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California Peace Prize

October 5, 2010


Contact: Laurie Kappe
i.e. communications, LLC
(415) 616-3930

Cecilia Laiché
The California Wellness Foundation
(818) 702-1900

The California Wellness Foundation Announces 2010 California Peace Prize Honorees

Community Leaders Each To Receive $25,000 Cash Awards For Violence Prevention Work

Los Angeles —Aquil Basheer, a renowned gang intervention practitioner, uses his street experience to educate youth and professionals that regularly deal with gang violence in Los Angeles. Perla Flores develops partnerships that provide local services to sexual assault victims from underserved communities in Morgan Hill and surrounding areas. Sammy Nuñez is a former gang member who now works to turn around the lives of at-risk youth, particularly young fathers, in Stockton.

On October 19, The California Wellness Foundation (TCWF) will honor these three community leaders with its 18th annual California Peace Prize at a ceremony in Los Angeles. In recognition of their efforts to prevent violence and promote peace, the honorees will each receive a cash award of $25,000. Profiles, photographs and video of the honorees can be accessed here.

“These honorees have helped youth and families devastated by violence, and provided essential leadership in organizations that work to make our communities better,” said Gary L. Yates, president and CEO of TCWF. “They represent thousands of unsung heroes dedicated to improving the health and well-being of California’s youth.”

Aquil Basheer

Aquil Basheer is a nationally known crisis-intervention specialist, educational consultant, and youth development expert who has worked for more than 40 years to reduce community violence. Basheer is the chief executive officer of the BUILD Youth Empowerment Academy, which operates conflict-resolution training, mentoring, and gang-violence deterrence and intervention programs in middle schools and community centers throughout Los Angeles County. He and his organization work daily with high-risk youth to develop their sense of self-responsibility, discipline, commitment, and self-esteem.

“We have to retrain ourselves,” Basheer said. “If we have to regulate a dispute, we should have the tools to be able to do that without using a gun or a knife.”

Perla Flores

Perla Flores is a passionate advocate for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. Because of her efforts, a rural community that once lacked adequate services and resources can now assist people in need. As a program director at Community Solutions, a multi-service nonprofit serving southern Santa Clara and San Benito counties, Flores oversees development, implementation, and evaluation of the organization’s domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking prevention and intervention services. Flores is particularly adept at reaching out to underserved populations, such as migrant women. She has forged key partnerships with medical and faith communities, in order to widen support in areas where the voices of victims are often silenced.

“The financial climate is impairing our ability to help abused women,” Flores said. “There’s a lot more need and a lot fewer resources.”

Sammy Nuñez

Sammy Nuñez has a deep understanding of how to work with young men and fathers. A former gang member himself, Nuñez graduated from a fatherhood program in Northern California that led him towards a path to a career in violence prevention. He has become a nationally recognized expert in the field of responsible fatherhood and youth development. Nuñez is the founding executive director of Fathers and Families of San Joaquin, a community-based organization providing services and parenting classes for young fathers and incarcerated men.

“While we have obstacles in our community, we also have one of the most diverse populations in the nation and a solid group in the trenches that's committed to re-writing our future,” Nuñez said.

The California Wellness Foundation is a private independent, private foundation, created in 1992, with a mission to improve 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. It also responds to timely issues and special projects outside the funding priorities.

Since its founding, TCWF has awarded 5,828 grants totaling more than $735 million. It is one of the state’s largest private foundations. Please visit TCWF’s website at for more information, including a newsroom section devoted to the California Peace Prize and the three honorees. High-resolution photos are also available.

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