Four Latina pioneers to be honored with Chicano Legacy Award

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Four Latina pioneers to be honored with Chicano Legacy Award

(June 5, 2015) — Four area Latinas will be honored for their groundbreaking contributions in education and the community during the 2015 Fresno State Amigos and Chicano Alumni Awards Banquet at 6 p.m. Friday, June 12, at the University Square Hotel (4961 N. Cedar Ave.).

The Chicano Alumni Legacy Builders Award will be presented to Cecilia Maldonado Arroyo, Julia Banderas (posthumously), Angie Cisneros and Josie Mena who all were students and faculty or staff of Fresno State. Balderas died in 2012.

Manuel Olgin, founding president of the Chicano Alumni, described the four honorees as “formidable forces for the Chicano community” starting with programs at Fresno State in the late 60s and early 70s and later in the broader community. They will be honored for their dedication, talents and hard work.

“In the 1960s the social and political world began a dramatic change,” Olgin said. “These Latina legacies got involved and supported all kinds of activities from protests like walk-outs, demonstrations or sit-ins to celebrations like the Chicano Commencement,  the Women’s Movement, political campaigns and the farm workers’ cause.”

He calls them “behind-the-scenes powerhouses who in time moved to the forefront to become groundbreaking trailblazers in the community. Their life-long work and sense of responsibility to improve our community is a model of legacy not just for Latinas and women in general, but for all of us.”

The program begins at 6 p.m. with a no-host social hour, silent auction and photo display. During the 7 p.m. dinner, entertainment will be provided by Los Danzantes de Aztlan, Fresno State’s student Mexican folkloric dance troupe.

At 8 p.m. the program will honor the four Latina legacies:

Celia Maldonado Arroyo championed Latina activism in education and community affairs during her 33-year career. The Fresno native was the first Chicana counselor at Fresno City College and was a former affirmative action officer for Fresno State. She also was elected to the Tulare County Board of Education.

Maldonado Arroyo earned a bachelor’s degree in office administration in 1967 at then-Fresno State College and returned later for a master’s degree in counseling and guidance (1975). She was the first woman hired as a personnel analyst in the Fresno County Personnel Department before working for the State of California Human Resources Department as an employment specialist. While at Fresno City College she and a colleague started the Chicano Youth Conference in 1972. She also started the School Relations Outreach Program and after 18 years with FCC, she accepted an administrator/affirmative action position with Fresno Unified School District. She finished her career as the associate dean/director of EOPS at College of the Sequoias for 11 years, retiring in 2004.

She has extensive civic involvement, including the Fresno League of Mexican American Women, Fresno County Grand Jury, United Way Board of Directors, Tulare Kings Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Arte Americas and the Association of American Educators (serving as state president in 2006). She participated in the Leadership Fresno Program in 1988, sponsored by the Fresno County and City Chambers of Commerce and the first “Leaders for the’80s” program, a national week-long training for potential community college women administrators.

She has been married to Dr. Robert Arroyo for 32 years.

The late Julia Balderas is noted for advocating for Chicano families and children. The single mother raised her family while earning recognition from Congress for her commitment to improving the lives of the poor and underrepresented, Olgin said.

In 1962, she earned a baccalaureate degree in business from then-Fresno State College and received her teaching credential. That same year she returned to her alma mater, Edison High School (class of 1958), to begin her career in education. She also earned a master’s degree in business at Fresno State.

Balderas worked as a business instructor and administrator for Fresno City College, Clovis Adult School and the California State Department of Education. She served as a lecturer at Fresno State for the School of Business and Administrative Sciences and the Chicano-Latin American Studies Department and coordinated the Chicano Leadership Conference for five years. After retiring from the University, she returned to Edison High to teach business and computer courses.

She was a partner of the only private bilingual preschool in the San Joaquin Valley, Hacienda de Los Amiguitos Child Development Center. She also helped establish “Vocaciones Juan Diego,” a nonprofit organization which assisted families who did not qualify for public assistance.

Balderas was a founding member of the Mexican American Political Association, and an active member of El Concilio de Fresno and the League of Mexican American Women.

Angie Cisneros began her career in 1969 as the first administrative aide for the then-La Raza Studies Program, which was considered the center of the Chicano movement on campus in its early days. She earned her associate of arts degree at Fresno City College where one of her counselors was Celia Maldonado Arroyo.

At Fresno State, Cisneros received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work and was involved in walk-outs, demonstrations, and sit-ins. She served as a counselor in the Educational Opportunity Program and was director of the Office of Reentry Programs until she retired from the University in 2001.

She was a member of the Mexican American Political Association and was a founding member of The League of Mexican American Women in 1973. Cisneros was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to the California Student Aid Commission and also has served on several area boards. Among her honors is selection among Top 10 Outstanding Professional/Business Woman of the Year (1989 and 2001).

Josie Mena was a founding member of the League of Mexican American Women, serving as its first president. Her extensive portfolio of community action and leadership puts her at the forefront of most major campaigns for Latinas and women locally and statewide, Olgin said.

She once served as district field representative for Congressman Tony Coelho and in 1979 she was named by Governor Jerry Brown to two four-year terms on the California Commission on the Status of Women representing the San Joaquin Valley.

Mena‘s activism began in the early years of the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) at Fresno State. After earning a bachelor’s degree in social welfare and a master’s in social work at Fresno State, the Ventura County native moved into community action and blazed a trail for Latinas in politics and other areas by aligning with the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA). Through MAPA, she helped organize the “Comision Femenil” (Feminine Commission) and later the first Latina Woman’s Conference in the Fresno area that gave birth to the Adelante Mujer Conference, an annual event sponsored by the League of Mexican American Women.

Her list of involvements and accomplishments include serving as state secretary of MAPA, which once named her its Woman of the Year. She has been a consultant for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau, the Low-Income Women’s Project and the California Commission on the Status of Women – Pathways to Work for Women. Other memberships include La Comision Femenil, Mexican American Women for Political Education, the International Women’s Year State Conference planning committee and the Arte Americas Cultural Center Museum in Fresno.

Tickets for the banquet are $50 with several sponsorship levels available. Proceeds benefit the Chicano Alumni scholarship endowment fund.

For information, or to RSVP, contact Esther Ramos, Chicano Alumni president, at 559.696.0347 (eramos.media@gmail.com) or Olgín at 559.871.8463 (manuelo@mail.fresnostate.edu).