In Monterey County - Latinos make up more than half of the population. La gente Latina - are a majority yet still face disparities. Leaders of the Siembra Latinos Fund - a component of the community foundation of Monterey County, estan siembrando — are sowing seeds of philanthropy - by and for Latinos around the Central Coast.
“This is important because in the City of Salinas and really in Monterey County, which is who the funds, the Siembra Latinos benefits, we are a substantial population, and so servicing the local Latino community is really serving the entire community, because if one portion of the community grows then we all grow together," said Cecilia Romero, Community Foundation of Monterey County.
Going on its sixth year, leaders of the Siembra Latinos fund have handed out an estimated $100,000 in grants to non-profits in various fields: education, mental health, and more.
For example last year, a stem program for girls at El Sausal received a check for $25,000.
This year the fund’s advisory board members are raising a toast to a man who was a champion for affordable housing in Monterey County. It’s not the only hat he wore, Alfred-Diaz Infante, the son of immigrant farmworkers, was devoted to making his community better.
Tragically, he passed away in a car accident in 2021. The Siembra Latinos fund is announcing its inaugural Alfred-Diaz Infante Award for those who make a difference by using their position and influence in the community to advance positive change and elevate the lives of Latinos in Monterey County.
“I am absolutely honored and humbled," said the first recipient Dr. Ernesto Vela, who is the Assistant Superintendent of Student Services for the Monterey County Office of Education.
"I try my best whether as an educator, as a community leader or just as an advocate for students to support them to reach their fullest potential," said Vela.
Having served as an elementary school teacher, principal, administrator and program director along with being a team leader for the Salinas Valley Dream Academy - Dr. Vela says in all his experiences his motivation has been to build positive influences around area youth.
Having people who can help guide them to a path of success. And reminds them about the responsibility of paying it forward.
"My strongest message to young people is that no matter what you decide to do in life, you live a life, that you leave a little ounce of space in your life to give back to your community, because there are other people like yourself that are coming behind you and it’s so important for us to reach out a hand and help that next generation," said Vela.