© 2018 by Stanislaus County Commission for Women

2019 Outstanding Women Award Recipients

Lindsey Guinn Bird-Outstanding Woman

Modesto resident Lindsey Bird is an educator with a deep passion to improve the lives of new immigrants. She has been the lead teacher for the Language Institute (LI) at Davis High since it opened in 2009. The LI serves about 300 students representing 30 counties and 16 languages. Lindsey has become the spokesperson for the LI and a strong advocate for these newcomers. Each day she helps the LI students fit into Davis High and helps provide all Davis students with a better understand of the cultures of LI students through music, dance and art. Lindsey is problem solver, whether organizing a bike drive to solve student transportation or arranging student visits to colleges to encourage getting a high school diploma and attending college. Ninety percent of the LI graduates go on to higher education. Lindsey is a go-to person for federal and state officials who need information on the experiences ofimmigrant students.

Karlha D. Davies-Outstanding Woman

Stanislaus County native Karlha D. Davis gives back to her community by volunteering and through her 20 plus year career in public relations and community engagement. A Modesto resident, she was instrumental in the 2012 founding of Murals in Motown, a volunteer-led non-profit highlighting Modesto through its attributes of hometown heroes, agriculture, industry, community, culture, parks and outdoors, and location. The group raises funds to commission murals all around the city. Karlha continues to co-lead the group and looks for other volunteer opportunities that will make Modesto a better place to live. As the child of immigrant farm workers, Karlha understands the barriers that many in our disadvantaged communities face. This has led her serve as a board member for Modesto Neighborhoods Inc., which works to make Modesto better, one neighborhood at a time.  She is president of the Latino Business Association Foundation. Karlha is the marketing and community activity manager for Grimbley Coleman CPAs.

Vielka Solano-Outstanding Woman

Vielka Solano was a young doctor in the Dominican Republic when she immigrated to this country in 1989. In the transition she experienced language barriers, cultural shock and family separation. After moving to Modesto and starting a family, Vielka worked as a medical assistant and then pursued her education at UC Davis to become a physician assistant. For over 20 years, she has worked in the Patterson area for Golden Valley Health Centers. Vielka is also a published poet who freely shares her poetry in many venues. Domestic violence and being the mother of military children are reoccurring themes within her poetry. She is the founder of Noches de Poesia Modesto which takes place monthly to celebrate the Spanish language. Vielka promotes education and mentors women of all ages by volunteering with Mujeres Latinas of Stanislaus and serving on its board. Vielka also uses her vacation time to volunteer with international medical missions.  

Janice Vella-Outstanding Woman

Creating, giving and energizing are the hallmarks of Modesto resident Janice Vella. Since the early 1970s when Janice was a founding member of Tiny Tim (before it became the Children’s Crisis Center), she has led at least 10 agencies and organizations through numerous fundraising events. Over a period of almost 45 years, Janice has been involved with numerous community organizations, including Children’s Crisis Center, March of Dimes, Modesto Garden Club, Salida Rotary, Modesto Gospel Mission and many others. Janice also finds the right volunteers to make an event a success. People who have been recruited to help have found their lives are fuller because of saying yes to Janice. Janice also works on event themes, decorates and even acts as the emcee if needed.

Gabrielle Sotamayor-Outstanding Young Woman

Gabrielle Sotomayor, a Pitman High School (Turlock) senior, began volunteering in third grade after the deaths of two important people in her life. She started a Locks of Love American Cancer Society (ACS) program at her school, then an ACS Relay for Life to help those battling cancer.  She continues her efforts today as president of the Pittman Relay for Life Club. Gabrielle plans to volunteer at Emanuel Cancer Center with a support and activity group for children ages 5 to 17 who have a family member battling cancer. She is a member of the water polo and swim teams and plays the viola with the Pittman orchestra and the Modesto Symphony Youth Orchestra. Gabrielle is a member of the City of Turlock’s Teen Advisory Council and the student representative to the Turlock Unified School District. She will major in speech/language pathology or child psychology when she attends college this fall.

Alberta Martone-Woman of History

Alberta Martone died in Modesto last November at the age of 98. Throughout her 39-year educational career she touched the lives of thousands of children and adults. Alberta graduated from Turlock High, attended MJC, and then finished college in Kansas, where she began her teaching career in 1941. In 1948, Alberta and her husband moved to Modesto where she began a 32-year career with Modesto City School District as a teacher, vice principal, principal and district administrator. In 1974 she was named founding principal of Sonoma Elementary where special needs children would be “mainstreamed” into the student body, a pioneering concept at the time. Alberta instituted a “buddy” system for the students to facilitate the integration of special needs children. Before retiring in 1980, she spent four years as MCS Director of Personnel. In 1987 Modesto Schools named a new elementary school in her honor. Outside of her work, Alberta was active in Soroptimist International of Modesto, Delta Kappa Gamma, and Beta Kappa.

Patty Castillo-Davis-Outstanding Woman

Patty Castillo Davis, a singer and songwriter, wants to help erase the tremendous gender gap in the local music scene and help women and girls improve their lives. To achieve these goals, she can often be found on stage helping local non-profits raise funds. Over 20 organizations have benefitted from her talents, including the Ceres Chamber of Commerce, Peer Recovery Art Project, PFLAG, the Modesto Peace/Life Center and Uncle Lonny Presents. If you don’t see her on stage, Patty can be found behind the scenes coordinating entertainment for groups like the Latino Round Table/American G.I. Forum and the Women’s March Modesto. Patty mentors recording arts students at Modesto Sound and is vice president of the db project, a music based non-profit that benefits underserved youth through musical projects and concerts. A Ceres resident, Patty is a three-time Modesto Area Music Award winner. She also serves a music liturgist at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.

Leng Power-Outstanding Woman

Salida resident Leng Power believes the power of collective action can transform our world. She honors this vision by promoting community empowerment and heart-centered leadership while working to alleviate homelessness and poverty. When Leng was three, her family fled Cambodia and began their journey to Stanislaus County. Her goals have led her in many directions, including serving as the Modesto Peace/Life Center Board chairperson. While heading the board, Leng focused on building collaborative partnerships with other groups to address social and environmental justice issues and worked on the center’s homeless and low-income identification project. A member of the Homeless in Modesto documentary team, she often speaks on poverty and homelessness. The team’s five-year project culminated in community screenings and discussions in 2018. She has served on numerous boards and is currently a member of the Salida Municipal Advisory Council. Professionally, she is a manager with the Stanislaus County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services

Lise Talbott-Outstanding Woman

Waterford resident Lise Talbott believes everyone, especially women and children, should have access to affordable, accessible health care. This belief has led her choose jobs and volunteer activities that provide health care for low income residents in the areas of reproductive health and early childhood development. Lise has worked with teens to prevent pregnancies and developed educational material and classes for women of all ages to have healthy birth outcomes. She is currently with Golden Valley Health Centers as director of clinical education and outreach where she has developed curriculum for perinatal health, reproductive health, diabetes, and asthma for the centers’ 100,000 plus patients. She was recently elected to the Waterford City Council and serves as the District 1 representative to the Stanislaus Library Advisory Board. She is a member of the Community System of Care addressing homelessness, Cradle to Career Network, the Latino Community Roundtable, Oral Health Collaborative, and the Maternal Child Adolescent Health Collaborative. 

Carma Mize-Outstanding Young Woman

Carma Mize, a Downey High School senior, often volunteers at community events that include special needs children. As a fourth year active member of Central Valley Costumers, she visits community events dressed as a strong female character and seeks out children who are too afraid to approach the costumed volunteers. At Downey she volunteers in a program that pairs her with a special needs high school student. Carma also attends Special Olympics events and field trips with special needs students. As a volunteer mentor with YES Company, Carma works with all students regardless of their ability. She has expanded her knowledge of all aspects of the theater by performing and volunteering. Carma begins college in the fall with plans to major in theater and special education. Her career goal is to open a theater company that will teach children in the special needs community life skills through the magic of theater.

Hanna Renning-Living Pioneer

Hanna Renning moved to Turlock in 1970 and a year later joined the American Association of University Women (AAUW), Turlock Branch. Over the years she has served in numerous AAUW leadership roles to support higher education for women and gender equity. Most recently, she advocated for funds to send middle school girls to Tech Trek, a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) program. Hanna also helped establish the AAUW CSU Stanislaus student branch. In the early 1990s as a member of the Friends of the Turlock Library, Hanna developed a plan for an annual used book sale. Now an annual three-day fundraiser featuring thousands of books, the event raises about $5,000 a year for the Turlock Library. Hanna is a charter member of the Modesto Symphony Orchestra Chorus and has served on the Turlock Concert Association Board where she helped to bring music education to Turlock school children. She has served on numerous boards in Turlock and Stanislaus County.

Ann Veneman-Bette Belle Smith Award

Modesto resident Ann Veneman’s long and celebrated career has enabled her to spotlight the plight of women and girls internationally. From 2005-2010, Ann served as Executive Director of UNICEF, a United Nations program that works to improve the health, nutrition, and education of children internationally. During her tenure, UNICEF implemented key interventions to enhance gender equality world-wide. Ann helped launch a partnership to bring awareness to the sexual abuse and violence of women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Ann has had numerous professional “firsts” including being the first woman to be appointed Secretary of the California Food and Agriculture Department (1995-1999) and the first woman to be confirmed by the United States Senate to the cabinet position of United States Secretary of Agriculture (2001-2005). Ann was raised on a Modesto peach ranch and began her career as an attorney. She currently serves on a number of national boards and is co-leader of the Nutrition and Physical Activity Initiative at the Bipartisan Policy Center.