The HOPE Latina Advocate Awards

HOPE, in partnership with leading California legislators, annually recognizes a select group of Latinas making significant contributions to their communities through the HOPE Latina Advocate Award. These Advocates are being honored for their outstanding leadership and the positive longstanding impact they have made in their communities.

The Latina Advocates will be recognized during a special reception at HOPE’s 25th Annual Latina Action Day held in Sacramento on May 22, 2019.  Join us in celebration of these stellar advocates and their nominators!

The advice I have to young people I mentor is the same I've lived: Strive to learn.  I learned new technology used for my business, new programs, took seminars, business courses, and networked. And did so while raising three young children, Ariana, Christopher, and Bianca.

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Leia Fletes

District Director 

Office of Assemblymember Blanca E. Rubio

Selected by

Assemblymember Blanca Rubio

Leia Fletes helps effect change for thousands in the San Gabriel Valley, and inspires other Latina women who see her as an example of how to successfully navigate social and cultural hardships.


Leia can often be found garnering support for important public policies, or paving the way for Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio to connect with constituents. Her job, though deeply satisfying, feels more to her like a privilege than a cause for commendation.


Today, she dedicates herself to discovering and discerning people’s struggles so she can help implement programs and acquire resources to assist them. She focuses especially on children, understanding that reaching them means reaching the whole family. Leia works with programs that teach kids important life skills like financial literacy in an effort to break the cycle of poverty.


Leia’s down-to-earth leadership emanates from a life immersed in challenges and triumphs. As a single mother 20 years ago, Leia struggled to make ends meet while putting herself through college. Leia credits her parents, who modeled strength and courage, as well as her husband and son, who provide unconditional love and support as she works with passion and persistence to help others learn from her adversities and achievements.

Be an Esther, bold and courageous enough to stand for truth, to voice your opinion and fight for the good of others.

Valerie  Flores


CityReach Whittier

Selected by

Assemblymember Cristina Garcia

Valerie Flores has been dedicated to serving her community from a young age. She has volunteered hundreds of community service hours as an explorer for the Montebello Unified School District Police Department and through service opportunities focusing on reaching young people in her community, including reading to young children, drug use prevention education, and personal safety workshops. She has volunteered for her high school on security details for events such as “Welcome Back to School,” “Back to School Night,” “National Night Out,” football games, and graduations. Valerie was a founding member of the “All Girl Color Guard” and has performed in various ceremonies. 

Valerie received her Associates of Arts in Criminal Justice from Cerritos College and went on to obtain a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from University of California Merced. Upon graduating, Valerie began her career as a Behavior Technician. She provided direct applied behavior analysis treatment to children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Currently, she is working with her local church community in an effort to provide resources to those less fortunate. She assists in the coordination of local outreach and community conferences, and the opening of the church’s food bank.

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Kristie Hernandez

Director, Program and Operations

UCLA Veterans Affairs Relations

Selected by

Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo

For over 15 years, Kristie Hernandez has led a life in public service with a passion for government relations, legislative affairs, policy advocacy and community engagement. Kristie’s professional experience extends into every level of government - local, state, federal and the executive branch.  She has worked in the classroom with students at the Los Angeles Unified School District; advocated with the national Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund; and represented the first female Senate Majority Leader of the California State Legislature.  On the horizon of national health care reform, she tirelessly advocated for medically underserved communities as the Manager of Legislative and Advocacy Affairs at AltaMed Health Services - the largest federally qualified health center organization in the country.

In 2014, Kristie was appointed by former President Barack Obama to serve at the Department of Defense (DoD) in the Office of Legislative Affairs as a legislative liaison to the United States Congress.  While working at the Pentagon, she advised the Office of the Secretary of Defense and DoD senior leadership on sensitive military personnel and readiness portfolios including: military sexual assault prevention, suicide prevention, diversity management and equal opportunity, military dependent education, DoD and Veteran Affairs collaboration, and the Transition to Veterans Program. Kristie facilitated meetings with DoD and Congress, prepared DoD leadership for Congressional hearings, and communicated closely with the United States Senate and House Armed Services Committees to uphold the department’s legislative and budget priorities.  


In her current capacity as Director of Program and Operations for UCLA’s Veterans Affairs Relations office, Kristie is the liaison for UCLA and the Greater Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Healthcare System (VAGLAHS).  Kristie oversees and promotes the Chancellor’s recent veteran-related initiative, which expands UCLA’s commitment to military veterans and their families with the implementation of three new programs on the VAGLAHS campus – the Veteran Family Wellness Center, UCLA School of Law Veterans Legal Clinic, and the Center of Excellence for Veterans with a focus on homelessness, substance abuse and mental health recovery. 

“We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community. Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sake and for our own”  

- Cesar Chavez 

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Emma Gómez Lechuga

Director of Operations

Latin Business Institute

Selected by

Assemblymember Eloise Gomez Reyes

Emma Gómez   Lechuga was born in Gómez Palacio, Durango, Mexico.  At age five, she emigrated to California from Texas with her parents and 10 siblings.  The family settled in San Bernardino, California.  Ms. Lechuga’s parents encouraged her to pursue educational endeavors and to participate in social justice movements, such as the farmworker’s movement, student rights movement (MECHA), and educational justice and immigrant rights.   

Ms. Lechuga attended San Bernardino Valley College for 2 years and then transferred to Johnston College at the University of Redlands where she graduated in 1974 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Science. She further obtained her Master’s in Education with a focus in Career and Technical Education from California State University, San Bernardino in 2007. It was while at Johnston College at the University of Redlands that Ms. Lechuga developed a penchant for developing institutional systems that would impact social and educational change in vulnerable communities and that would bring forth systemic educational and employment justice to immigrant families, teenagers, single parents, women and the undocumented worker.  Throughout her young adult and adult life she has participated in developing educational and vocational schools that served many impoverished families and helped train them out of poverty. 

Ms. Lechuga semi-retired in 2014 but continues to serve as Latin Business Institute’s Director of Operations,  responsible for program development and operations  and is an Evaluator/Reader for ETS and Measurement Incorporated. Additionally, she formed Achieve Education and Training Institute to specifically develop and source out operable mobile computer labs to community centers, schools and preschools that address the achievement gaps and the digital divide in vulnerable communities. 

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Vianey Lopez

City Councilmember 

City of Oxnard

Selected by

Assemblymember Monique Limon

Vianey Lopez was elected to the Oxnard City Council, District 6 in November 2018 and is currently serving her first term in office. She previously worked for Assemblymember Monique Limón in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties as her district director. Prior to joining Assemblymember Limón, she worked for former Congresswoman Lois Capps.

Her connection to the community began when she attended a summer leadership camp with Future Leaders of America (FLA) the summer before her junior year of high school. Fifteen years later, Vianey serves as treasurer of the board of directors for FLA. Additionally, she is a current board member of the Ventura County Women’s Political Council (VCWPC) where she has previously served as Vice president, Political Action Committee Chair and Treasurer. As an active member of the Ventura County League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), she has supported the organization with communications to members.

She was elected to the Hueneme Elementary School District Board in 2012, and served for two terms. As a school board member she has advocated for increased parent involvement, the dual language immersion program, and supported the work of teachers and staff to move education and the district forward. 

I am motivated by my vision to provide financial fluency and independence to marginalized groups within the community in the hopes of cultivating talent, leadership and empowerment.

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Patty Palacios

Sr. Associate - Latino Market Manager

New York Life

Selected by

Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman

Patty Palacios’ family immigrated to Stockton in 1970 from Mexico, she grew up in Stockton, graduated from Franklin High School, and went on to graduate from MTI Business College. As a first generation Mexican-American, Patty soon found herself becoming the family translator and financial professional at the age of 12.  This experience gave her the passion to become a resource not only for her family, but gave her a great sense of responsibility to help others in her community.  For the last thirty years, Patty has ambitiously participated in the growth and expansion of the Latino community in Stockton. 

Patty Palacios is well known in the Stockton region for her ambitious contributions to promoting self-empowerment and a sense of community. As Senior Associate and Latino Market Manager for New York Life (NYL) in Stockton, Modesto, Brentwood and Sacramento, her widespread connections with diverse groups and organizations bring people together and promote social welfare and diversity. In her current role at NYL, Patty is motivated by her vision to provide financial fluency and independence to marginalized groups within the community in the hopes of cultivating talent, leadership and empowerment. 

Her ongoing activity and enthusiasm for nurturing Latino excellence is visible in the Stockton community. Patty was previously the President of the Latino Business Professional, a non-profit organization, and currently serves as a supportive and contributive executive board member. She currently sits on the executive committee of the San Joaquin Hispanic Chamber and has previously served as a board member.  

The arts and the recovery of ancestral knowledge are necessary to reconnect people to their natural creative capacities as artists and thinkers. Working together, our combined gifts can help realign our world to its most caring transformative possibilities.

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Trini Tlazohteotl Rodriguez

Co-Founder & Board Member, Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural & Bookstore   Producer, "The Hummingbird Cricket Hour" Podcast

Selected by

Assemblymember Luz Rivas

Trini Tlazohteotl Rodriguez is co-founder of Tia Chucha’s, a cultural center and bookstore that transforms community through ancestral knowledge, the arts, literacy and creative engagement. Now a Board Member, she served as Executive Director for seventeen years. A graduate of CSU, Northridge, she has experience as an educator, editor, writer, interpreter, business manager, and mentor. Adopted by a Navajo Nation Dine family, Trini conducts women’s sweat lodge ceremonies and healing circles for personal and collective wellness.


Active all her life, she writes, speaks and strives to impact systemic social change so that we may fully express our authentic selves and live the lives we were born to lead. She and husband Luis J Rodriguez  produce “The Hummingbird Cricket Hour” podcast. Awards include: 2003 Local Hero of the Year, Hispanic Heritage Month KCET/Union Bank of CA; 2010 Mujeres Destacadas, Arte y Cultura Award, La Opinion;  2014 Mujeres de Corazon, Comision Femenil/San Fernando Valley; 2016 Community Hero Award, Los Angeles Dodgers; 2017 Maestro Award, Latino Arts Network; 2018 Outstanding Achievement Award, Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore.

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Cruz Baca Sembello

President, Baldwin Park Woman's Club    

Member, LA Voice St. John the Baptist Catholic Church

Selected by

Senator Susan Rubio

Cruz Baca was elected to the Baldwin Park City Council in 2013 and served on the dais for five distinguished years. During her tenure, she was able to implement key programs that improved the lives of city residents. Cruz saved Baldwin Park over $1 million dollars by promoting government efficiency. She fought to continue Senior programs at the adult school, and introduced “class pass” so that students and seniors can ride the bus line for free. As a member of the Council of Government’s Ad Hoc Homeless Committee, Cruz helped pave the plan for what is now Measure H. 

Prior to her involvement in government, Cruz was in the Entertainment Industry for over 40 years and owned and ran her own recording studio. During her career, she managed over 100 employees and worked with some of the brightest stars of the day, earning her a Grammy Award and a nomination for an Academy Award.

Cruz attended Rio Hondo College and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from California State University, Long Beach. She holds a Master’s Certification in the Business of Music Law from the University of California, Los Angeles.


She is serving her second term as President of the Baldwin Park Woman’s Club where she is Chair of  Music scholarships for Students graduating from local high schools, as well as, working with Veteran’s and victims of Domestic Violence.