Women representing the cities of Bell Gardens, Montebello and Commerce were among nine women recognized Monday during a “Distinguished Women of the Year” ceremony organized by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia and held at the Cerritos Library.
The “Distinguished Woman of the Year” program is an annual event observed by state legislators during Women’s History Month. In years past, the women were flown to Sacramento for a special recognition ceremony at the State Capitol, but that ceremony was cut this year due to budget cuts. Many legislators, however, are holding local ceremonies, including Garcia who was elected to the State Assembly for the first time last November.
Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Estas Mujeres Son la ‘Columna Vertebral’ de Sus Ciudades, Dice García 
Garcia asked officials from the cities in her district — Artesia, Bellflower, Bell Gardens, Cerritos, Commerce, Downey, Montebello, Norwalk and Pico Rivera — to help in the selection process.
Martha Cabral of Bell Gardens, Sandra Jimenez of Commerce and Kathy Brendzal of Montebello were chosen by elected officials in their respective cities to receive the special honor. All three of the local women have in some way been involved in efforts to improve education.
“These women have been the backbone of our communities, they are focused, they are getting things done,” said Assemblywoman Garcia about the women from her district.
Cabral received her award from Bell Gardens Mayor Pedro Aceituno, who thanked her for her dedication to the youth in the city. He said Cabral is “truly very involved,” and gives a lot of her time to help Bell Gardens youth.
Cabral serves on Bell Gardens Education Commission, is president of the PTA at Bell Gardens Elementary School, and is involved in the California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE). She has met with California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction to discuss issues faced by English-learners, special needs and at-risk students.
Cabral told EGP it’s an honor to be recognized by her community, and that she hopes the city continues to work together to ensure education is a top priority in the predominately Latino working class community.
“When city officials work as a team they can do more,” Cabral said. “I would just like to see more women get involved with their child’s education and attend city council meetings to see how the city has improved.”
Commerce Mayor Lilia R. Leon presented Jimenez with the District award as well as a commendation from the city. Jimenez told EGP she felt honored to be nominated and is thankful for the programs Commerce offers to its youth and the rest of her community.
“Everything I do, I do because I love my community,” Jimenez said. “We have a great city and great programs.”
Jimenez is a member of Commerce’s Aquatic Booster Club and Relay for Life committee. She is the president of Educating Bodies and Minds (EBAM), which offers scholarships and provides nutrition, anti-bullying and martial arts classes to youth.
“She is an inspiration to many women,” Leon said. “Sandra is a resident that goes above and beyond expectations.”
Montebello Mayor Christina Cortez presented Kathy Brendzal with her award that recognized the Montebello resident for her work with adult education in the Montebello Unified School District.
Brendzal told EGP that she felt privileged to be able to help others the way she was helped as a first generation immigrant.
“Education and educating adults is more than a commitment to me, it’s a purpose in life,” Brednzal said. “Its our obligation to reach out to the next generation coming up and help them achieve their dreams.”
Brendzal serves on the Executive Board of the California Council for Adult Education, collaborated with former Assemblyman Mike Eng to protect adult education in the community and has initiated the 2-Day Legislative Day in Montebello to help residents effectively communicate with legislators.
“I am a firm believer that education makes all the difference in the world,” said Cortez, who called Brendzal a “truly a homegrown product of our city of Montebello.”
Also honored were Susie Gomes from Artesia, Rita Lara from Bellflower, Katherine Chu from Cerritos, Dr. Mary Stauffer from Downey, Eileen Sandoval from Norwalk and April Saucedo Hood from Pico Rivera.
Congresswoman Linda Sanchez (CA-38), whose district includes Montebello and some neighboring cities, was the celebration’s keynote speaker. She spoke about how women are the glue that keeps many communities together.
“Day in and day out, so many woman contribute to their communities and often times their work goes unnoticed, so it’s nice that they’re being recognized recognized for their hard work.”