Recognizing the life of former civil rights leader Cesar Chavez and his often-quoted motto "Si, se puede," roughly translated "Yes, one can," was the reason for a celebration March 29 at Los Medanos College when several outstanding members of the East Contra Costa County community were honored with special awards for their community service.

The college has presented the awards since 1995. The three recipients, Arthur Fernandez of Oakley, Maria Bordanaro of Oakley and Adriana Gomez of Bay Point, were recognized for their community spirit and dedication.

Fernandez was awarded the event's top prize, the Chávez Award for Exemplary Community Service, for his service as a member of the Oakley Union Elementary School District Board of Trustees. He has also spent quite a few years volunteering as the only male member of Oakley's O'Hara Park Middle School PTSA, where his eldest daughter attends school.


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"I am so very honored winning the Cesar Chavez Award because he has always been my hero," the 42-year-old probation supervisor at Orin Allen Youth Rehabilitation Facility in Byron said. "His work has always been an inspiration to Latinos across America, including myself. I am very humbled by this experience." Fernandez also created a committee throughout the Oakley school district that brought together administrators and Latino parents to help bridge the gap between the two groups. The committee soon morphed into a full program that reached out, not only to the Oakley community, but also to other communities in East County. The committee now hosts events that help to get parents and children more involved in their local schools and help non-English speaking parents get more involved in their children's education.

Los Medanos College Cesar Chávez "East County Educator Award" was presented to another Oakley resident, Maria Bordanaro. Bordanaro is the principal of Gehringer Elementary School. It was at Bordanaro's school where the Leer Para Crecer, or Read to Grow, event that Fernandez's group put together was held. Bordanaro was an active participant in working on making that program a success.

The final award for the evening was the "Chávez Spirit Award," established to recognize an emerging leader who is making an impact in the areas of advocacy and social justice. This year the award was presented to Adriana Gomez. Gomez is a local youth leader in the community. She attended Mt. Diablo High School before moving on and graduating from UC Berkeley. She has been active in Bay Point since high school and in 2011 she staretd the ThinK Now Program to help counsel students and create the next generation of leaders.

The awards banquet was just one of the many events Los Medanos College included in a weeklong celebration of Cesar Chavez's life. Other events included a documentary on Chávez called "Common Man, Uncommon Vision: The Cesar Chávez Story," a special presentation called Cesar Chávez-An Ordinary Man, an Extraordinary Human Being and a César Chávez Blood Drive Challenge.

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