Latino Heritage Outstanding Leaders
Mission Economic Development Agency
Luis has served as the Executive Director for the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) for the past 11 years. During his tenure, he has worked to create increase the asset development opportunities for San Francisco's low-income Latino families and has worked to develop asset development programs that are most relevant, provide the most added value to MEDA's low- and moderate income, Spanish-speaking constituency. In this regard, he has led the development of a business development program, whose services focuses on the long-term sustainability of local-serving businesses; a first-time homeownership program which helps working families own their first home; and, a free tax preparation program which helps constituents access their tax returns. Despite their different goals, the common thread among these programs is the focus on financial education, which focuses on families reducing their debt, increasing their savings, and improving their credit score. Combined these programs provide asset development services to over 3,000 families per year.
Most recently, Luis led the development of Plaza Adelante – a 21,000 square-foot, one-stop financial and asset development services center tailored to meet the needs of low- to moderate-income Latinos in San Francisco. This will be accomplished by co-locating of several organizations under one roof, coordinating the relevant administrative services, and synchronizing the service delivery of the various participating organizations. Additionally, the project also includes art and technology components. This is the only community center in the nation whose focus is on creating asset development opportunities for low-income individuals.
Luis serves on the Board of Directors for the National Association of Latino Community Asset Builders (NALCAB), the California Reinvestment Coalition (CRC), the California Association of Micro-Enterprise Organizations (CAMEO), and Galeria de la Raza. Luis has a Masters of City and Regional Planning from the University of California at Berkeley and a Bachelors of Science from the University of California at Davis.
Los Cenzontles Mexican Arts Center
Eugene studied humanities at UC Santa Cruz and received his Bachelor's and Master's degrees in music from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in Classical guitar performance. He started youth group Los Cenzontles in 1987 and incorporated Los Cenzontles Mexican Arts Center in 1994. He has produced musical CDs and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Musical Album for Children for his production of 'Papa's Dream' a bilingual recording with Los Lobos and Lalo Guerrero. Eugene has produced three documentaries for the Cultures of Mexico in California series with support from the U.S. Mexico Fund for Culture, the James Irvine Foundation and the Ford Foundation.
Reyna Maria Ruiz
Beach Flats Community Center
Reyna has been working professionally with children and families for over 15 years. As a daughter of immigrants, Reyna's bilingual and bicultural upbringing gave her the opportunity to serve as a "bridge" to and from the Latino community and the greater Santa Cruz community. Inspired by a commitment to social justice and motivated by her own experiences, Reyna focuses on creating strong and healthy communities in the areas of education and community development at the Community Bridges at Beach Flats Community Center (BFCC), a family resource center in the heart of the largely Latino neighborhood of Beach Flats in Santa Cruz. BFCC plays the critical role in building healthy families and communities while providing programming that is flexible and responsive to community need in partnership with families and neighbors. In February 2008, funding for the BFCC was eliminated and together with families, neighbors and other community partners, Reyna spearheaded and effort to raise $130, 000 to save the Beach Flats Community Center.
At age 5, Reyna attended a rally to advocate for affordable housing, chanting "queremos casas, cuando? AHORA! Quien son los que sufren más? Los niños!" (We want homes, when? NOW! Who suffers most? Children!) To this day, these words still hold meaning and are a compass to Reyna's work in the Beach Flats neighborhood.
Dolores Street Community Services
Born in Los Angeles to Guatemalan immigrants, Eric's parents moved to the San Francisco area when he was 5 years old to join other members of their family who lived in the city. Growing up in Daly City and the Mission District where Eric's family ran a small business on 24th Street, he was active in sports and music, and was influenced by the Central American political movements impacting the Mission in the 70's and 80's. He was recruited to study and play soccer at California State University, Chico where he played and earned degrees in International Relations and Latin American Studies.
Upon returning to San Francisco Eric began his career in the non-profit sector and has been active in San Francisco's social justice movements ever since. He is considered a leader in affordable housing and land-use issues, immigrant rights, and international solidarity. For the past five years he has been the Executive Director of Dolores Street Community Services which has evolved into a leading agency based on a social service and social justice model. Eric is married and enjoys spending time with his two year old daughter Ixchel, and playing the sax in his spare time.
Commitment to Community Award Recipients
Community Music Center
For the past twenty-five years, Chus Alonso has brought Latin music education to countless people in the Bay Area through his dedication to teaching, performing and community building. Chus is the Program Director for Community Music Center (CMC), a non-profit music school in San Francisco that makes musical study accessible to all people, regardless of their financial status. He has taught at CMC for fifteen years, leading its Latin music programs for both kids and adults.
Just one example of Chus's collaborative projects is Community Music Center's Mission District Young Musicians Program: a full scholarship program providing Latin music education for middle and high school aged neighborhood youth. Chus developed this program with the support of the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts then used it as a model for an East Bay middle school's after school music program through a collaboration with La Pena Cultural Center. He has been a mentor to many educators over the years, most recently the founder of Enriching Lives Through Music in San Rafael's Canal District. Chus has led Community Music Center's effort to reach Latino students and audiences in the Mission District, where CMC's main branch is located. He's worked tirelessly in this community to recruit students with a sincere interest in learning who are also in need of financial aid.
An accomplished professional musician and composer, Chus leads the Potaje Ensemble, performing original contemporary music rooted in flamenco and Latin American genres. He is also a founding member of the Orquesta la Moderna Tradición, a group dedicated to recovering and modernizing Cuban Danzon and Cha-cha-cha. A multi-instrumentalist who is best known for his flute playing, Chus has performed throughout the United States, including at The Lincoln Center in New York, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, the Telluride Jazz Festival in Colorado, and most major venues and festivals in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Chus grew up in Spain, where he explored the fusion between flamenco and jazz. He studied flute technique at the Berlin Conservatory then received his BA in Music Education and Jazz Improvisation from Antioch University. After moving to San Francisco in 1984, Chus studied with local jazz musicians and quickly became part of the flamenco and latin music scenes.
Learn more about Chus Alonso's work: chus.carayanpress.com
Senior Weekend Anchor, KRON-4 TV
Founder, Latinas Contra Cancer
Ysabel is an award-winning journalist who celebrates 40 years in television news broadcasting this September. In June 2009 she was inducted into the National Association of Hispanic Journalist's Hall of Fame. The senior anchor of the KRON 4 Weekend Morning News in San Francisco for the past 19 years, Ysabel was one of the first Latinas to work in mainstream television breaking through in 1971 in the San Francisco Bay Area in what was mostly a white, male industry. Throughout her career, Ysabel has turned the spotlight on Latino issues as well as culture, political battles, educational challenges, healthcare needs and labor conflicts.
Ysabel's own battle with cancer was turned into an award winning series that touched on treatment, support and research issues. As a result she created a non-profit, Latinas Contra Cancer (LCC). LCC offers a Spanish language support group as well as case management, patient navigation, educational workshops and a bilingual resource website. LCC's signature education program called Health Bingo was piloted by 5 California agencies as well as agencies in Houston, TX and Orlando, FL and Las Vegas, NV. In July 2008, LCC convened the first National Latino Cancer Summit, bringing together researchers and health care providers, community agencies and community educators to exchange information around cancer issues in the Latino community and to network and provide opportunities for collaboration including researchers doing collaborative work in Spain, Argentina, Guatemala and Mexico.
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