Lourdes Perez, a member of the Ceres School Board, was among four recipients recently recognized as the 2021 Central Valley Latino Leadership Award winners in Modesto.
Congressman Josh Harder D-Turlock presented a certificate of recognition to Perez on Wednesday, September 8 at Graceada Park.
“I was completely surprised,” Perez said. “I didn’t know I was nominated. It is an honor to be a recipient. I am truly grateful for the recognition.
“It’s well deserved and exciting to see her be recognized,” said Beth Jimenez, communications specialist for the Ceres Unified School District. “She is 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.
Voters are invited to nominate a member of the Latino community of any age or profession who has had a positive impact on the valley.
Applicants must be of Latino descent, live in the 10th Congressional District, and have contributed to the community in a way that has inspired others.
“The Latino community is a common thread in the fabric of the valley – we should use Hispanic Heritage Month as an opportunity to recognize the contributions of so many wonderful Latino residents,” said Harder.
Perez has served as the local policy director for Public Health Advocates, a state-wide nonprofit, for the past three years.
“I am a public health advocate because I am committed to raising awareness of public health issues and mobilizing community leaders to promote civic engagement,” Perez said in her bio on her employer’s website. “My work has mainly focused on impoverished communities which have faced infrastructure deficiencies, which have perpetuated unhealthy diets and inactive lifestyles. Being a public health advocate is making the effort to ensure that everyone has the right to a healthy lifestyle. “
Perez has been a member of the Ceres School Board since 2009.
She also volunteers for the Stanislaus County Safe Kids Coalition and St. Jude Catholic Church.
“It has been a pleasure to serve and represent the community,” she said. “I am proud to be a student and a parent advocate.”
Perez’s family came to the United States on a temporary visa so that his parents could work in the fields and in the dairies. Lourdes was then 15 years old and started attending Modesto high school in the first year. 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 fought against discrimination.
“It really helped me focus on what I was there for,” she said. “I was there to learn and become someone someday.”
A trip to Washington, DC for a weeklong conference was a turning point for Perez. She learned leadership skills and even met President Clinton.
“It was an event that changed my life. Thanks to this fortune, I now love politics. I now understand what civic engagement means.
Perez, who graduated from Modesto High School in 1994, was on her school’s Hispanic Youth Leadership Council and got involved as a leader in community service projects.
Perez received a Bachelor of Business Administration from Stanislaus State in 1999.
“I am proud to work in the communities of Stanislaus County,” she said. “It is very dear to my heart.”
Courier editor-in-chief Jeff Benziger contributed to this report.