By Mark Apostolon
Since 1968, El Concilio has successfully helped people of all ethnicities and languages build ladders to success. Nationally recognized, El Concilio has grown to become the Central Valley’s heart and home for those wishing to achieve a better life. Assisting over 75,000 individuals and families annually, El Concilio has established a committed and distinguished record of accomplishments through the development of comprehensive social, health, financial and educational programs, creating stronger, healthier and more productive communities.
“As part of its commitment to community, El Concilio has, for over 20 years, honored four unique and diverse voices for their immense support of El Concilio, years of public service and community leadership, and who share in El Concilio’s commitment to the community – and this year is no exception,” noted El Concilio CEO and President, Jose R. Rodriguez, in an interview.
This year, as a part of their annual Gala, to be held on Friday, November 22, 2019 at Hutchens Street Square in Lodi, California, El Concilio will continue that tradition as it recognizes four more vanguards of the community for their dedication to public service. They are Judge Xapuri Villapudua (El Concilio’s 2019 Amiga of the Year), William Trezza (2019 Amigo of the Year), Mercedes Silveira (2019 Unsung Hero) – and we, at Latino Times, are honored to be recipient of El Concilio’s 2019 La Raza Award.
Every year El Concilio presents the Amiga of the Year award to someone for their leadership and commitment to helping El Concilio create equal opportunities for all in the community. As a woman of justice, Judge Xapuri Villapudua, a former El Concilio board member who was appointed to the bench by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2007, truly exemplifies the leadership and empowerment that El Concilio supports and acknowledges through its Latina Leadership Luncheons which Judge Xapuri hosted more than eight times.
“Judge Villapudua has always been a strong partner for the community and with El Concilio,” Rodriguez continued. During her eleven year tenure with the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office as a Deputy District Attorney and after her appointment to the Superior Court in 2007, Judge Villapudua has worked to better the community through her efforts with the child abuse and sexual assault unit, presiding over Mental Health Court and in the Criminal Division, and her involvement with the Women’s Shelter and so many other causes. “I can think of no person better to receive this award.”
El Concilio’s 2019 Amigo of the Year, William Trezza, “has been a driving force and supporter of El Concilio for over 10 years. Whether as an advocate, board member or board chair, Bill has remained a steadfast proponent of El Concilio’s work, aspirations, and leadership,” said Rodriguez. “In 2010, when El Concilio was looking to expand and purchase its own building, it was Bill who spearheaded the work and business plan that resulted in the agency purchasing its headquarters at 445 North San Joaquin Street in Stockton- making El Concilio’s recent successes and growth, Bill’s as well.”
The former CEO of BAC Community Bank for 34 years, Bill has served on numerous boards, including Hospice of San Joaquin, Dameron Hospital, JobRedi Foundation, Mary Graham Children’s Foundation, Stockton Metropolitan Airport Aviation Advisory Committee and Pacific Italian Alliance, to name several. For all his work on behalf of the community, William has been a positive force for change in the Central Valley – and it is the primary force behind this recognition.
“When El Concilio established its Unsung Hero award, it was with the expressed purpose of honoring the efforts of someone who has dedicated themselves to helping improve the quality of life for those in our community so humbly that they usually go unrecognized – which perfectly describes Mercedes Silveira, our 2019 Unsung Hero.”
Involved in community activism since her early teens Mercedes Silveira-Gouveia was born in Mexico; she moved to the United States in 1963. As a teacher in the Tracy Unified School District, Mercedes was an advocate for kids in the community, fighting for their rights, fighting against injustices, and advancing education. Throughout her life, Mercedes has made a difference. She has been involved with the Mexican American Hall of Fame, Reaching for the Stars, Comerciantes Unidos, and Chair of the SJ Delta College Foundation. Mercedes retired from TUSD after twenty-nine years of tenure as a classroom teacher, elementary school principal and district administrator – but her work continues. El Concilio’s La Raza Award is awarded to a deserving individual or institution for its lifelong commitment to advancing opportunities for Latinos in the Central Valley of California.
This year El Concilio is pleased to recognize Latino Times – the oldest bilingual publication for Latinos that reflects their positive contributions in the local and national community.
Founded by Andrew Ysiano in 2001 – a true visionary, Andrew has grown Latino Times into one of the largest bilingual newspaper reaching second, third and fourth generation Latinos in the Central Valley and Bay Area Marketplace through the hard copy of the paper and social media with a readership of 100,000. “I came up with the idea for the Latino Times out of a personal passion and commitment to the Latino community, social causes and to be uplifting to the community as it enters it’s 20th year of publication,” said Andrew Ysiano.
“The importance and value of the Latino Times to the community is invaluable,” said El Concilio President and CEO, Jose Rodriguez. “So many in the community depend upon it, rely upon it to keep up with what is going on in the community.” “This year is an important year, especially as we look toward 2020 and all that lays ahead – the census, elections, and the presidential campaign. This was not lost on us as we chose this year’s honorees – each of whom represents not only the accomplishments that have been made, but also embodies the work still to come.”