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Contact: Sev Williams
$25,000 Awards Honor Violence Prevention Leadership
San Francisco — The California Wellness Foundation (TCWF) will present its 2005 California Peace Prize to three visionary leaders, each of whom has contributed significantly to preventing violence in the state.
Otilio “O.T.” Quintero, a former migrant farm worker, helps directs a Santa Cruz-based national organization that guides young people away from drugs and gangs by providing educational, leadership development and community economic development programs.
Maria Velasquez leads a school-based program in rural Shasta County designed to break the cycle of violence by teaching children impulse control and anger management.
Sayre Weaver, an attorney in Brea, wages groundbreaking legal battles to support local agencies that legislate firearms regulations to hold the gun industry accountable for injury and death caused by its products.
TCWF will present the awards at its 13th annual California Peace Prize banquet on Wednesday, October 19, 2005 at 5:30 p.m., at the Westin San Francisco Airport Hotel.
The honorees will each receive a cash award of $25,000 as an acknowledgement of their commitment to preventing violence and promoting peace. The banquet is a highlight of two concurrent events, TCWF’s Conference on Violence Prevention and the “Second Milestones of a Global Campaign for Violence Prevention,” jointly organized by the World Health Organization and TCWF.
“Today we are honoring three visionary individuals who have brought hope to youth, taught children alternatives to violence and reduced access to guns,” said Gary L. Yates, TCWF president and CEO. “The 2005 California Peace Prize recipients are representative of thousands of others working behind the scenes to make California a healthier and safer place to live.”
Otilio “O.T.” Quintero is the assistant director of Santa Cruz Barrios Unidos (SCBU). Established in 1993, SCBU works to prevent youth violence by providing educational and leadership development training — through the Cesar E. Chavez School for Social Change, an alternative high school — and community economic development.
Quintero has helped build the organizational and financial capacity of SCBU, assisted in developing effective training programs (including BU Productions, a highly successful silk-screen T-shirt business) and ensured SCBU’s legacy by facilitating the purchase of a building and two-acre site.
He has also advocated for youth violence prevention beyond Santa Cruz. In 1996, he helped secure the passage of AB 963, which established the California Gang, Crime and Violence Prevention Partnership Program. It has directed over $10 million to community-based organizations committed to preventing violence and gang activity. Quintero aided in the development of the National Coalition of Barrios Unidos (NCBU) and Homies Unidos chapters in El Salvador and Nicaragua.
Quintero became a migrant farmworker at the age of five. As a teenager, he lived in an isolated housing project in Fresno County, where many of his friends died as a result of risky behaviors involving alcohol and drugs. Although he moved away at age 17, the experience had a lasting impact. Quintero says he feels a sense of duty to help other young people avoid violence.
“Not all of us will be on the street corner changing lives,” Quintero said. “But we all have a role that we can play. You can find a barrio warrior almost anywhere.”
Quintero, who holds a B.A. from UC Santa Cruz and an M.A. from San Jose State University, has been with SCBU since its inception. The organization received one of its first violence prevention grants in 1993 from TCWF and has since gained support from individuals, the community and other grantmakers who recognize the value and results of the Barrios Unidos approach.
For 17 years, Maria Velasquez has worked to reduce domestic violence in California’s rural communities. Based in Shingletown, Calif., she is a violence prevention trainer and outreach worker for Second Step: A Violence Prevention Curriculum, a classroom-based social skills program that addresses the connection between bullying behavior in childhood and battering behavior in adulthood. True North Inc. runs the program in Shasta County.
Velasquez is an outspoken advocate for breaking the generational cycle of violence by teaching children alternative ways of coping and negotiating. Instrumental in bringing Second Step to Trinity and Shasta counties, she instituted Second Step in two Shasta County school districts, including the Black Butte Union School District, where all elementary school students are program participants.
Velasquez witnessed domestic violence as a child, which helped lead her to her life’s work. She sees Second Step—developed by the Committee for Children, a nonprofit organization—as a user-friendly way to help other children break the family cycle of violence.
“The family dynamics have changed in the rural areas, and our kids are really struggling,” Velasquez said. “Part of our movement is to empower children with the skills and tools that let them know they have rights and choices in life that no one can take away from them.”
Prior to her work in Shasta County, Velasquez served as the Trinity County childcare coordinator at Human Response Network, which provides violence prevention and domestic violence programs. She is also on the steering committee for Grassroots for Kids, a program that promotes healthy recreation for kids and families. Velasquez has an A.S. degree from Shasta College in Redding.
Sayre Weaver has worked tirelessly over the past decade to reduce gun violence through legislation and litigation. She is now one of California’s foremost legal authorities on firearms regulation by local agencies. In 1996, Weaver helped the City of West Hollywood draft and defend its ordinance prohibiting “junk gun” sales. Weaver defended the power of California’s cities and counties to regulate firearms in two lawsuits, California Rifle & Pistol Ass’n v. City of West Hollywood (1998) and Nordyke v. King (2002), in which Weaver protected Alameda County’s ordinance banning gun possession on county property against a gun show owner’s challenge.
Weaver first observed the effect of gun violence on a community as a deputy district attorney in Compton, Calif. Her work for West Hollywood brought her into contact with Legal Community Against Violence (LCAV) and Dr. Garen Wintemute’s junk-gun industry study, “Ring of Fire: The Handgun Makers of Southern California.” Weaver saw the need for gun industry reform and has dedicated herself to achieving this goal.
In Ileto v. Glock, Weaver is currently representing gun victims against the manufacturers and distributors of firearms used by a white supremacist. The gunman was convicted of fatally shooting Joseph Ileto, a Filipino-American postal worker, and injuring four children and a staff member at a Jewish community center. Early in this case, Weaver established the right of gun violence victims to sue gun industry members who engage in negligent marketing and distribution practices.
Weaver is the legal director of The Educational Fund To Stop Gun Violence and serves “of counsel” to the public law firm of Richards, Watson & Gershon, where she is also a member of the Litigation Department. Formerly the legal director of LCAV, Weaver continues to serve in its volunteer attorney network. She is also a member of the American Bar Association’s Gun Violence Committee, the American Trial Lawyers’ Firearms Litigation Section, and the Advisory Board of Women Against Gun Violence. She received her J.D. degree from Yale Law School.
“Despite their myriad perspectives and expertise, this year’s honorees have united to pursue a single goal: to reduce the senseless killing of California’s youth,” said Nicole J. Jones, TCWF program director. “Their important work has helped change attitudes and policies in communities throughout California.”
The California Wellness Foundation is a private, independent foundation created in 1992 with the mission of improving the health of the people of California by making grants for health promotion, wellness education and disease prevention. The Foundation prioritizes eight issues for funding: diversity in the health professions, environmental health, healthy aging, mental health, teenage pregnancy prevention, violence prevention, women's health, and work and health. TWCF also responds to timely issues or special projects outside the funding priorities.
Since its first year of operation, TCWF has awarded 4,093 grants totaling approximately $493 million. It is one of the state's largest private foundations, providing an average of $40 million in grants each year in pursuit of its mission.
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