The 2016 Spirit Awards Gala (LRRT)

Hilbert Morales


The “Inaugural Spirit Awards Gala” organized by La Raza Roundtable Executive Committee was held on Friday, August 26, 2016 at the Mexican Heritage Plaza. This event focused upon the efforts of Latino leaders, who with their institutional partners, focused upon encouraging and informing Latino millennial youth concerning the need to become ‘knowledge workers’.

Its program featured CA Supreme Court Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuellar (nominated by Governor Brown; confirmed unanimously by the Commission on Judicial Appointments, and retained by voters for a full term in November 14, 2014). Justice Cuellar is a naturalized U.S. Citizen who was born in northern Mexico. He has stellar credentials: Calexico High School diplomate (Imperial Valley); Harvard University- B.A. magnum cum laude; Yale University Law School, J.D.; Stanford University, Ph.D. in Political Science; has focused his practice on international law, administration; and ‘legal academia’ (Stanford Law School). After law school, he began his careen at the U.S. Treasury Department, Office of Enforcement. Justice Cuellar clerked for Chief Judge Mary M. Schroeder, U.S. Court of Appeals, 9th District. His wife is also a judge. Justice Cuellar, as keynote speaker, summarized in a very engaging manner his personal life journey.

The Spirit Awards were made to:

Mrs. Pattie Cortese, Board member, East Side Union High School District for her ‘Youth Advocate’ community services which, she said, “I enjoy very much; It’s what I like to do.”

Superior Court Judge, The Honorable Katherine Lucero, for being a juvenile court “Judicial Advocate.”

Member of the California State Senate, the Honorable Jim Beall was awarded the “Legislative Advocacy Spirit Award.” Senator Beall is the author of several legislative proposals on mental health/behavioral health services.

The “Social Justice Advocacy Spirit Award’ was made to the Office of Cultural Competency, County of Santa Clara.

The Latino Education Summit featuring the ENLACE Program received the “Education Advocate Spirit Award.”

This program was specific for Latino students at Evergreen Community College; Also to the Latino Education Summit (Foundation for Hispanic Education) was the first Latino lead effort to bring forth educational issues presented by Latino educators for Latino parents, students, and teachers.

It was only right that the “Lifetime Achievement Award” was made to Victor Garza, Chair, La Raza Roundtable since its formation during 1988. Under his tenure, LRRT has evolved into a monthly forum , MC’d by Chairman Garza. LRRT audience hears brief reports from 13 ‘Standing Committees’ (really work/task groups addressing specific issues). These are: 1) Educational Institutes; 2) ConXion (Rose Amador); 3) Juvenile Justice (Raul Colunga); 4) Probation Department; 5) San Jose City Manager; 6) Work2future; 7) Legislation (Paul Guerrero, Esq.); 8) Los Bomberos/San Jose Fire Chief; 9)District Attorney; 10) Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; 11) SIREN; 12) Bridge Point; and 13) Elected Officials commentaries.

Each monthly meeting has a featured guest speaker. For the July 2016 meeting these were Norma Camacho, Interim Director, SCVWD and SJPD Chief Eddie Garcia.

LRRT meets on the last Friday of each month at 5:30-7:00 PM ‘time certain’ at the ConXion facility located on Tully Road, San Jose.

It was very appropriate, during his brief comments following receipt of “Lifetime Achievement Award” that LRRT Chair Victor Garza asserted his appreciation that “They do all the work and I get all the credit.”

The LRRT ‘Spirit Award Committee’ deserve the community’s gratitude for planning and implementation of this event within three months. Its members were Rose Amador, Raul Colunga, Jennie Meehan, Bob Nunez, Craig Pasqua, Michelle Pelayo-Osorio, Izaak Piehardo, Herman Vasquez, and Teresa Alvarado. This ‘Spirits Awards Gala’ had a ‘sold out’ full house (300 paid attendees) who enjoyed the above proceedings while dining in the Rotunda, Mexican Heritage Plaza.

It focused upon the extensive community service work done by many on behalf of ‘improvement of the quality of life for all residents’ in keeping with its 1988 “Mission Statement” which is:

“LRRT of California is to be an inclusive organization for all people with emphasis on improving the equality of life for Chicanos/Raza through advocacy in order to insure equality, social justice, education, leadership development via a monthly forum for discussion of the issues affecting the community. La Raza Roundtable brings together community organizations, committee leaders, elected officials, private and public sector representatives in leadership capacities that can impact positive change for LA RAZA.”

Persons wanting to join LRRT should go to its web site <>.