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 A Red Carpet Affair Honoring Women in Prevention

​​​Hollywood-style Celebration and Awards for Unsung Heroes 

Women in Prevention award winners

Prevention practitioners are often the unsung heroes that come to the rescue of so many youth in need. On June 26 the "Honoring Women in Prevention Celebration" brought together over 120 remarkable women in the field of prevention. The event recognized these local women for their work and efforts in local schools and communities. Celebration participants included counselors, mental health workers, school resource officers and community based organization representatives.

"We coordinate this event to acknowledge the critical work of our community and school partners in prevention efforts," said Gabriela G. Baeza, San Diego County Office of Education project specialist and event coordinator. "The women we are honoring today exemplify the importance of prevention and motivate others to continue to support and advocate for youth."

The highlight of the Hollywood-themed event was the recognition of three inspiring women in prevention. Marla Cooper was honored with the Eternal Flame Award. The award is presented to a San Diego County professional who has worked in the prevention field for at least 15 years and personifies the development and delivery of quality services with integrity, dedication, and excellence. Marla has been a social worker for over 26 years and has been with the San Diego Adolescent Pregnancy and Parenting Program for the last 16 years. She has helped countless students overcome the challenges they face on a daily basis.

Officer Carla Kuamoo (known as Officer K) was presented with the World of Difference Award. The award goes to a San Diego County female community member or paraprofessional who exemplifies diversity, demonstrates a spirit of service, perseverance, determination, optimism, and hope. Officer K has been with the San Diego Unified School District Police Department since 2005 and established the Students Speaking Out Anti-Bu​llying Club at Monroe Clark Middle School. She sincerely believes that providing a safe place for her students is how she can give back the most to the community. ​

Destiny Villarreal was the recipient of the Shining Star Award. The award is presented to a San Diego County female youth who epitomizes the meaning of resilience, has overcome life's challenges with a positive attitude, and is committed to helping others in their school and community. Destiny entered the foster care system at two years old. Being in-and-out of foster homes and having to raise her younger brother prompted Destiny to make some wrong choices. While struggling with a drug addiction, she became pregnant. The birth of her son helped Destiny begin a path of sobriety, motherhood, and academic success. She is now senior at Rancho Buena Vista High School where she is a peer leader and is the vice president of the Natural High Club.

The day's luncheon also featured an inspirational keynote address from Carissa Phelps, founder of Runaway Girl and youth advocate, resource booths, and networking opportunities for women in the prevention field.