58th Assembly District recognizes local women for community service

Amna Jara, representing the City of Norwalk, was one of the 58th Assembly Districts 2014 Distinguished Women of the Year, honored for dedicating themselves to being of service to their communities. Assemblymember Cristina Garcia presented A.J. with the crystal award her service to the community and her commitment to Cerritos College. Valerie Flores, representing the City of Bell Gardens, is a student at Cerritos College, a criminal justice major, was also honored by Assemblymember Garcia. Photo credit: Joe Zermeno

Joe Zermeno/Talon Marks

Amna Jara, representing the City of Norwalk, was one of the 58th Assembly District’s 2014 Distinguished Women of the Year, honored for dedicating themselves to being of service to their communities. Assemblymember Cristina Garcia presented “A.J.” with the crystal award her service to the community and her commitment to Cerritos College. Valerie Flores, representing the City of Bell Gardens, is a student at Cerritos College, a criminal justice major, was also honored by Assemblymember Garcia. Photo credit: Joe Zermeno

Assembly member Cristina Garcia honored two Cerritos College women on Friday, April 3 and recognized them for their advocacy, leadership and service to the communities they serve.

Amna “AJ” Jara, student activities coordinator, was recognized for her service by the City of Norwalk and Valerie Flores, criminal justice major, for her service to the City of Bell Gardens. Each woman was a recipient of the 58th Assembly District’s 2014 Distinguished Women of the Year event held at the Commerce Casino in the City of Commerce.

They were among a group of nine women that were congratulated for their outreach efforts and commitment to improving the lives of community members.

“These women have all dedicated themselves to being of service to their communities. They have responded to the challenges facing some of our most under-served communities,” Assembly member Garcia said.

At a recent Board of Trustees meeting, Board President Carmen Avalos, Trustee Area 2, said of Jara, “We are so pleased she will be (recognized). It’s a tremendous honor for her, as well as for Cerritos College.”

For 10 years, “AJ” has been part of the Falcon team.

“I found my calling when I joined the Cerritos College family as the program facilitator for the Automotive Technology program in 2004,” Jara said.

She established partnerships with local school districts, ROPs and Northwood University.

Jara said, “I am truly overwhelmed by this award and thank the Board of Trustees, the administration, faculty, staff and last, but not least, the students that make this place such a great second home for me.”

Jara is a from Karachi, Pakistan. She moved to California to pursue her education in 1990 at the age of 14. She graduated from Mission Viejo High School and Saddleback College.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems from DeVry, and a master’s degree in Occupational Studies with an emphasis in Counseling from California State University at Long Beach in 2008.

She was recognized as the Cerritos Outstanding Classified Employee of the year for 2006-2007 prior to her master’s and was promoted to Student Activities Coordinator in 2010. The students honored Jara with the Outstanding Advisor Award at their Spring banquet.

She recently served as the Acting Dean of Student Services, and is a graduate of Falcon Leadership Academy and co-founder of SafeZone, a program that addresses issues of importance and safety to the LGBTQ community through education and advocacy.

Assembly member Garcia said “Jara’s contributions distinguish her as a professional who values diversity and promotes student success. She is an asset to the community.”

“It is an honor to be part of such an amazing community (at Cerritos College). I am so fortunate to have spent the past decade with the Cerritos family,” Jara stated.

Flores is the second Cerritos College person praised.

She is in her second semester at Cerritos as a criminal justice major with a minor in linguistics.

“The City of Bell Gardens has a special place in my heart,” Assembly member Garcia said, “it’s a place I was raised and I’m proud to present this (award) to Valerie.”

“I was excited and nervous when I found out about the award. I didn’t know what to expect,” Flores said. “After I received the call, I quickly sent my mom a text and one to Mrs. Anda.”

Mrs. Anda is the adviser for the Montebello Unified School District Explorer Program.

“She is the reason I have come so far; without all of her hard work, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Flores shared.

After completing the Academy, I realized that law enforcement is the career I ultimately want to pursue,” Flores said.

Flores is a founding member of the “All Girl Color Guard” and has performed in various ceremonies.

Flores volunteered over 210 hours of community service by reading to kids, teaching them to say no to drugs, “Say No to Strangers.” She was an active participant in the 2011 Montebello Unified School District Police Department’s “Kids Health and Safety Fair” in which 300 children and parents attended.

She has taught kids to dial 9-1-1 and helped with security details such as “Welcome Back to School,” “Back to School Night,” “National Night Out,” football games and graduations. Most recently, Flores helped at the Heart of Compassion Food and Toy Giveaway.

“After finishing school I plan on attending the Sheriff’s Academy, working for the jail system. I want to work for Alcohol Beverage Control, ABC and finally become a narcotics detective,” Flores said.