Eight Latinos Named ‘Local Heroes’ of the Year in Celebration of Hispanic...

Eight Latinos Named ‘Local Heroes’ of the Year in Celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month

Sixth annual Local Hero of the Year awards recognize contributions of honorees


LOS ANGELES, CA–(HISPANIC PR WIRE – BUSINESS WIRE)–September 5, 2003–MariaElena Zavala didn’t listen to her teachers who told her to take typing lessons instead of math or science because Latinos didn’t become mathematicians or scientists. She proved them wrong by getting a doctorate degree in botany and by becoming one of the leading scientists in the country.

Zavala was one of the eight recipients of this year’s Local Hero of the Year Award from Union Bank of California, N.A. in partnership with KCET. Zavala and the rest of the honorees received their award at a reception held last night in Hollywood, launching the bank’s Hispanic Heritage Month activities.

A biology professor at California State University, Northridge, Zavala was recognized for her work in education including being a leading plant biologist as well as mentoring minority students. She has mentored more than 125 science students encouraging them to pursue doctorate degrees in math and science.

“This year’s honorees reflect those elements that strengthen our culture, community and nation. They set a good example individually and collectively for everyone to follow. Their work and dedication is truly inspirational and admirable,” said George Ramirez, senior vice president and division executive for Union Bank.

“This annual event is a very special one for KCET because it gives us the opportunity to honor local heroes who are making significant contributions to our community,” said Al Jerome, president and CEO of KCET. “KCET is committed to reflecting the diversity of our region through both our programming and community outreach endeavors, like the Local Hero of the Year Awards gala.”

Joining Zavala as local heroes are:

Pablo Alvarado, coordinator for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, for his efforts in the social services area. With a lifetime of skills organizing day laborers, Alvarado resolved countless conflicts among day laborers and their employers challenging anti-day laborer ordinances in Los Angeles County.

Anna Soto Del Rio & Fernando R. Del Rio, community activists and founders of the Teresa Del Rio Memorial Blood Drive and Scholarship Fund. The husband and wife team turned a tragedy into action after their daughter was brutally murdered by a gunman. The Del Rios are active in various gun-violence prevention organizations and the American Red Cross.

Trini Rodriguez, Luis J. Rodriguez and Enrique Sanchez, co-founders of Tia Chucha’s Café Cultural. Tia Chucha’s Café Cultural is an epicenter of Latino life and culture and serves as a place where the community exchanges ideas, parents read books to their children, teens watch their favorite local bands play, and artists display their works in a culturally deprived area of Sylmar.

Jose Luis Valenzuela, artistic director of the Latino Theater Company and Drama Professor at the UCLA Theater, Film and Television, for his contribution to the arts. Since the ‘70s Valenzuela has used his passion for drama to enlighten audiences of all ages and races about the Latino experience. Through films and stage works, Valenzuela has created a world of authentic and realistic images encompassing the diverse backgrounds of the Latino Community.

The Local Hero Awards program was launched to recognize the contributions of many ethnic unsung heroes in California during the respective heritage months.

Based in San Francisco, UnionBanCal Corporation is a bank holding company with assets of $42.7 billion at June 30, 2003. Its primary subsidiary, Union Bank of California, N.A., has 267 banking offices in California, 4 banking offices in Oregon and Washington and 18 international facilities. The company’s Web site is located at http://www.uboc.com.

Founded in 1964, KCET brings infinitely more and better entertainment and information to Southern and Central California through unique, relevant television programming and community services. In addition to the Local Hero of the Year Awards, KCET broadcasts recorded profiles of this year’s honorees and a collection of programs that celebrate Hispanic heritage, including the return of the acclaimed dramatic series, American Family, beginning Sunday, September 28 (7 – 8 p.m.). For more information about KCET and its programming, visit its website at http://www.kcet.org.

Note: A photo is available at URL: http://www.businesswire.com/cgi-bin/photo.cgi?pw.090503/bb3



Union Bank of California

Alicia Romero, 213-236-5329



Philip De Girolamo


Eight Latinos Named ‘Local Heroes’ of the Year in Celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month