Seven Santa Barbara County residents who made a difference in the fields of education, health care, business and nonprofit services were honored for their leadership and community service over the past year during the sixth annual Latino Legacy Awards on Thursday. 

The event is held to recognize the accomplishments and contributions of the Latino community, allowing the public to nominate individuals they believe deserve recognition in youth leader, parent leader, business, education, nonprofit and health care categories, as well as an additional COVID-19 first responder category added this year.

Since the 2020 Latino Legacy Award ceremony was cut short due to COVID-19, the 2020 honorees were recognized along with this year's group during the virtual event.

Among the 2021 winners was Pioneer Valley High School senior Stevie Alberto, who received the Youth Leader Award for their work as president of the school's Gender and Sexualities Alliance. 

"I am honored to be here and to be a recipient," Alberto said. "It’s a really important club that gives visibility to LGBTQ+ students on campus." 

Bree Valla, deputy superintendent for the Lompoc Unified School District, was honored for her leadership over the past year of COVID-19, which included going above and beyond to ensure individual families had access to quality food and COVID-19 vaccine appointments. 

"Collectively, we’ve been able to put students at the forefront of what we do, and we got creative about ways in which to serve our community," Valla said. "I thank you very much for recognizing me, and I wouldn't be here without the entire team that helped and came together as a community in Lompoc to make sure our children and families had what they needed. 

Locally elected leaders including Sen. Monique Limón and Rep. Salud Carbajal also came out to honor the nominees and their accomplishments despite the challenges of the past year.

"I want to recognize everyone for making it this far, for getting through an unprecedented year with unprecedented challenges, but also to thank all of those who have been involved with COVID relief and response," Limón said.

Santa Maria-based trilingual medical interpreting organization Herencia Indigena received the Health Care Award for its efforts to expand health-care access to Mixtec community members with partners like Dignity Health and the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department.

The first-ever COVID-19 First Responder Award was given to Liliana Encinas, bilingual outreach coordinator for the Santa Barbara Office of Emergency Services.

Throughout the virtual event, Future Leaders of America members urged residents to help them reach their fundraising goal of $10,000 to go toward events like FLA's youth leadership conference, which provides valuable skills to Latino youth in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. 

A video of the Thursday event can be viewed on the FLA Facebook page at