News Column

Mexican-American Hall of Fame Grows

Aug. 23, 2011

Just three years ago, the Mexican Heritage Center was a group of artists, passionate about their culture and their work, but without a home to display either. Today, the organization is operating a gallery in Stockton's Midtown Magnolia District and organizing several carefully curated shows a year.

Among those who helped lead that revival is Gene Acevedo, the Mexican Heritage Center's president and recent inductee to San Joaquin County's Mexican-American Hall of Fame.

Every year, the Hall of Fame recognizes individuals who -- sometimes very quietly -- make significant contributions to the region's growing Latino community.

This year's inductees represent educators and volunteers, health advocates and public servants. They will be recognized in a ceremony set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday at University Plaza Hotel, 110 W. Fremont St., in Stockton.

For more information or to purchase tickets, call Gracie Madrid at (209) 952-0256 or Connie Martinez at (209) 598-9802.

Gene Acevedo, community service

Acevedo graduated from Franklin High School before traveling to Mexico to earn a bachelor's degree. Upon his return to Stockton, Acevedo helped launch an effort to improve health care for Latino children, and he continues to lead a wide range of other community projects. He served as an aide to Assemblywoman Barbara Matthews, D-Tracy, and then to Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani, D-Livingston. His leadership of the Coalition of Mexican American Organizations and the Mexican Heritage Center is credited with growth and success within both organizations. More recently, Acevedo has worked with the Stockton Symphony to broaden its audience and to develop a program with University of the Pacific that supports music education for at-risk children. He is community outreach director for Hospice of San Joaquin and is co-publisher of the Bilingual Weekly newspaper.

Amelia Rea Moreno, religion

A native of Guanajuato, Mexico, Moreno moved to Tracy in 1952 where she married, started a family and became an active volunteer at St. Bernard Catholic Church. Over more than 40 years of service at the church, she has counseled youths and married couples, visited the terminally sick and assisted at Spanish-language masses. For nearly 30 years, she has worked with the Stockton Diocese to bring clothes, toiletries and food to San Joaquin County's migrant labor camps, and she helps men at the camps prepare for baptism and other religious rites. When new Spanish-speaking priests come to the parish, Moreno assists them with errands. She has taught some to drive.

Rosalva Violeta Garduno, education

After moving to Stockton from Durango, Mexico, Garduno pursued training in early childhood education while raising her children and earning a living as an agricultural worker. After more than a decade of work for the Head Start Child Development Council, she became a project coordinator for the San Joaquin Delta College program that trains aspiring preschool teachers. She now helps oversee nursing and psychiatric technician programs for Delta College and has become an advocate for mental-illness education, especially within the Spanish-speaking community.

Ruben Garza, education

Soon after moving from Texas to Stockton in 1977, Garza became an administrator for the migrant-education program, helping coordinate educational and housing services for farm workers and their families, and training teachers to work with migrant students. Garza went on to serve as an administrator for the Stockton Unified School District, working at Fremont Middle School, and Monroe and Hong Kingston elementary schools. He retired in 2009. Garza continues to volunteer on political campaigns and community education projects.

Yolanda Herrera Tejada, health

As a child, Tejada moved with her family in 1936 from Texas to Stockton where she had a difficult time at school until a teacher, Lois Harrington, helped her learn English. She went on to Edison High School, but rheumatic fever kept her from graduating. She started working at her parents' store, "La Casa Blanca," and at 17 years old, she married Alfred Tejada. After the birth of the couple's third child, Tejada returned to school to earn her GED. By 1970, she had become a nurse and began a long career at San Joaquin General Hospital. Before retiring in 2003, she served on medical and cultural exchanges to China and Japan. She continues to volunteer with organizations including the Latina Democratic Club, the American Heart Association and Alumni of Delta Nursing.

Source: (c) 2011 The Record (Stockton, Calif.)

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