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2015 Latino Impact Awards Honorees


Lifetime Achievement Award

Juan Vargas

51st Congressional District of California | U.S. House of Representatives

Representative Juan Vargas grew up on a chicken ranch in National City with nine siblings. He says he was taught the value of hard work by his parents, Tomas and Celina, migrant farm workers who came to the United States from Mexico in the 1940s.

He attended the University of San Diego on scholarship, then earned a master’s from Fordham University in New York City and a doctorate of law from Harvard, where he was a classmate of future President Barack Obama. Vargas has never forgotten his humble roots: During the course of a political career that spans more than 20 years—from the San Diego City Council to Congress—he has dedicated himself to public safety, protecting children and the rights of workers, and helping veterans. He recently declared September as Hunger Awareness Month, and helped introduce legislation to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Filipino and Filipino American veterans who fought for the U.S. military during World War II. 

Vargas represents California’s 51st Congressional District, which includes portions of southeastern San Diego, South Bay, all of Imperial County, and the U.S.-Mexico border.


Cross Border Leader

Paola Avila

Executive Director, International Business Affairs | San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce

Avila has spent a significant portion of her career focused on binational affairs and border issues. From 2000–05, she was Mayor Dick Murphy’s deputy chief of staff; at age 25, she was the youngest to hold that post in the city of San Diego. She later started her own public affairs consulting business and served as communications director for State Senator Ben Hueso. Avila now leads the chamber’s international business affairs initiatives, which include an annual binational delegation to Mexico City and Washington, D.C. to advocate for policies that enhance cross border business. Avila and her team produced San Diego’s first International Paella & Wine Festival last year, which featured wines and chefs from both San Diego and Baja California. She balanced her duties as a single mother and a young Latina making her way in government and politics thanks to the strong influence of her parents, Alicia and Frank.


Entrepreneur of the Year

Vivian Sayward

Founder and President | Vivacity Sportswear

When Sayward began golfing, she noticed that the choices available in women’s golf apparel were limited, so her solution was to create her own line of fashionable sportswear. After consulting several female golfers, yoga practitioners, and tennis players, Sayward designed a collection of sportswear that can also be worn outside of the gym and clubhouse, and throughout the day. She made it one of her missions to help grow local businesses by maintaining as much of her development and production in San Diego as possible. She works mostly with high-quality contractors in sewing production, pattern making, fabric cutting, and sublimation production in National City, Chula Vista, and Otay Mesa.


Inspirational Leader of the Year

Catherine Arambula​

Financial Representative | Northwestern Mutual

Arambula has been working in financial services as a small-business owner with Northwestern Mutual since 2004, when she made a career change to educate, empower, and create financial security for the individuals and business owners that she knew in her community. She was the first woman in Northwestern Mutual’s San Diego office to achieve the Pacesetter 40 award, which demonstrated her desire and drive to get out into the community and make a difference. She speaks to everyone from high school seniors to other community groups about personal finance and safeguarding their business.


Inspirational Leader of the Year

Felipe Rodriguez

Division Chief of Training | Oceanside Fire Department

In 2012, Rodriguez moved his family of seven from Northern California to Oceanside to join its fire department as a battalion chief, and he quickly engaged with the community. He works with the city’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training program, which teaches citizen volunteers the basics of fire safety and medical aid, and how to be better prepared for emergency situations. Last year, Rodriguez helped launch the city’s first-ever Spanish language CERT program, which has already trained 27 students. This year, he was appointed one of Oceanside’s first three LGBT Community Liaisons, who will address any complaints or inquires the city receives from the North County LGBTQ Resource Center.


Volunteer of the Year

Ernesto Arredondo

San Diego Area President | Wells Fargo

A financial services veteran, Arredondo oversees more than 830 employees in San Diego, whom he encourages to volunteer in the community. He and 20 of his managers have taught personal finance basics to students at local public schools, and he partnered with the Mexican consulate to create the Ventana Financiara program, which helps roughly 300 people a month learn about credit, money management, and banking services. In 2013, he was accepted into the Young Hispanic Corporate Achievers program and also received a 40 Under 40 award from San Diego Metro magazine. He was recently invited to join the advisory board of the Stanford University Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative. Arredondo also serves on the finance committee for the March Field Air Museum, is a UC San Diego Foundation trustee, and is an active director on the boards of the San Diego Regional Chamber and Father Joe’s Villages.

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