Awards 39 logo

May 6, 2010, Grove of Anaheim

Presented by:

Over 450 people came together on May 6 to celebrate the work of outstanding people in our schools, communities and police departments for their exemplary contributions to human relations in Orange County. We’re pleased to honor their contributions.

Announcing the 2010 Award Recipients!

Community-Policing Awards

The Community-Policing Awards recognize departments that have tailored creative strategies to provide service and build positive relationships with their communities. Awardees are:

Santa Ana Police Athletic and Activity League (SAPAAL)

SAPAAL is a crime prevention program that employs educational, athletic and recreational activities to create trust and understanding between youth and law enforcement. SAPAAL provides youth who reside in high crime and gang infested neighborhoods a safe haven, Monday through Friday. SAPAAL has partnered with the City of Santa Ana and many Orange County organizations to offer a variety of fun and educational activities at no cost to participants. The program provides tutoring, computer access, reference and educational materials and one-to-one encouragement to help succeed in school. Peer support groups offer youth someone to talk to about their problems and challenges. The coaching and mentoring services provided by police officers demonstrate to youth that officers are truly interested in their development and well-being. Sports and recreational programs teach young people the importance of teamwork, discipline, maturity and good citizenship. SAPAAL has also implemented a fitness program at Jackson Elementary School that has resulted in a 50% reduction in discipline problems. Not incidentally, the school’s pass rate in the state Physical Fitness Test has risen to 95% from an abysmal 23%! The strategies employed by SAPAAL equip youth with the skills, knowledge and character to resist the temptation of participating in criminal or anti-social behavior. The growth of the program and the feedback from the students, parents and the community have demonstrated the worth and effectiveness of SAPAAL.

San Juan Capistrano Gang Reduction & Intervention Program

Criminal street gangs have been a problem in the San Juan Capistrano for decades. In 2008, the City of San Juan Capistrano, the OC Sheriff’s Department, the OC District Attorney’s Office and principals of affected schools developed a program (GRIP) to intervene in the growth of these gangs. This collaborative effort grew to include City officials, prominent members of the community, PTA’s, and organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club of Capistrano Valley. GRIP focuses on dissuading younger children from joining gangs by using prevention and intervention strategies. Prevention is addressed by developing positive self-esteem and by using curriculum, developed by the GRIP partners, which highlights the negative consequences of gang membership. Other prevention strategies include incentives such as socials, pizza lunches, attending an Angel’s game, as well as offering activities to fill gaps during out-of-school hours. GRIP’s approach to gang intervention includes conducting truancy and curfew sweeps, youth counselling, and providing parents with advice and assistance in keeping their children out of gangs. Truancy rates have dramatically decreased at the four target schools – over 80% in the last year! GRIP has also devised “Strike Teams” that first identify at-risk students and then meet with the youth and their parents to create an intervention plan. To date 50 interventions have been conducted and almost all youth involved have shown positive improvements. The community and schools have embraced the program wholeheartedly with literally hundreds of teachers and volunteers stepping up to mentor at-risk students on their own time. As well, local organizations and businesses have opened their wallets to financially support the volunteer appreciation and recruitment events.

Distinguished School Awards

The Distinguished School Awards recognize exceptional contributions to promoting, nurturing, protecting and/or cultivating a campus that is safe, welcoming and equitable. Awardees are:

Buena Park Jr. High School (BPJHS)

Three years ago the administration of BPJHS began introducing the Positive Behavior Interventions and Support (PBIS) program. Rather than constantly focusing on punishment and disciplinary actions, the program encourages desired behaviors, which it calls the “Three R’s” – Respect, Responsibility and Ready to Learn. The school supports and rewards appropriate behavior with BBQ’s, fun days, pizza lunches and “Stallion Bucks” that can be used to purchase prizes. The implementation of the PBIS program has been a school-wide effort that includes teachers, administration and students. The events and key messages of PBIS are consistently reinforced with the help of Peer Assisted Leadership (PAL), BRIDGES and the Associated Student Body. PAL students provide mediation services on campus for the entire student body. And, the school is now in the process of implementing PAL mediation into its disciplinary policy to encourage communication between students. In the past few years, the BRIDGES program has mounted a “Respect” campaign, created a list of “10 Things to Build Strong Student/Teacher Relationships,” offered human relations presentations and hosted a Student/Teacher Olympics. Buena Park Jr. High’s commitment to its students and its creation of positive solutions and alternatives to punishment has resulted in a dramatic drop in discipline problems and created a safe, inclusive campus for all students.

Fullerton Union High School (FUHS)

Over the past three years, Fullerton Union High School’s PUSH for PEACE (P4P) has become a promising model for increasing youth leadership and for confronting issues that divide youth in their schools and communities. P4P is dedicated to creating a campus where every student is valued, included and respected. P4P members have demonstrated a commitment toward public good, engaged in community work, cooperated with other school and community groups, participated in the democratic process, and encouraged others to resolve their conflicts peacefully. The program’s student leaders have organized to institutionalize initiatives that build cross-cultural understanding and promote campus unity. One of the results has been the Tribe Unite Campaign, which strives to unite students, teachers and staff by addressing cliques and social tensions on campus. The Campaign’s initiatives have included training more than 75 student conflict mediators; presenting peer-driven workshops for freshman on dismantling social cliques; offering a conference that brings in guest speakers to explore issues of identity, culture and unity; creating projects against hate and violence and holding school-wide “Hug Days”. The students also organize Unity Month, an event that celebrates those who have participated in the development of the United States, including the contributions of women and men, African Americans, Native Americans, Mexicans, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and other ethnic groups.

Loara High School

There is no doubt that the students who participate in Loara’s BRIDGES program are making a cultural change as they advocate for equity, understanding and awareness of diversity. Now in its eighth year of building connections, fostering awareness, and empowering students, BRIDGES is a well known and well respected program on campus whose membership has grown to 50 students strong. The students have taken ownership of the program and have worked hard to recruit new members. There is now tremendous support and encouragement from the faculty, administrators, and counselors who recommend students who would benefit from participating in the program. The BRIDGES Task Force has worked exceptionally hard to make the program visible and effective by hosting workshops and assemblies to raise student and staff awareness of issues facing students such as violence in relationships, educational access for immigrants, and cultural identity. Recently, BRIDGES surveyed the student body and discovered their most important issue was “fairness and non-preferential treatment”. As a result, a “Separate Can Never Mean Equal” campaign is currently in progress. The enthusiastic support of the Associated Student Body, the AVID program and other student groups, as well as adult allies, has enabled Loara High School’s BRIDGES to grow and thrive.

Community Leader Awards

The Community Leader Awards honor individuals or groups who make extraordinary contributions to Orange County in human or civil rights. Awardees are:

Dr. Arinder Singh Chadha

For the past decade Placentia resident, Dr. Chadha has worked diligently to promote a greater understanding among various faith communities in Orange County and around Southern California. Arinder is a co-Director of Interfaith Activities for the California Sikh Council, a nonprofit entity formed after 9/11 to create awareness about the Sikh religion and to address issues of harassment and discrimination. In this role, he and the volunteers he coordinates, make presentations to law enforcement, schools, colleges and places of worship explaining the Sikh faith. However, Dr. Chadha’s vision extends beyond the horizons of his own faith. He is a founding member of the North Orange County Interfaith Coalition, a volunteer faith-based group with members from Placentia, Yorba Linda and Brea. Their annual events include “Light the Darkness”, a 9/11 remembrance; a multi-cultural music and dance concert; and interfaith and youth dialogues. Arinder’s interfaith work reaches across the County as he is on the Board of Directors of the South Coast, Garden Grove, South Orange County and Fullerton Interfaith Councils. Dr. Chadha is also a Director of the Orange County Interfaith Coalition for the Environment, a faith-based group addressing environmental conservation and creating awareness amongst faith leaders and believers through annual events such as an Earth Day celebration. In short, he is a dedicated volunteer who is committed to proactively building bridges between communities of faith.

Jacqueline Johnson

Jacque has an extraordinary history of volunteer service in the area of human and civil rights in Orange County that stretches back more than 30 years. After her husband died unexpectedly, Jacque began to champion the cause of Black single parents in Orange County who had little or no voice regarding policy and legislative decisions. By the early 1980’s, Ms. Johnson had formed support groups for single Black women and organized the exchange of services for single parents that ranged from childcare, clothing, food, and transportation to work and school for parents and children. Jacque soon found herself becoming a spokesperson for these support groups, appearing before councils, boards and commissions. As the years passed, Jacque served countless hours with organizations that include Planned Parenthood, the Democratic Central Committee, Community Action Partners of OC, Santa Ana Human Relations Commission, the NAACP, Bowers Museum Black Council, and Goodwill Industries. This year, she is celebrating her 25th year as a volunteer writing the popular Tri-County Bulletin column, “Socially Speaking”, which covers events and activities in the Black community. Jacque is a real unsung hero who embodies the qualities of commitment, service, and advocacy for the underserved.

Students ACT

Students Advocating Civic Transformation (ACT) was founded by a small group of Cal State Fullerton student leaders in 2004. The students were frustrated by the apathy of their classmates regarding critical social and political issues and came up with an idea that is now an annual tradition. In Spring, 2005 this small group of students hosted the first annual, free, Social Justice Summit that featured keynote speaker Hilda Solis and 18 workshops on topics such as hate crimes, human trafficking, the prison industrial complex, education equality, and grassroots organizing. That first year 150 people, mostly students, attended. Since then, the Social Justice Summit has grown dramatically, with 600 students and community members attending in 2009. Prior to the conference, Students ACT works to raise every dollar necessary to mount what many have described as one of the best events of its type. Although more than 30 students are involved, the backbone of Students ACT is its Project Directors. Despite carrying a full-time course load and often working a part-time job, this group of students volunteers as many as 300+ hours to produce the conference. The Social Justice Summit provides a voice for individuals and organizations that have dedicated their lives to fighting injustice and inspires those attending to get involved.

Kimberly McGlaughlin and Roxanna Jimenez

Three years ago, Roxanna, a Bilingual Parent Liaison, and Kimberly, an English teacher, realized there was a need to involve the parents of English-learner students at Huntington Beach High School. By better connecting these parents to the school, Kimberly and Roxanna hoped the parents would feel more empowered to assist their teens in meeting academic goals and graduating from high school. With these objectives in mind they started PLI, the “Parent Latino Initiative”. The purpose of the PLI was to bring minority parents together and develop their leadership skills so that they could have a more effective voice in the educational system. Both Roxanna and Kimberly volunteer their time to serve the PLI, meeting with parent groups in the evening, scheduling speakers, providing bilingual translation services and organizing tutoring and activities for the children of the parents attending the meetings. The investment in parents is paying dividends. Since the PLI began, parents have become far more active in school and community meetings, have developed better relationships with their peers and children, and developed an increased sense of personal empowerment and purpose. And, equally important, the last two years have seen improved graduation rates and college attendance by Latino students. In fact, last year, 100% of the students of PLI parents graduated and began their studies at post-secondary institutes.

Tom Thorkelson

For the past 20 years Newport Beach resident Tom Thorkelson has touched the lives of tens of thousands of Orange County residents by organizing on-going interfaith events and activities. These include choral festivals, prayer-breakfasts and house of worship tours. Tom has also helped establish eight active interfaith councils and assisted faith groups to develop interfaith understanding and cooperation. When other faith groups need help, Tom has always been willing to provide assistance. For example, when the Christ Our Redeemer AME Church lost its worship space, he found a location for their Sunday services; he arranged for Jewish synagogues to use Mormon chapels when their own facilities were too small to hold their congregants; and, he negotiated with the U.S. Marines to allow 11,000 Muslims to use the Tustin blimp hangar for Ramadan. Tom’s interfaith activities have taken him to Israel, Jordan, Russia, China and Egypt twice—once accompanied by 10 grandchildren and four children, as guests of President Mubarek. As Director of Interfaith Relations for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), Tom has worked to dispel false stereotypes and misconceptions about his own faith, and encouraged members of his own church to be open to the beliefs of others.

Leonel Velazquez

Leonel is an immigrant who has demonstrated dedication and passion for creating positive change in his Santa Ana community. For the past 18 months, he has volunteered 20-30 hours per week with the Orange County Congregation Community Organization (OCCCO) working on the issues of immigration and public safety. During this time, Leonel presented over a dozen “Know Your Rights” workshops to 1,500 residents, provided training for 15 OCCCO Immigration Committee members, and conducted over 200 one-to-one visits listening to concerns of Orange County residents. Recently, he helped coordinate a 700 person candlelight vigil at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church. The vigil addressed the issue of Comprehensive Immigration Reform and was intended to encourage OC residents to get involved in this movement. Shortly after the vigil, Leonel participated in the planning of a Southern California Spanish leadership training in San Juan Capistrano. Twenty mono-lingual Spanish speaking volunteers attended the conference, at which he conducted both formal workshops and informal instruction. Leonel has become thoroughly familiar with the community model of organizing and has greatly aided OCCCO’s efforts in training other volunteers.

Courage in the Media Award: Yvette Cabrera, OC Register

As an Orange County Register columnist for the last decade, Yvette has been a tireless advocate for human and civil rights. Despite hateful comments and even death threats provoked by the controversial issues she covers, Yvette continues to research and write about topics of importance to Orange County. Early on, Yvette’s columns focused primarily on Latino concerns. She tackled health issues such as diabetes and alcoholism, explored the obstacles facing Latino immigrants, and the cultural taboos tied to HIV/AIDS. She often wrote about issues no other O.C. journalist has been willing to address, including sexual abuse of young Hispanic girls and women, traditional machismo, and crimes perpetrated against “braceros” (temporary contract laborers from Mexico). Yvette’s lens is now wider, and through it she has given a public voice to numerous Orange County non-profits including Habitat for Humanity, the Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Art Center and Soroptimist International – organizations that work to assist the underserved and often invisible segments of the Orange County community. Her recent columns have covered homelessness, human trafficking and homophobia as well as inspiring human interest stories. By putting a face to social issues, she humanizes them and opens the door to improved understanding among the diverse groups and people living and working in Orange County.

For information about sponsorship opportunity for 2012’s Awards 41, please contact Barbara Hunt at 714-834-7181.

A Big Thank You to Our Sponsors!


Related; Crevier BMW


Susan and John Reese; SDG&E and The Gas Company; Wells Fargo


City National Bank, Kay Carpenter, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Disneyland Resort, Mary Lee & Bob Hill, Southern California Edison, Keith & Judy Swayne


California State University, Fullerton; Chun Ha Insurance; Innovative Marketing Strategies; Jeff & Kimberley Goh, NOC Community College District; SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union; South Orange County Community College District; University of California, Irvine