Union Bank and KPBS team up to honor San Diego County Latinos as ‘Local Heroes’

SAN DIEGO, CA – In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, Union Bank and KPBS will honor four exceptional Latinos from San Diego County with the 2009 Local Heroes Award for their outstanding community service. This year’s honorees are: Ruben Barrales, Sarita Fuentes and Catalina Valencia, all of San Diego; and Dr. Jorge Valerdi of Chula Vista.  The awards will be given on Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at the KPBS Copley Telecommunication Center in San Diego.

The honorees will be formally recognized as part of the 12th Annual Local Heroes Awards, which Union Bank sponsors in conjunction with public television station KPBS. The network will also broadcast video profiles of the honorees throughout its Hispanic Heritage Month programming from September 15 to October 15.

“Union Bank is proud to recognize the contributions of these local heroes who have generously given their wisdom, time and resources to enrich our communities,” said George Ramirez, senior vice president and head of Priority Banking at Union Bank. “We are delighted to again partner with KPBS as we recognize these individuals who personify our core values of diversity and community involvement.”

“We are honored to be hosting this event and again partner with Union Bank to recognize this year’s Local Heroes,” said Tom Karlo, general manager of KPBS. “Every year, KPBS has the pleasure of getting to know a new group of distinguished honorees and telling their stories to the San Diego community.”

The 2009 honorees are:

Ruben Barrales is president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.  As president, Barrales ensures the chamber provides a broad-based economic value for its members and the international region. Prior to the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, Barrales spent five years serving under former President George W. Bush as the President’s liaison to state and local elected officials. He was the first Latino elected to the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors in 1992 and has been listed as one of Hispanic Business Magazine’s “100 Most Influential Hispanics” three times within the past decade.

Sarita Fuentes is the principal of Monarch School. As the principal, Fuentes helps serve the community’s homeless youth, ages seven to 18, and mentors children to lead productive lives. Under her leadership, the school has exceeded its Academic Performance Index score for six consecutive years and also implemented the Graduate Support Program. Prior to Monarch School, Fuentes was a dedicated teacher for the Advancement Via Individual Determination program and was recognized as the Latina of the Year at the 2004 Adelante Mujer Conference.

Catalina Valencia is the executive vice president (EVP) and general counsel for Aero Financial, where she is responsible for the company’s global legal and regulatory affairs. She has a widespread background in telecommunications, and prior to Aero Financial, Valencia was the co-founder and executive for FanBox, an Internet start-up recognized as host to the world’s largest mobile community. She has served on the board of the Mexican and American Solidarity Foundation and also served as the chair of the Leadership Institute of the Chicana/Latina Foundation. Valencia was awarded the Corporate Achievement Award by Vista magazine for three consecutive years.

Dr. Jorge Valerdi is a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). As a CASA volunteer, Dr. Valerdi was appointed by the San Diego Juvenile Court as an advocate for children in dependency court who have suffered physical and emotional neglect. He has transformed the lives of many children. Prior to becoming a CASA volunteer, Dr. Valerdi was the CEO of a Chula Vista based telecommunications company where he deployed technologies in disadvantaged countries in South America, Africa and Asia. He is currently on the speakers’ bureau for Voices for Children and motivates others to become advocates for the community’s youth. The Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C. nominated Dr. Valerdi for the 1982 International Marconi Award.

As part of its ongoing celebration of Hispanic history and culture, KPBS will air several programs throughout Hispanic Heritage Month in addition to short video profiles of each honoree.