March 2017 Newsletter

March 24, 2017
March 2017 Newsletter




During this session, I have introduced bills to fund repairs of our roads and build more affordable housing. I am also focusing on preventing the needless incarceration of people with mental illnesses and expanding public open space in the Santa Cruz Mountains. To read summaries of my bills and track their progress, visit my Senate website's legislation page.



Women of the Year 2017
Senate District 15's Women of the Year 2017 Honorees, from left to right: Montserrat Ayala, Courtney Cooper, Hermelinda Sapien, Sylvia Alvarez, Serena Alvarez, and Helen Hayashi.

The six women I've selected for Senate District 15's Women of the Year all share a singular mission – to make our community a better place. But their approaches are as diverse as this valley.

On March 16, I held a reception in their honor to thank them for their dedication and work.

The Women of the Year are:

Lifetime Achievement Honoree: Hermelinda Sapien, Executive Director of the Center for Employment Training.

Hermelinda Sapien has been the one constant in the 50-year history of the Center for Employment Training. Since 1967, tens of thousands of people seeking self-sufficiency through work have graduated from CET by, gaining marketable skills through training, education, and supportive services.

Sapien began her career as the first Executive Secretary to CET co-founders Russell Tershy and the late Dr. Antony Soto. After serving in a number of executive jobs, she became the Executive Director in 1999, deftly carrying on the center's mission to graduate well-rounded students who are prepared to enter the workforce.

Trailblazer Honorees: Sylvia and Serena Alvarez, civil right activists

This extraordinary family has fought for social justice on behalf of East San Jose Latinos for decades. Together Sylvia and her late husband, the Deacon Salvador Alvarez, and their daughter, Serena, worked to help obtain the National Parks Service Historic Landmark designation for McDonnell Hall, where Cesar Chavez honed his skills at community organizing.

Sylvia, who taught in Evergreen School District for 27 years before retiring, has served as a member of the district Board of Trustees for over 14 years. Among her accomplishments is the creation of several programs that have increased the college admission rates of district students.

Serena, a Stanford University Law School graduate and public interest attorney, focuses on complex interest-based negotiation and consensus building to eliminate systems bias against Latinos.

Mentorship Honoree: Helen Hayashi, president of the Japantown Community Congress of San Jose.

Hayashi has played an instrumental role in preserving the heritage of San Jose's historic Japantown. She has also served on the city's Project Diversity Screening Committee, now known as the Council Appointment Advisory Commission, reviewing and interviewing candidates for appointments to municipal boards and commissions. She is also a former staffer to Mayor Susan Hammer, Congressman Norman Mineta, and San Jose City Councilmember Alice Woody.

Business Owner Honoree: Montserrat Ayala, business owner

Ayala, is the founder and owner of Vitamina Juices & Blends, located in downtown San Jose at SoFa Market. Her business sells fresh all-natural juices and blends and employees three people.

Prior to opening Vitamina, Ayala served as a group facilitator an organization dedicated to eliminating domestic violence and she was also an associate director for the Parent Institute for Quality Education, furnishing families with the knowledge and skills to partner with schools and communities to ensure their children achieve their full potential.

Rising Star Honoree: Courtney L. Cooper, Foothill College student trustee appointee to the Foothill-De Anza Community College District.

Cooper's young life is an example of compassion and challenges met and overcome. According to the Foothill-De Anza Community College District's biography of Cooper, she had been "denied formal education from the age of 8 until she sought emancipation through the foster care system at age 17."

Today, Cooper is the current president of the Student Senate for California Community Colleges in addition to her duties on the community college district board. She has advocated for improved access for students with disabilities on campus and she has focused attention to the plight of homeless student athletes.