Women of the Year

Women of the Year  Alicia Flores, Kim Evans, State Sen Hannah-Beth Jackson, Suz Montgomery and Dr. Cynthia Herrera celebrating their awards. Photo by Heather Lacayo

While the mood in Washington was bitter, contrary and partisan on March 23, down home in Ventura County a warm and friendly event celebrated four women who make a difference in the fields of education, military, immigration and seniors.

They were the four Women of the Year 2017, chosen by 19th District State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson to “acknowledge the outstanding women … who have shaped our state’s history. With a sense of respect, pride and celebration …. we honor women who represent among the very best Ventura County has to offer,” she said.

The event was sponsored by the Ventura County Credit Union at its Ventura headquarters on Vista Del Mar.

Kim Evans, who founded the Ventura County Military Collaborative in 2011 and runs it out of her home.  She uses her expertise to train clinicians and police on military culture and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She has an extensive background that includes being embedded in an Army National Guard unit and an Airlift Wing where she was the director of Psychological Health. holds a Master’s in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine.

Alicia Flores’ working as the director of the La Hermandad Hank Lacayo Youth and Family Center.

“We should respect our immigrant community,” Jackson said, adding that Flores works for reform with practical knowledge of the issues.

As a teenager, she worked in Oxnard’s agricultural fields, became a market owner and later worked for the state and El Concilio. She was part of planning nationwide movements, notably “Gran Marcha” in 2006 which attracted millions to peacefully protest against a bill raising penalties for undocumented individuals.

Dr. Cynthia Herrera is known as a visionary who is currently the Dean of Institutional Effectiveness at Oxnard College and who also directed a project to enhance STEM educational programs (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics).

Despite numerous awards for excellence and writing over $25 million in grants to enhance STEM, Herrera instead insisted she was “simply a reflection of every woman in this room.”

Suz Montgomery is simply “a force of nature,” Jackson said, “who is a passionate advocate for seniors.” She noted that “seniors have a lot to give with a wisdom that comes with age.”

That defines Montgomery, who has created the Extended Learning Academy and ENCORE, a free computer education program for people over 50 years.

Her work as a teacher in skilled nursing facilities is the stuff of legend, as many say her passion keeps them alive because her laugh is infectious, her wit and honesty refreshing and, when she greets you, it’s with a heartfelt, “give me a smooch.” Montgomery is a recipient of many awards, such as Local Hero, Outstanding Citizen, and an award for literally saving a man’s life via CPR.

A three-time cancer survivor, she continues to be an activist and inspiration for those who have cancer.

Attendee Councilmember Christy Weir stated “Suz’s activism has had a big impact in Ventura in many ways, including care for Seniors and improvements to our Westside. She is valued as an intelligent, tireless advocate.”

The half-hour inspirational event is available for viewing at http://tinyurl.com/VtaWomenOfYear2017

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