The YWCA of North Orange County
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9th Grader Receives President's Volunteer Service Award

Fullerton, CA - Rebeca Sofia Oropeza, 14 years old, of Yorba Linda, CA, a student at the Orange County School of the Arts in Santa Ana, has been honored for her exemplary volunteer service with a President’s Volunteer Service Award.
The award, which recognizes Americans of all ages who have volunteered significant amounts of their time to serve their communities and their country, was granted by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program on behalf of President Barack Obama. The YWCA North Orange County nominated Rebeca Sofia for national honors this fall in recognition of her volunteer service.
Rebeca developed a power point presentation to deal with her own bullying.  She became aware that the presentation was helping other students as bullying is so pervasive in the schools.  Later with the help of a wonderful mentor, her presentation was perfected and she turned into her Girl Scouts Silver Award. She has presented her power point at local elementary schools and twice at Fullerton College (at a Counseling and at Psychology classes).  During summer 2014, Rebeca was invited to the MANA National Conference in Washington, D.C. where she was the youngest presenter, addressing 75 high school girls from all over the USA.
“Working on this project definitely made me stronger.  I am no longer afraid to stand in from of strangers to speak. I have learned to turn a negative situation into a positive one. I have learned I am a strong leader and could inspire others to be better persons,” said Rebecca.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), recognizes middle level and high school students across America for outstanding volunteer service.  Retired Captain Lorraine Jones, President, YWCA of North Orange County, presented the Presidential Award for Volunteer Service at the March Board of Director’s Meeting.
“By recognizing these students and placing a spotlight on their volunteer activities, we hope to motivate others to consider how they can also contribute to their community” said Lorraine Jones. "Demonstrating civic responsibility through volunteerism is an important part of life".
One in seven women in Orange County will be diagnosed with breast cancer.  Many are medically underserved, poor, and face obstacles such as lack of transportation, language barriers, or do not understand how to access the complicated medical care system.  Two college interns, Maria Mata and Johanna Rivas, bilingual (Spanish/English), helped the YWCA of North Orange County fight breast cancer by donating over 370 hours in our Neighborhood Link to Breast Cancer Prevention Program. Hundreds of bilingual women, mostly Spanish speaking, were guided into breast cancer screenings by Maria and Johanna. Some were diagnosed with breast cancer that would have fallen through the cracks of the medical care system, gone undiagnosed or diagnosed at a later stage.

Both Maria and Johanna brought a personal touch to the Neighborhood Link program. The college internships were not without sacrifices. Maria Mata works full time at the Head Start Orange County, La Habra. She is married and has two grown sons. She attends the University of Phoenix and will receive a Bachelor of Science Degree in Human Services, May 2016. Her future plans after graduation are to continue working with families of at-risk children or children with specific education problems who require the development of individual education plans. “I love to help children and see their smiles, especially helping children with autism, disabilities and speech problems to become independent,” shared Maria. “This degree is the first step toward realizing my dream.” 

Johanna Rivas has lived on her own since she was 16 years old. She was raised in Compton facing drugs, gangs and at-risk behavior until a counselor in her junior year guided her and helped her achieve her dreams. Johanna realized she had choices and could break the cycle. She is the first in her family to get a college education. She is a role model to her younger sisters and brothers, one with a disability. Johana works full time at Baja California Bar and Grill. She wants to work with youth 13-21 years in the nonprofit sector or school districts.  Johanna’s aunt died of breast cancer and did not have resources to help. “I enjoyed letting women know that there is help and that the YWCA empowers women to get breast cancer screenings in their own neighborhoods,” said Johanna. Her future dream is to continue her education and secure a higher education degree.

The YWCA of North Orange County salutes Maria and Johanna for sharing the most valuable gift anyone can give, their time. They also helped the YWCA of North Orange County move closer to our mission, to empower generations of women.  A great win-win story.

2016 Volunteer Service Recognition
Maria Mata and Johanna Rivas
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