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Ten awardees chosen for MLK Stone of Hope award in Imperial County

IMPERIAL COUNTY, Calif. (KYMA, KECY) - Ten locals in the Imperial Valley are being honored with the 2023 Imperial Valley Martin Luther King Jr. Stone of Hope Award.

In a press release, the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Committee announced the 2023 honorees.

The awardees are being recognized for their efforts in the Imperial Valley that closely embody the community service of the late Martin Luther King Jr says the press release.

According to the press release, the Stone of Hope Award is presented annually and pays homage to King's "I have a Dream" speech.

“Take a Stand: Answer the Call for Equality and Civil Rights," is this year's award luncheon theme.

“It is with great honor that we announce the 2023 Stone of Hope awardees,” said Marlene Thomas, Imperial Valley MLK Commemorative Committee member. “The awardees represent the best of our community. They have made a difference in the lives of countless others upholding the principles of Dr. King.”

The luncheon and Stone of Hope Award ceremony will happen on Jan. 28, 2023 at 12 p.m. at the La Resaca Event Center located at 144 S. Sixth St., El Centro.

Here are this year's honorees, according to the press release:

1. Victor Carrillo and John Moreno of Calexico Bulldog Radio.

2. Lola Shambee, a faithful servant of her church and community who is passionate about spreading the word of God's love.

3. Mariano Peinado, a 2019 graduate of Southwest High School and current undergraduate student at CSU San Bernadino, also a recipient of the Mellon Mays Fellowship that addresses underrepresentation in college and university faculty.

4. Kaydyn Amar'e Beasley, recipient of the Presidential Award for Academic Excellence.

5. Alexandra Hart, known for her jewelry and metal sculpture and her commitment to social responsibility. She serves on the board of Compassion for African Villages, a nonprofit volunteer organization dedicated to working with African villagers to develop sustainable equitable educational resources.

6. Danny Santillan, community advocate for farm workers and supporter of the NAACP fight for equality and inclusion.

7. Sandra Kofford, recently retired, Kofford’s career as an educator in the Imperial Valley includes working as a Spanish teacher and assistant principal, and 16 years as the Migrant Education director for the Imperial County Office of Education. She has changed the lives of thousands of local students and their migrant farm worker families in the Imperial Valley.

8. Mary Turner, gifted artist and entrepreneur.

9. Lennor Johnson, Imperial Valley College superintendent/president. Dr. Johnson’s 24 years in education have been dedicated to helping students achieve their educational goals and closing equity gaps. At IVC, he has played an integral role in the growth and development of the prison education program, dual enrollment, food pantry, student housing, and programs designed to address the unique needs of students who are considered foster youth, disabled, formerly-incarcerated, and homeless.

10. Gregorio Ponce, a native of Imperial Valley and professor of mathematics at San Diego State University-Imperial Valley and Imperial Valley College. Gregorio served as dean of SDSU-IV from 2015 to 2022. In his more than 20 years in education in the Imperial Valley, Gregorio has focused on student mathematical learning and instructional practices, particularly for English language learners.

Our reporter Karina Bazarte spoke to two of the award winners.

El Centro resident Mary Turner, who volunteered at her church to feed the homeless and also worked with children at her daycare.

“I felt excited and then I said well what did I do you know to get this award? but then I thought about it and I said well I did work in the church for many many years feeding the homeless and working with the youth,” said Turner.

Victor Carrillo, A Calexico resident, former mayor of Calexico and also served on the county board of supervisors said he always wanted to be the voice of the voiceless.

“Shocked and surprised, pleasantly surprised and I thought why me why us? but we have a long history of serving in the community,” said Carrillo.

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Faith Rodriquez

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