Ceres School Board member Lourdes Perez was among four recipients recognized as 2021 Central Valley Latino Leadership award winners recently in Modesto.
Congressman Josh Harder, D-Turlock, presented a certificate of recognition to Perez on Wednesday, Sept. 8 at Graceada Park.
“I was completely surprised,” said Perez. “I didn’t know I was nominated. It’s an honor to be a recipient. I’m definitely grateful for the recognition.”
“It’s well-deserved and exciting to see her get recognized,” said Ceres Unified School District Communications Specialist Beth Jimenez. “She’s an active member of our community through her work and as a volunteer.”
In honor of “Hispanic Heritage Month,” Harder created the Latino Leadership Award program in 2020.
Constituents are invited to nominate a Latino community member of any age or profession who made a positive impact on the Valley.
Candidates are required to be of Latino heritage, live in the 10th Congressional District, and have contributed to the community in a way that has inspired others.
“The Latino community is a key thread in the fabric of the Valley—we should take Hispanic Heritage Month as an opportunity to recognize the contributions of so many wonderful Latino residents,” Harder said.
Perez has served as director of Local Policy for Public Health Advocates, a state-wide non-profit organization, for the past three years.
“I am a public health advocate because I am committed to raising awareness about public health issues and mobilizing community leaders to promote civic engagement,” Perez stated in her bio on her employer’s website. “My work has focused primarily in impoverished communities who have been challenged by infrastructure deficiencies, which have perpetuated unhealthy diets and inactive lifestyles. Being a Public Health Advocate means making the effort to ensure that all people have the right to a healthy lifestyle.”
Perez has been a member of the Ceres School Board since 2009.
She also does volunteer work for the Stanislaus County Safe Kids Coalition and St. Jude’s Catholic Church.
“It’s been a pleasure to serve and represent the community,” she said. “I take pride in being a student and parent advocate.”
Perez’s family came to the U.S. on a temporary visa so her parents could work in the fields and on dairies. Lourdes was 15 then and started attending Modesto High School as a freshman. She was inspired by her uncle and aunt who pushed her to learn and read English. As an immigrant student in basic courses, Lourdes said she struggled through discrimination.
“That helped me really focus on what I was there for,” she said. “I was there to learn and to become someone someday.”
A trip to Washington, D.C. for a weeklong conference was a turning point for Perez. She learned leadership skills and even met President Clinton.
“It was a life-changing event for me. Because of this fortune, I now like politics. I now understand what civic engagement means.”
Perez, a 1994 graduate of Modesto High School, was a part of the Hispanic Youth Leadership Council at her school and got involved as a leader in community service projects.
Perez earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Stanislaus State in 1999.
“I pride myself in working in communities in Stanislaus County,” she said. “It’s very dear to my heart.”
Courier Managing Editor Jeff Benziger contributed to this report.