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 SDCOE Employees Finalists for Latino Champions Award

Two San Diego County Office of Education employees are finalists for U-T San Diego's Latino Champions Awards.

Anthony Ceja, student support services coordinator, and Gabriela Beas, migrant services aide, are both finalists in the Civic Leader of the Year category.

A Latino Champion is someone who has taken an active role in the community and has made an impact on the cultural life of the community through his or her involvement. The awards recognize individuals, businesses and volunteers in San Diego County and the border region.

The winners will be announced April 2 at a ceremony at Loews Coronado Bay Resort.

Beas works with migrant families to ensure that they get the services and education that they need.

"I'm flattered by this opportunity to represent our Latino community," she said. "I have always tried to have my work speak for itself, and I have always put my heart into my work."

Beas said she was proud to share the honor with her coworkers and community collaborators.

Ceja said he was surprised and honored to be nominated. He grew up in an area that was predominantly Latino and is proud to serve students in similar areas, he said.

"Growing up in a heavy Latino area, it was a goal as I became an adult to give back to the community after I got my education," he said. "My way of giving back is the job that I'm doing now. It helps me feel like I'm using the education and the skills that I developed in order to help the kids in similar situations."

Ceja helps oversee several programs operated by the San Diego County Office of Education, including PASS AmeriCorps, Project AWARE, and Mano a Mano.

PASS AmeriCorps volunteers work to help keep kids in school and out of gangs with one-on-one and small group mentoring, tutoring, as well as involving students in community service projects.

Project AWARE focuses on social development, problem solving, and emotional literacy skills as ways to help students avoid violent behaviors.

Mano a Mano focuses on Spanish-speaking parents, helping them find ways to get more involved with school, talk to their children about drugs and alcohol, and learn important parenting skills.