Youth Alliance honors Hollister locals

Changemaker celebration is on Saturday

GOOD WORKS Youth Alliance will honor three change makers at its annual gala at Gilroy Gardens on Saturday. The fundraising event supports programming in San Benito and Santa Clara Counties.

Retired San Benito County Judge Tom Breen and San Benito High School student Belen Andrade will be honored at Saturday’s Youth Alliance Change Maker gala in Gilroy.

“One of the goals of our annual event is to highlight members of the community who would normally not be recognized,” said Jose Cuellar, director of operations at Youth Alliance. “We want them to be encouraged to continue the work they do and be the people they are.”

The gala at Gilroy Gardens will include dinner, dancing, live and silent auction, a cocktail reception and live music from The Funky Sound Experiment.

“[Youth Alliance] is pleased to have Tom accept the award as the 2017 Change Maker,” Executive Director Diane Ortiz said. “His years of humble and selfless service to our community are an inspiration to many.”

Judge Breen was appointed to the San Benito County Superior Court in 1980 and served until he retired in 2000. He served on the Youth Alliance Board of Directors for more than 20 years, the Gavilan College Board of Trustees for 16 years and the boards of the San Benito Arts Council and the Hollister Downtown Association.

San Benito High School student Belen Andrade will be given the 2017 Youth Inspiration Award for her volunteer work with Youth Alliance’s Health Squad Diabetes Prevention Program, Kids at the Park and community events. She’s been involved with the Youth Alliance since 7th grade.

“Belen is a very nice girl, always willing to help out in any way she can,” Neighborhood Coordinator Dolores Villalon said.

Andrade has helped Villalon with various programming, including spring cleanups in the community and the diabetes prevention program where she helped organize youth activities and field trips.

“Not only is she a great volunteer in the community through our program, she is also doing something on her own and tutors a little boy,” Villalon said. “She is a great student and has a lot of dreams. She would love to make changes to things she doesn’t agree on, but wants to get her education first.”

Andrade is also a great role model to her younger sister, said Villalon.

“She’s a great motivation for her and always makes sure she does her homework.”

Money raised at the event will go to support Youth Alliance programs such as the Familia program, which works with teen moms and dads to give them coping mechanisms to help them adjust to their new reality, said Cuellar, and the Joven Noble program that encourages and teaches youth to make beneficial life choices.

“Our youth inspiration award last year was given to a participant in this program,” Cuellar said. “He was at the end of his rope when he joined the group and turned everything around. He has since graduated high school and is now enrolled in Gavilan.”

The Youth Alliance was founded in 1995 as a grassroots movement that worked to provide resources for local youth. Since it’s formation, the group has grown to serve over 6,500 children and families annually in the underserved areas of San Benito County and Santa Clara County.

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