Santa Paula Latino Town Hall 18th Annual Awards Dinner Sept. 5

August 13, 2014
Santa Paula News

The Santa Paula Latino Town Hall 18th Annual Awards Dinner will be held Friday, September 5th at Santa Paula’s renowned La Casa Del Mexicano Cultural Center located at 218 S. 11th Street

  This year’s theme “Wellness: FundaMENTAL to a Healthy Community” will focus attention on mental health and its complex and often over-looked link to poverty, social inequality, student academic performance, and other factors that critically affect the wellness of the Santa Paula community. Mr. Jose Antonio Romero will discuss the need for greater mental and behavioral health services, with a focus on increasing services for youth, in his keynote presentation “Challenging the Status Quo: Social Justice and Community Mental Health Issues in Santa Paula.” 

The awards dinner will start at 5:30 p.m. with a social hour followed by dinner at 6:30 p.m. Back by popular demand, the event will include a fabulous silent auction with all proceeds benefiting Santa Paula Latino Town Hall’s Youth Engagement and Empowerment Initiative to help provide  local youth with more opportunities to develop leadership skills and explore their options for higher education and career development. 

A limited number of tickets for the Annual Awards Dinner are still available. Tickets cost $45.00 per person and can be purchased by contacting Tina Urias at 805-794-6136.

The Annual Awards Dinner brings together prominent community leaders to celebrate the contributions and successes of individuals and organizations that have demonstrated a notable achievement or commitment to our community. This year Santa Paula Latino Town Hall received nominations for many excellent, well-deserving individuals. The selection committee, however, gave preference to individuals whose accomplishments and service best exemplified the organization’s mission to expand educational and economic opportunities for underserved populations and/or help to alleviate poverty, crime, prejudice, and discrimination. Santa Paula Latino Town Hall is pleased to announce the recipients of this year’s Latino Town Hall Awards:

Jess Victoria Business Award:

This year’s Business Award will honor Melgar Photo Studio. Mr. Jose Luis Melgar, owner of Melgar Photo Studio, is a long-time resident and businessmen of Santa Paula. Through his business he has provided continuous charitable support to local residents and community organizations for almost 20 years. Mr. Melgar’s community service started before his business. He has remained an active volunteer at Our Lady Of Guadalupe Church and it was Father Arturo Gomez there who encouraged him to pursuit his then hobby of photography and establish a business. One example of Mr. Melgar’s invaluable service to the community is his dedication to providing affordable portraits to low-income high school seniors to ensure them a place in the annual yearbook. No student is ever denied the opportunity to have his or her picture taken and afforded as long as Mr. Melgar is involved. 

In 2014, Melgar Photo Studio was selected for the Favorite Studio award by the Readers Choice of Ventura County, and most recently Mr. Melgar was elected to serve as Director of Hispanic Affairs by the Santa Paula Chamber of Commerce. 

For its exceptional customer service, charity to local schools and organizations, and active leadership in the community, Santa Paula Latino Town Hall is pleased to honor Melgar Photo Studio with the 2014 Jess Victoria Business Award.   

Education Award:

This year’s Education Award will honor educator Jill Gregory. Ms. Gregory has worked at Santa Paula High School since 1977 and founded the high school’s Human Services Academy (HSA). Students in this academy are exposed to community service through volunteerism, job  shadowing, service learning and internships in local  businesses. These vocational opportunities provide over 8,000 hours of volunteerism involving 70 mentors each year that provide students with  an understanding of industry requirement, hands-on skill development, and leadership  experiences. Jill has spent countless hours in the community making contacts and building the bridges that our students constantly use to participate and embrace the community they live in. The depth and breadth of these connections are priceless. 

Robin Gillette, principal of Renaissance High School and former vice principal at Santa Paula High School overseeing the Human Services Academy reports that, “Jill comes to work early in the mornings to tutor students before school and stays late into the evenings to have meetings with parents, and community and business partners to ensure the success of both the students and the programs that she teaches.” 

In 2010 the Santa Paula High School District received a Golden Bell award from the state in the category of Partnerships and Collaboratives in recognition of the SPHS Human Services Academy as on outstanding model program. 

For her love, care, commitment and dedication to her students and the community of Santa Paula, Latino Town Hall is pleased to honor Ms. Jill Gregory with the 2014 Education Award. 

Community Service Award:

This year’s Community Service Award recognizes Mr. Jose “Manny” Elizarraraz. For more than 20 years Mr. Elizarraraz has mentored youth through his extensive volunteer work coaching soccer. He started as an AYSO volunteer and his service portfolio includes coaching a competitive women’s team, a decade of coaching club youth soccer, and several years of walk-on coaching in support of Santa Paula High School. Most recently Mr. Elizarraraz has dedicated extensive time to his leadership role in the Santa Paula Futbol Academy, a non profit soccer academy within Santa Paula whose mission is to promote education and advancement of local youth by providing a high quality enrichment program to low-income kids that teaches technical skills in soccer while promoting education. Santa Paula Futbol Academy currently services over 100 local students, ages 3 to 11. 

Mr. Elizarraraz’s passion for building soccer into an effective vehicle for mentoring at-risk youth is both innovative and an exceptional asset to Santa Paula. For his selfless contributions to the Santa Paula Community and his ability to inspire and empower others to serve as well, Latino Town Hall is proud to recognize Mr. Jose “Manny” Elizarraraz with the 2014 Community Service Award.  

Youth Award:

This year Santa Paula Latino Town Hall will present Youth Awards to two outstanding high school students: Matthew Ramirez and Elizabeth Magallanes. 

Mathew is an outstanding student who excels in honors and advanced placement classes at the high school, maintaining a GPA greater than 4.0. He also competes on the varsity swim team and will serve as the varsity wrestling team captain this coming school year. In addition, Matthew has completed more than 160 hours of community service at Santa Paula Medical Clinic and Vista Cove Care Center and is co-founder of Junior State of America, a nonpartisan political organization for students at Santa Paula High School. Matthew is an exceptional youth who serves as a strong role model for his peers and is truly deserving of this year’s Youth Award.

Elizabeth Magallanes is another exceptional youth with a very different story. Elizabeth was not always a great student and has endured many personal challenges. However, she has pushed herself to overcome those obstacles and is recognized for her great improvement in school and commitment to community service. Elizabeth is starting her junior year at Santa Paula High School. She participates on the volleyball team, takes additional courses at Ventura College, and has a strong leadership role in her church youth program where the youth advisor, Maria Rivas, describes her as “a young lady who has really made an impact in other people’s lives due to her kind heart, good works, and warm smiles; the kind of person that will do what ever it takes to help others.” Just a few examples of Elizabeth’s service to the community include volunteering at Glen City Elementary School as an after-school tutor and for the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. She also volunteers for the Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center (SPARC). In one special act of kindness, Elizabeth encountered a homeless, disabled man in the Vons parking lot and worked hard during the winter holiday to collect and recycle aluminum cans and plastic bottles to raise money to help him and his family. For her exception kindness, personal resilience, and outstanding service to the community, Santa Paula Latino Town Hall is pleased to present a 2014 Youth Award to Elizabeth Magallanes.

Cultural Arts Award:

This year’s Cultural Arts Award will honor Mr. Henry Nava, one of the preeminent saxophone artists in Ventura County. For more than seventy years, Mr. Nava has dedicated his life to music. Growing up poor in 1930’s Santa Paula from humble beginnings with fellow saxophone player Danny Flores (of “tequila” fame), Henry Nava has never lost site of his cultural background. He has established a legacy and reputation for artistic creativity while earning respect from fellow musicians for his equally appreciated and gentle human nature. His talent and stature within the music industry throughout Southern California have helped to put the City of Santa Paula on the map as home to several distinguished musical artists.

Earning a spot and serving his country in the prestigious United States Marine Corp Band during the height of the Korean War, Mr. Nava marched in military parades and performed for countless dance-crazed U.S. serviceman. Even at age 83, he continues to blow his tenor sax several hours each evening. 

For his accomplishments in music and contributions to the cultural arts scene in Santa Paula, the Santa Paula Latino Town Hall is proud to honor Mr. Henry Nava with this year’s Cultural Arts Award.

Sports Award:

This year’s Sports Award will be presented to Santa Paula High School graduate Felicia Magana. Ms. Magana graduated this past June and was a three-sport athlete with all league honors in basketball, softball, and volleyball. She was selected for All CIF for basketball as a junior and then last year, in her senior year, she was selected by the league as league MVP in girls basketball. Felicia was recently inducted into the Ventura County Hall of Fame and will be playing next year for the State Championship Team Ventura College Pirates. 

Elizabeth Garcia, principal of Santa Paula High School, reports that “Felicia is an outstanding student and student leader. She is persistent, motivated and an outstanding role model for other young athletes. She plays hard and has excellent sportsmanship at all times!” 

For her outstanding talents in basketball, softball and volleyball and her continued influence as a positive role model to other youth, Santa Paula Latino Town Hall is pleased to present the 2014 Sports Award to Ms. Felicia Magana.

Raymond Garcia Humanitarian Award:

This year’s Raymond Garcia Humanitarian Award is being bestowed upon Mr. Frank Osuna who  has dedicated more than 50 years of his life in service of others as a result of his own outstanding work ethic, compassion, and self-motivation. Mr. Osuna has volunteered his time to provide guidance to jailed inmates through the Jail Ministry and has spent countless hours over more than 20 years visiting the elderly at a local convalescent hospital to help organize activities and boost morale. He served as the volunteer driver for his church Sunday school bus for more than 30 years, has been a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) for more than 50 years, and is a member of the rifle squad that honors our service men and women at their funerals. 

Mr. Osuna is an excellent role model for people of all ages and an outstanding citizen of Santa Paula. His compassion for others and the countless hours he has contributed to serving our community over his life time have made Mr. Frank Osuna truly deserving of the 2014 Latino Town Hall Raymond Garcia Humanitarian Award.

In addition to the 2014 Latino Town Hall Awards recipients, Santa Paula Latino Town Hall also awarded $1000 scholarships to Santa Paula High School graduating seniors Andrea Fernandez and Karina Olivares, and Renaissance High School graduating seniors Anays Magana and Venessa Gutierrez last June.

Santa Paula Latino Town Hall is a 501c3 non-profit, community-benefit organization. It’s Youth Engagement and Empowerment Initiative fosters partnerships between local community groups and agencies, the local school district, community colleges, and universities to provide Santa Paula youth with opportunities to learn about higher education and various careers pathways, and to gain valuable mentorship and internship experiences. In addition to the Youth Engagement and Empowerment Initiative, Santa Paula Latino Town Hall organizes additional community-building activities that impact the social, cultural, and economic life of the city by addressing issues such as crime, cultural awareness, business development, revitalization, employment, housing, and education. To learn more about Santa Paula Latino Town Hall or become a member, visit

For questions or to learn more about sponsorship opportunities, please contact:

Jesse R. Ornelas at 805-407-2738 or e-mail

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