ASSEMBLYMEMBER ALEX LEE HONORS THE UNSUNG HEROES OFASSEMBLY DISTRICT 25

For immediate release:
2021 Unsung Heroes Award Ceremony

At an awards ceremony at Milpitas High School on Saturday, Assemblymember Lee honored 36 individuals and organizations as Assembly District 25’s Unsung Heroes who stepped up tremendously during these difficult times. Honorees were nominated by local community leaders who witnessed the direct impact of their work.

“It was important to host this event because during the pandemic, many of us struggled and sacrificed so much for our community, and our unsung heroes often don’t get the spotlight, but it’s really these individuals that work on the frontlines every day that make this all possible,” said Assemblymember Alex Lee.

Below are the honorees:

  • Seema Badar – Fremont
    • She works in civil rights advocacy as a volunteer with the Council on American Islamic Relations. During the pandemic, she raised community funds and delivered hundreds of meals to frontline healthcare workers at Washington Hospital in Fremont. In the past few months, she has also raised thousands of dollars to help Afghan refugees settle in the Bay Area.
  • Ajay Bhutoria – Fremont
    • He has worked diligently to serve members of our community most in need. He works with the Global Organization for Community Services to provide warm clothing, food, and other material aid to unhoused members of our community. Ajay also helps to promote economic, cultural, and social partnerships between the people of the United States and India.
  • Michelle Gutierrez-Vo – Fremont
    • She has been a nurse for more than twenty years and worked as a frontline nurse in Fremont throughout the pandemic. She also serves as a board member for the California Nurses Association, where she works to champion the rights and safety of nurses to ensure that they are protected with safe working conditions and necessary Personal Protective Equipment.
  • Kathy Hamilton – Fremont
    • She is the volunteer manager of the Ohlone Humane Society’s Pet Meals-On-Wheels program. Her work helps community members in need feed and take care of their pets. She also works as a volunteer rehabilitator for the Ohlone Humane Society’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Program, helping to save hundreds of injured and orphaned wildlife each year.
  • Dr. Prasad Kilaru – Fremont
    • He has been Chief of the Medical Staff at Washington Hospital Healthcare System throughout the pandemic. He organized and supported the response of physicians and worked tirelessly to ensure that Washington Hospital was able to follow protocols and practices based on the best possible information. He also serves as a volunteer member on the board of directors of Janyaa.
  • Rewire Community – Fremont
    • They have worked with local domestic violence and sexual assault agencies to support and serve survivors of gender-based violence for the past decade. During the pandemic, they started a Utilities & Essentials Fund and a COVID-19 Survivor Relief Fund that each raised thousands of dollars and helped put together hundreds of Survivor Care-Kits.
  • Sabitha Saravanan – Fremont
    • She helps run a volunteer parent group at Mission San Jose High School in Fremont. At the beginning of the pandemic, she and the community group of parents helped raise funds, identified vendors for Personal Protective Equipment supplies for donation, and identified members of the community who needed assistance with grocery shopping and other errands.
  • Bri Seoane – Fremont
    • She is the Vice President of Development and Strategic Partnerships at Ronald McDonald House Charities Bay Area. She works to partner with children’s health care providers to expand local services for sick children and their families. She has also helped expand meal service programs to help meet the growing food insecurities faced by families in our community.
  • The Eternity Band – Newark
    • The Eternity Band is a student volunteer band that brings positive energy to our community. They have performed volunteer concerts for senior centers, libraries, kindergartens, and homeless shelters in Newark, Fremont, and Union City. They have also worked to provide academic help to hundreds of students, coordinated donations to those in need, and aided in clean-ups of local trails.
  • Hong Ly – Newark
    • She is a nurse in the Washington Hospital Healthcare in Fremont. She has cared for members of our community at Washington Hospital since 2005. In March 2020, she was assigned to the COVID-19 Unit, and the majority of her work since the beginning of the pandemic has been dedicated to working with COVID-19 positive patients.
  • Yolie Garcia – Milpitas
    • She is a board member and co-founder of Hope for the Unhoused which works to provide unhoused members of our community with food, tents, sleeping bags, clothing, hygiene packs, and other essential items. Yolie is also dedicated to advocating for effective solutions to homelessness and educating our community about the challenges of unhoused residents.
  • Ismaili CIVIC Volunteers – Milpitas
    • They have supported our community by donating food to the Milpitas Food Pantry and Second Harvest Food Bank, providing needed resources for Milpitas students. During the pandemic, they donated blankets and personal protective equipment, put together care packages for firefighters, and organized virtual college prep sessions.
  • Cheryl Jordan – Milpitas
    • She is the superintendent of the Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD). During the pandemic, she worked diligently to ensure that Milpitas students had access to academic opportunities. During her tenure, Jordan and her team launched a Middle College High School program, a World Languages Academy, as well as partnerships to help students access personalized learning and career paths.
  • Machelle Kessinger – Milpitas
    • She serves students at Elmwood Correctional Facility, Milpitas Adult Education, and multiple school sites. She has been the Milpitas Classified Employee Association President for the past 12 years. Machelle and her team ensured more than 300 employees were available to keep Milpitas school campuses clean as well as supported testing and vaccination sites for Milpitas employees, students, and families.
  • Lisa Moreno – Milpitas
    • She is the co-founder of Hope for the Unhoused, which works to provide outreach to unhoused members of our community with essential items, information, and resources. Her work has helped to educate our community on effective solutions for homelessness and she has served unhoused members of our community by providing food, access to resources, and education programs.
  • Diana Orlando – Milpitas
    • She has been an elementary school teacher and mentor in the Milpitas Unified School District for more than 30 years and has been the Milpitas Teachers Association leader for the past ten years. She and her team have ensured Milpitas teachers have a strong voice throughout the pandemic and works to ensure learning continuity, safety, and security for teachers, students, and all school staff.
  • Kavita Sreedhar – Milpitas
    • She is the co-founder of Pragnya, which creates real-world experiences for neurodiverse members of our community to help them feel accepted, supported, empowered, and part of the community. She also helps organize and lead parent support groups and trainings for caregivers to help them have the knowledge and resources they need to better support their loved ones.
  • Kishan Sreedhar – Milpitas
    • He is the co-founder of Pragnya, which creates real-world experiences for neurodiverse members of our community to help them feel accepted, supported, empowered, and part of our community. He also helps organize and lead parent support groups and trainings for caregivers to help them have the knowledge and resources they need to better support their loved ones.
  • Diana Ding – Santa Clara
    • She is the founder of Ding Ding TV. She organized the Civic Leadership Forum Silicon Valley and the Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs Festival to aid local leaders. She has served as a board member for the Silicon Valley Center Chamber of Commerce, as a board member for Heart of Hope, as president of the US-China Chamber of Commerce, and as the founder of Silicon Valley Community Media.
  • Rak Patel – Santa Clara
    • He has been a volunteer with Sleeping Bags for the Homeless-Silicon Valley for several years. He collects and distributes sleeping bags, blankets, tents, tarps, water, and other supplies to unhoused members of our community. Rak’s volunteer work has allowed unhoused members of our community to have access to the resources that they need.
  • Jinky Peralta – Santa Clara
    • She is dedicated to serving those in most need in our community. She is a leader for Sleeping Bags for the Homeless-Silicon Valley, where she helps collect and distribute sleeping bags, blankets, tents, tarps, water, and other supplies to unhoused members of our community.
  • Reclaiming our Downtown – Santa Clara
    • They bring together community members and organizations from throughout Santa Clara to help revitalize the downtown area. They are dedicated to creating an amazing and economically vibrant downtown in Santa Clara that preserves its history and creates a place for present and future Santa Clara residents of all ages to enjoy.
  • Santa Clara Schools Foundation – Santa Clara
    • The Foundation helps enrich the education of the students in the Santa Clara Unified School District by funding programs, project scholarships, and citizenship awards. During the pandemic, they were able to support students by raising money, sponsoring a virtual STEAM Expo, co-sponsoring the 2020 Steps 4 Success event, and helping graduating seniors celebrate their accomplishments.
  • Michael Bautista – San Jose
    • He is a registered nurse in Santa Clara County, and since the beginning of the pandemic, he has helped provide exemplary care for patients and has done an outstanding job protecting our community from COVID-19. He has also advocated for his fellow nurses as a member of the Registered Nurses Professional Association.
  • Arianna Beliso – San Jose
    • She is a corps member with the San Jose Conservation Corps and Charter School. During the pandemic, she worked to address food insecurity in our community by boxing food with the Conservation Corps for the members of our community. Arianna also serves as an active volunteer at the Second Harvest Food Bank in San Jose.
  • Don Juan De Guzman – San Jose
    • He is a longtime volunteer with Sleeping Bags for the Homeless-Silicon Valley. He collects and distributes sleeping bags, blankets, tents, tarps, water, and other supplies to unhoused members of our community. He also serves as an active volunteer for Second Harvest Food Bank, Rebuilding Together Silicon Valey, and Innvision Villa.
  • Melissa Devos – San Jose
    • She is a corps member with the San Jose Conservation Corps and Charter School. During the pandemic, she worked to address food insecurity in our community by boxing food with the Conservation Corps for the members of our community. Melissa also serves as an active volunteer at the Second Harvest Food Bank in San Jose.
  • Brandi Gonzalez – San Jose
    • She is a volunteer who supports local firefighters and law enforcement officials with rehab by providing drinks, snacks, and meals during critical and emergent events as well as second alarms. Earlier this year, her dedication, professionalism, and compassion aided the work of Emergency Medical Services, the San Jose Fire Department, and law enforcement officials during a mass casualty incident in our community.
  • Hunger at Home – San Jose
    • They provide essential nutrition and dignity to those in most need by collecting donated food and distributing it to people experiencing hunger and homelessness. In March 2020, Hunger at Home launched a meal preparation and distribution operation. These efforts have resulted in the distribution of more than 7.4 million meals to those in most need.
  • Thomas Metz – San Jose
    • He is a volunteer who supports local firefighters and law enforcement officials with rehab by providing drinks, snacks, and meals during critical and emergent events as well as second alarms. Earlier this year, his dedication, professionalism, and compassion aided the work of Emergency Medical Services, the San Jose Fire Department, and law enforcement officials during a mass casualty incident in our community.
  • Malalai Olomi – San Jose
    • She advocates for marginalized communities in San Jose by raising awareness through storytelling and community fundraising. She serves as a board member for Sleeping Bags for the Homeless-Silicon Valley and is dedicated to assisting unhoused members of our community. Malalai also serves as an active volunteer with North American Islamic Shelter for the Abused.
  • Shenae Price – San Jose
    • She has worked at Safeway in San Jose for over 20 years and in that time, she has been exemplary in helping take care of customers and our community. During the uncertainty of the pandemic, she helped calm people’s nerves, assisted members of UFCW 5 at Safeway, advocated for their safety, and ensured customers were able to get what they needed.
  • Cyndi Ragona – San Jose
    • She worked to set up the first walk-up testing site in California in San Jose. The site was located at the Mexican Heritage Plaza in East San Jose, helping to serve one of the communities in Santa Clara County that was the hardest hit by the pandemic. Her efforts have led to over 100,000 individuals being tested for COVID and receiving their vaccines.
  • John Semanik – San Jose
    • He founded the Penitencia Neighborhood Association in San Jose. The Penitencia Neighborhood Association now has more than 600 members that work together to create a solid, caring community. John’s dedicated work over the past 25 years has improved safety and community relations throughout the neighborhood.
  • Linh Vong – San Jose
    • She has worked diligently as an Intensive Care Manager for the Health Trust’s Coordinated Care Project. She has built trusting relationships with clients and has helped them find the resources they need to find appropriate housing, complete applications, put down deposits, apply for benefits, and settle into new homes. She also serves our community as a member of the City of San Jose’s Housing and Community Development Commission.
  • John Whiteside – San Jose
    • He is a volunteer who supports local firefighters and law enforcement officials with rehab by providing drinks, snacks, and meals during critical and emergent events as well as second alarms. Earlier this year, his dedication, professionalism, and compassion aided the work of Emergency Medical Services, the San Jose Fire Department, and law enforcement officials during a mass casualty incident in our community.

Ceremony recording: https://youtu.be/xJcxgJ9otvw