This month we recognize women across our county, who make a difference in our community. This month we have a woman who works for the Santa Cruz County Superintendent's Office. A woman who works directly in public service. It is our honor to feature Patricia Barraza in our issue this month.
She is a woman who “echoes” in the field of education. She will be celebrating 10 years with the SCC School Superintendent’s Office. Border Eco is proud to feature this month Patricia Barraza. She was born and raised in Nogales Arizona. She graduated from Nogales High School and attended the University of Arizona for one year.
Patricia worked in the produce industry for two years, got licensed in real estate for the State of Arizona and married her late husband Manuel (Guerro) Barraza that same year. Together they brought up three children Giovana, Andres and Paloma. She moved to Hermosillo, San Diego and then moved back home to Nogales in 2011 after becoming an empty nester.
After moving to Nogales in 2011, she met her present husband, Luis Preciado, a man who shares the same enthusiasm as she does for serving his community and an artist. He is well known for his remarkable talent.Patricia Barraza is known as “Nana Pooh” to her four beautiful granddaughters and “hopefully more” in the future. She is the proud daughter of the late Ignacio (Nachito) Acuna and Anna Acuna. Her mom was very much involved with the community and dedicated to helping the less fortunate. She learned from her mother the importance of volunteering, getting involved in politics, and serving the community you live in. Her mother retired as one of the most beloved children librarians and still misses her story hours.
Barraza is a fiscal agent for the school districts. She is responsible for two districts and performs those fiscal duties. She processes payrolls, expenses, reconciliations, journal entries, deposits of warrant vouchers and keeps the homeschooled student records for the superintendents’ office. She also has the tasks of organizing several events during the year.
Patricia organizes the Annual Santa Cruz County Teacher of the Year Awards and Dinner event. It takes seven months to plan it from day one to the day of the event. She first starts with the Kick-off Breakfast, which is mostly a notice to sponsors, donors and school administrators they are starting with the process of honoring our educators. Barraza is also responsible for seeking out sponsors and donors for the event.
“These wonderful folks make it possible to be able to provide prizes, trophies, cash rewards and a wonderful reception for our nominees. I am also in charge of hosting the day in, which we select our Teacher of the Year. It’s a tedious challenging event and definitely one of the largest ones in the County but it’s so rewarding to see how happy our incredible educators are at the end of the night,” said Barraza.
Barraza also organizes the Read across America Annual event, which entails inviting over 70 to 90 volunteers to visit every public, private and charter elementary classroom in the county and read a story to them. “The importance of student and adult interaction during these reading sessions is incredible to see. This year was a little tricky to coordinate because of Covid, we had to conduct the readings to the classrooms virtually. It was so nice to see that even though we were faced with a pandemic and challenges, we still had over 75 volunteers for our event and the students were so pleased to have the guests in their virtual classrooms.”
Another event Patricia organizes is the Santa Cruz County Fair Student Art presentation. “Every year, we meet with the folks in charge of organizing the Santa Cruz County Fair and I am given one of the largest halls to be able to feature the artwork from our county students. All schools in the county are given the fair’s theme and they in turn produce the most fascinating works of art. It takes four days to clean up, set up, judge, and reward the students.
“For this event, we invite between 25 and 35 judges from different areas of our county and ask them to come and spend the morning out in Sonoita and judge the student’s artwork. On the last weekday of the fair, the SCC School Superintendent Alfredo I. Velasquez provides transportation to the fair to students. The students spend the morning with the animals and visit the different halls and exhibitions. It is a pleasure to witness the joy they experience when they see the ribbons on their artwork and get to spend a day at the fair. It is so rewarding our hard work has truly paid off.”
The last major event that she organizes is the Annual Student Council Field trip. The student council members from every elementary public, private and charter school are invited to meet elected officials. Students interview each of the elected officials, they ask them about their duties, how elections function, and what inspired them to run for office. They are then provided a tour of the county offices and get to see how each office operates. Student council members get to enjoy luncheon with county elected officials.
“My position as an accounting specialist has two roles. The first is the everyday fiscal operations of our office with the different school districts in Santa Cruz County. Though it is challenging, it is the second part of my position that I enjoy the most. I am fortunate enough to be able to step out of the fiscal capacity of the position and interact with the community, schools, and students. In a way, each of us in the office at some point during the year, get to network with the community,” said Patricia.
This month we recognize women across our county, who make a difference in our community. This month we have two women working in public service who directly work the front-lines. It is our honor to have them featured in our issue this month.
Making a difference in public service
This month Border Eco is pleased to introduce two women who have made a difference in our community. Their work at the community foodbank has made a difference for many families. The pandemic affected many families, which increased the number of people needing assistance. Monica Gonzalez and Griselda Navarro both work in the Nogales Resource Center with clients and volunteers.
Monica Gonzalez is the Client & Volunteer Services Co-Manager of Nogales Resource Center
She is originally from a small town in Orosi, California known primarily for agriculture. She moved to Nogales, Arizona in 1996. Monica has a 24 year-old daughter, 11 year-old son, and 4 year-old grandson.
Ms. Gonzalez began working as a client services assistant in 2015. In 2019, she was transferred as client services/volunteer coordinator. Recently, she was promoted to client services/volunteer services manager, co-manager of Nogales Resource Center. Her accomplishments are developing connections with agencies to provide services to Santa Cruz County residents, assisting in developing online registration through “get connected” to volunteer, while helping in developing the community garden.
“We are able to provide healthy foods to families the same day they apply, all services are free. We also provide services in case of an emergency situation. We also offer SNAP assistance. I think it is important to help our neighbors in need and to give back to the community you live in is very fulfilling,” said Gonzalez.
Since COVID-19 the community food bank has become a low-touch distribution center relying on help from the National Guard Service and just a few volunteers. Clients are not allowed to come into the building and they can renew their applications by phone. SNAP applications are by appointment only or via phone. Staff and volunteers are required to have daily temperature check-ins.
“Our future plans are to bring in more programs and resources to our clients at a one-stop shop at our Nogales Resource Center. The goal is to help build and maintain a community garden going by empowering our garden leaders. We also hope to grow our volunteer base as soon as it is safe. We are extremely grateful for the support we received from the National Guard Service, local produce warehouses who donate produce, donors who donate monetary donations, and our co-workers who help in the warehouse and office to keep our operation going during the pandemic,” said Gonzalez.
Griselda Navarro is the Nogales Resource Center Co-Manager. She started as a volunteer at the community food bank 4 years ago. Griselda started as a volunteer working for the Kids Farmer's Market where they took vegetables to the schools. She was later hired as a full-time employee working in the warehouse responsible for sending and receiving products. She was later promoted to work as a logistics manager and is now a co-Manager of Nogales Community Food Bank. Griselda is originally from Nogales, Sonora Mexico. She is married and mother of 4 children, as well as the proud grandmother of a little girl.
“I am really happy working as a co-manager and having the opportunity to work in this position. I enjoy helping people and working with the food bank. Senior citizens have been impacted the most, since the pandemic began as the Nogales Rides stopped transporting them. Seniors have been left without a ride to pick up their food, as most of the seniors relied on Nogales Rides to pick up their food here at the Community Food Bank Nogales Resource Center. Some senior citizens are still scared of the virus since they are the most vulnerable population but as an organization we have worked very hard to follow all COVID-19 standards as CDC has recommended,” said Navarro.
This month we recognize women across our county, who make a difference in our community. Jennifer St.John is the first female County Manager in Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz County was formed in 1899. For several decades, it has provided an array of services and functions across the county. Santa Cruz County employs approximately 400 individuals.
Jennifer St. John started working with the county in August 2000 as a Finance Director. In 2002, she was promoted to the Administrative Services Director. She was responsible for overseeing several departments that include: the finance department, information technology, the geographic information system, emergency management, building grounds & maintenance, and parks. In September 2015, she was promoted to Deputy County Manager and then on February 29, 2016, promoted to County Manager. Jennifer obtained her accounting degree at ASU in May 1994. She worked for the Auditor General’s Office, State of Arizona before moving to Santa Cruz County. St. John was born in Douglas, Georgia but was raised in Memphis, Arkansas, Tennessee and Germantown, Maryland. She has lived in Santa Cruz County since August of 2000.
“Our community has molded me into the person I am today. I am so proud of our community and our county. COVID-19 has been a struggle throughout the world but our community has come together to help each other during this pandemic. The partnerships it has taken to put on the testing blitz and now the vaccination clinics have been tremendous but everyone has jumped in and helped, going above and beyond to save lives,”said Jennifer.
Jeniffer’s accomplishments include the construction of the $56 million dollar Adult and Juvenile Detention Center as well as the new court building while serving her role as Administrative Services Director. Her recent accomplishments while serving in her current role as county manager are the county entering into joint agreements with the Town of Patagonia, NUSD, and District #35 to share resources.
She recently helped to coordinate an intergovernmental agreement with Cochise County to house their juveniles detainees, while saving each county approximately $650,000 annually. Ms. St. John has successfully run testing sites in Nogales, Rio Rico, and Patagonia to test residents for COVID-19.
“Santa Cruz County has recently partnered with Mariposa Community Health Center as well as the City of Nogales, District #35 and NUSD to provide vaccination “clinics” in Nogales for our residents. We plan to offer the clinics in other areas of the county once we have a larger allotment of vaccines.”
“There are so many people and organizations to thank. I’d like to start first with the community and residents. I came here when I was 28 and didn’t know many people but the community and my County co-workers welcomed me. Throughout my career, I have made friends and established relationships. The County Elected Officials and Department Heads continue to support me and because of that, I think we have been able to provide more services for our residents given our limited resources. All of my County co-workers, they are dedicated to public service and do an amazing job for the community. My counterparts at the City of Nogales, Town of Patagonia, the School Districts throughout the County, my fellow County Managers throughout the State of Arizona all have been part of my success. I also want to thank the County Board of Supervisors for giving me the opportunity and privilege to serve as the County Manager for Santa Cruz County. I work every day for what I feel is in the best interest of the community and I strive to make a positive difference to the County and residents every day,” replied Jeniffer St. John.
This month we recognize those women across our county, who make a difference in our community. Judith Mendoza Student Service Director for Nogales Unified School District. Judith is a woman who is making a difference in our schools and students. Ms. Mendoza taught Special Education for 9 years at Nogales High School 2000-2009, she was assistant principal at NHS for a year and a half 2009-2011. She served as a principal at NHS for four years and a half (2011-2015) before she transitioned into her current position. She is going into her sixth year as Student Service Director.
During her tenure as Student Service Director, she has been able to update technology for all students receiving Special Education. Mendoza has been able to purchase two vans and one SUV to provide transportation services for students with severe disabilities, working to transition into adulthood. She helped to establish partnerships with the Santa Cruz Training Program and other organizations within the community. We have been able to provide a uniform to each of our student-athletes participating in Special Olympics, representing NUSD.
Ms. Mendoza said, “I have been able to allocate funds for classroom supplies, software and professional development for all staff working with our students. In the area of registration, we have been able to successfully provide all services online. Parents can now register online, process change of address, and fill out a new open enrollment form from the convenience of their homes.”
“COVID-19 has definitely changed all of our lives and the way schools operate. I believe that COVID-19 has also taught us a lot of valuable lessons. School districts were forced to be more creative and find ways to be able to provide services. Our community has been very supportive of our efforts throughout the pandemic, one thing that I would ask the community is to wear a mask and help stop the spread of the virus.”
Voters approved Proposition 208 last November, 2020 during the General Election. This proposition will definitely benefit our schools as the money must be used to hire and increase the base compensation for teachers, support personnel, support services and for mentoring and retention programs. Allowing for additional compensation will attract qualified employees and it will help retain the ones we have. The proposition is currently being challenged by two separate lawsuits challenging the validity of the surtax, which claims that the surtax is a new tax requiring supermajority approval by the state legislature. We will not know how much revenue Proposition 208 will bring or the fiscal impact it will have until the courts sort out the challenges.
“My goal is to attract and retain the most qualified special education teachers and staff as well as be able to provide the most current professional development. It is my goal to be able to provide the best special education services and resources to our students. I’m a firm believer that we can all be the change in our students' lives. Teachers and paraprofessionals have the power to make a difference in our students' lives. If they come to work and treat each student with compassion, love and care—they will be that positive influence in their lives. On the other hand, if students come to school ready to learn and put all their efforts into their studies, they will help create the optimal learning environment,”said Mendoza.
“I’m a proud product of NUSD, I graduated from NHS and it was NHS the one who offered me my first teaching job. I made my career with NUSD and the district has been very generous, by allowing me to further my education by taking advantage of all the professional development NUSD has to offer. I am grateful to NUSD for the opportunity to learn and grow—to all the students, teachers and administrators who have shaped me throughout the years. Special thanks to Dr. Varona for giving me my first teaching job, Mr. Valenzuela for allowing me to be his intern and finally Mr. Parra for trusting me as his assistant principal and all the opportunities he has given me throughout the years.”
My parents and my siblings have been my greatest inspiration. My parents have helped me identify my strengths and have helped me live my life through their teachings. My siblings have always encouraged me and supported me every step of the way. They keep me grounded and always can provide a word of advice or encouragement.
Border Eco recognizes women across Santa Cruz County who make a difference in our community. We are honored to feature Dina Rojas-Sanchez from the Carondelet Holy Cross Hospital as one of those women who has made a difference in our community. She was born in Nogales, Sonora and raised in Nogales, Arizona.
Holy Cross Hospital provides general medical/surgical services, 24-hour emergency care, rehabilitation, diabetes care and community education services, birthing services, mammography and ultrasound. Holy Cross also offers advanced technology such as teleradiology and lithotripsy programs. Holy Cross Hospital also focuses on offering community education and outreach on key health issues including prenatal care, obesity, diabetes, well-child visits and preventive care. Holy Cross is involved in many special events yearly such as toy drives, food drives, educational classes, health fairs and career fairs to further assist families in our community.
“There has been tremendous teamwork and compassion from hospital staff, physicians and board members, who are offering all of their support during this pandemic. We are all in this together to protect the health of our community. As a rural safety net provider, Carondelet Holy Cross Hospital collaborates with community partners like Mariposa Community Health Center and works with emergency medical services to provide care for residents of the Santa Cruz County area,” stated Dina Rojas-Sanchez.
Dina Rojas-Sanchez is the Administrative Director of Support Services for Holy Cross Hospital in Nogales. She joined Holy Cross in April 1994. She has served in many capacities for the past 26 years leading the various departments of strategic planning, community relations, media relations and marketing. She has served as the lead of all ancillary departments overseeing the operations of facilities, environmental services, dietary services, business office, security and biomedical. Dina holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications from the University of Arizona and a Master’s degree in Multicultural Education from Northern Arizona University.
“I provide the staff with a link in the community that in turns provides them resources that further enhance their day-to-day job responsibilities or furthermore provides them assistance on a personal level as needed. It is gratifying to know that you come to work every day knowing that you need to positively impact people in your community in some way every single day. I have a passion to make a difference and am committed daily to help others enhance their lifestyle and overall health wellbeing,” said Administrative Director of Support Services- Dina Rojas-Sanchez.
Carondelet Holy Cross Hospital was recognized for its quality of patient and nurse communication and patient safety in the surveys conducted by the Center of Medicare and Medicaid Services and Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, divisions of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Carondelet Holy Cross Hospital received Critical Access Hospital recognition certification in 2017 from the National Rural Health Resource Center, recognizing its work with the Community Healthcare Integrated Paramedicine Program. It is also certified as a Critical Access facility by The Joint Commission.
“I have been inspired for many years by my parents. They are compassionate individuals who have given me the resources to continue my educational path through the years and they have instilled the importance of giving unselfishly. They provide mental support during difficult or stressful times all while realizing that we must always help those around us. They motivate me daily to always reach for a higher goal and remind me to never give up. They have pushed me and have instilled family values that I live by daily. Work hard, provide assistance to others, teach your children manners, make a difference in people’s lives regardless how big or small it may be and always have faith,” said Mrs. Rojas-Sanchez .
Border Eco recognizes women across Santa Cruz County who make a difference in our community. We are honored to feature Patty Molina as one of those women who has made a difference in our community. Patty Molina is the Senior Director of Community Health Services at Mariposa Community Health Center in Nogales, Arizona known to the community as Platicamos Salud (We Talk Health).
Platicamos Salud was founded in 1991 and has a well-established Promotora-based (Community Health Worker) delivery model with 34 employees who implement a spectrum of health promotion and disease prevention programs based on model programs and best practices adapted to the Spanish-speaking, Mexican American and Mexican immigrant community that is serves under the supervision of management staff with training in nutrition, social work, medicine and public health.
Platicamos Salud is an important extension of Mariposa’s clinical services, connecting referred patients to additional education, support and follow-up that is culturally competent and language appropriate. Offering a variety of ongoing health education classes for all community members in locations easily accessible. Platicamos Salud also provides a critical link to the community via its community-based services that partner with other health and social services to serve families and create systems change.
Molina began her employment at Mariposa in 2004 assisting the Director of Platicamos Salud at that time, Jo Jean Elenes. It was within 8 months of her employment, she was promoted to Prevention Manager. During her employment with Mariposa, and prior public health experience working with the Border Health Foundation, she developed and managed federal, state and foundation funded community-based programs at the US-Mexico border.
Patty manages 34 staff members at the Mariposa Community Health Services. At the two story Sierra building, they have the Health & Social Services staff under the management leadership of Yara Castro. Castro primarily manages the women's programs such as the Well Woman Health Check, Maternal & Child Health and Patient Advocacy.
At the Community Health Services and Independent Medical Specialists Downtown facility is a co-shared space with Nogales Community Development. It is Community Linkages, under the management leadership of Cassalyn David. David manages the weekly Farmer’s market, Personal Responsibility Education program (Teen Pregnancy Prevention and HIV/STD Education) and the Adolescent Wellness Network program. Health Promotion is under the management of Rosie Piper with the primary focus being health promotion. Prevention is under the management of Lizzie Garcia which focuses on chronic disease prevention programs, tobacco cessation, and youth services.
She has implemented numerous health education programs on breast cancer, diabetes, physical activity and nutrition, HIV/AIDS, tobacco use prevention, asthma, environmental health and maternal child health. Molina designed education and training materials on public and preventative health issues, while establishing numerous community-based projects.
Mrs. Molina facilitated the development of project organizational structure and leadership. She facilitated group processes among community members to help identify needs, gaps in service, existing resources and response strategies. She also served as the lead in various research projects at Mariposa Community Health Center.
Mariposa Community Health Center has a unique Community Health Services Department that provides health promotion and disease prevention services, as well as most public health services provided by a county health department. This department is rooted in the Community Health Worker model. “We recently acquired the Carondelet Medical Group behind Holy Cross Hospital and are now providing the same services out of this facility renamed Mariposa Nogales West,” said Molina.
An initiative she is currently working is helping to manage the pandemic, while continuing to provide the best care. “Our goal is to keep our patients safe, this continues to be our main priority. We are working closely with our local health department to ensure vaccination to all who wish to receive it while continuing to educate on the importance of keeping themselves safe regardless of having received the vaccine. We continue to encourage people to wear a mask, wash their hands and practice social distance.
“First and foremost, I would like to personally thank my staff in Community Health Services. I would not be the leader I am if it wasn’t for their support and strive to do their best. I couldn’t ask for a better group of individuals especially during trying times such as those we are going through now with the pandemic. I truly admire them for remaining strong and providing. As non-clinical staff at Mariposa, many of my staff were trained to perform necessary duties for the safety of themselves and patients we serve. Our staff is committed to this without hesitation. I am proud and honored to work with each and everyone of them,” stated Molina.
Patty Molina was born and raised in Nogales Arizona. She currently resides in Rio Rico with her husband of almost 25 years and has three daughters, Cristina, Rebecca and Camilla. She has lived in Santa Cruz County for over 50 years. Molina is a graduate of the University of Phoenix where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. She completed a certificate program at the University of Arizona, the Rocky Mountain Maternal and Child Health, including a Nutrition and Public Health Certificate Program from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health.
This month Border Eco features Liza Montiel. It was a year ago, we featured her as she announced her plans to run for office. Mrs. Montiel is another woman who has been making a difference in our community. She was voted into office by the people of Nogales to serve as a council member in August. Montiel was sworn into office by the Honorable Judge Vanessa Cartwright on January 4th.
Liza Montiel was born and raised in Nogales by two hard-working, humble and amazing parents who raised 5 children on minimum wage. Her father died on September 11, 2020. Her father was elated after her victorious campaign last year in August. It was her father who taught her from an early age to never give up, work hard and serving others is a value and obligation. “Nogales has always been my home to me and my family,”said Montiel.
Nogales has shaped the life of so many people that have gone on to do amazing things in life. This community gave us an education, friends and memories that will last a lifetime. I feel an undiminished pride in working together in efficient ways by engaging people especially our youth to help our economy move forward to benefit all people especially the struggling families. The main reason I decided to run for council was because I strongly feel it is my responsibility to help make constructive changes to improve our quality of life in Nogales. I truly believe if every person goes out of their way to put other individuals' needs ahead of their own. Nogales will and can economically grow in a sustainable way for all to benefit and generations to come. An example of collaboration is the sales tax boost S.C.C. received from the construction of the State Route 189 (Mariposa Rd.).
There are so many people with good will in their heart, with energy and perseverance and by bringing people together and matching the talents and knowledge of the right person to the right causes, will benefit our community. I don’t pretend to have all the answers to get our economy moving but I don't know that working and allowing those who do know to work collaboratively and providing the necessary resources to do their job. I care about the future of Nogales and want our community to be a place that drives economic growth creating high wage jobs and facilitating on improved quality of life for all.
Now with the impact of COVID-19, real challenges are among the leaders,which are at the frontline responsible to create more inclusive economically strong communities. As leaders, people are depending on our courage, adaptability and creativity to deliver real and sustainable results. We have a serious responsibility to our community to get this “economic” engine” going and help bring the pieces together.
One of the main concerns voiced by our residents as I walked the neighborhoods while campaigning was to make economic development a serious priority. Residents are focused on lifting people up and achieving real results. They are tired of the empty rhetoric. Residents want and expect their streets and roads to be paved, libraries and parks improved and grow this economy to sustain a strong future for their children and grandchildren.
I’m committed to these issues and those that matter to the residents. Now is the perfect moment, to be productive at the local level and take the necessary “risks” to unleash the creative potential of our residents and leaders. We have to overcome present and past challenges, grab opportunities, be inclusive in building a stronger economy. It’s no secret that a strong economy plays a massive part in any city’s well-being.
While Election Day has come and gone, I am grateful for making their vote count. Including so many other organizations working together to register and encourage citizens to vote. It was a real group effort on everyone's part. One of my personal goals was to involve the young votes and people who were not interested in politics(for an array of reasons) to find it important to vote for their future leaders. It's important for our youth to realize that they have the power in their vote, and voting is a fundamental right that enables them to elect the leaders of tomorrow. More than ever, voting this year with the impact that the Coronavirus had on hundreds of families, voting was crucial and necessary to hold elected officials accountable for results.So, it’s been inspiring to see first hand how encouraging people to vote was very important. I will continue to work hard for the quiet majority.
One of my favorite quotes from one of the young voters in my committee was,” City Hall belongs to the people.” In fact, City Hall should reflect the vibrancy of our residents. Hopefully by involving many young people in my campaign and meeting hundreds of citizens, they will be encouraged to run for public office and/or take a larger role in their community. Nonetheless, I’m so proud of our citizens for taking an active role in the election process. They are my inspiration and motivation to have the courage necessary to remain committed and work relentlessly to get Nogales to flourish after a pandemic. I've learned a lot from the people I spoke to during my campaign, including inspirational leaders that have been a part of my life. They know who they are! If anyone wishes to contact me, please email me at email@example.com
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February Issue pays tribute to all the women in Santa Cruz County who make a difference!