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Turlock students named Outstanding Young Women
Vanessa Astorga 150
Turlock High student Vanessa Astorga was named an Outstanding Young Woman by the Stanislaus County Commission for Women. - photo by Photo Contributed

Two Turlock teens are among the honorees for the Stanislaus County Commission for Women’s Outstanding Women of Stanislaus County in 2018. The awards recognize women who have made a meaningful contribution to the quality of life for all women and children.

Turlock High students Vanessa Astorga and Mehr Sahota were named Outstanding Young Women.

A senior at Turlock High School, Astorga very successfully juggles advanced placement and college level classes, sports, work and a myriad of community volunteer activities. She is a three-year member of Key Club, FFA and Leadership Club. Last year she earned a Shaw Academy Digital Marketing Degree. She has also earned the State Seal in Multilingual Proficiency in Spanish and English.

Over the last three years she has volunteered at a variety of community events that raise money for cancer research. She was involved with the Turlock Dancing with the Stars, Dinner at Dusk, Relay for Life Luminaria and Brunch with Divas at Carnegie Arts Center. Her community work also encompasses working at the Policeman’s Ball, ringing the bell for the Salvation Army, volunteering for the Kayla Bernardi Bee Happy Foundation fundraiser, community beautification projects as part of Love Turlock and putting together care packages for various organizations.

Mehr is a senior at Turlock High School and a member of the 2017-18 Leadership Academy Class. She has made serious strides to close the STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) gender gap. She was the youngest STEM tutor at age 15, when she began volunteering with CSUS HIMAP program. Mehr has volunteered with the Pre-Freshman Enrichment program at Stanislaus State, which primarily benefits underprivileged and immigrant students. She also volunteered as a mentor in the Future Cities Competition and is involved in Girl Scouts, Girls’ State and the American Association of University Women Tech Trek.

Other honorees include:

·         Darlene Barber-Martinez — Outstanding Woman: Barber-Martinez holds the distinction of being the first African American Woman elected to Riverbank City Council, as well as only the second African American woman to hold elected office in Stanislaus County.

·         Olga Valencia Cardeñas — Outstanding Woman: Cardeñas’ career and passion has been focused on literacy, expanding resources for the underserved and increasing access to literature and education in her community.

·         Domenica Escatel — Outstanding Woman: Escatel’s career has been focused on young children, beginning at the Children’s Crisis Center and later with the Stanislaus County Office of Education as a Head Start teacher and child development specialist.

·         Margaret R. Hunter — Outstanding Woman: Hunter’s devotion to understanding and working in the field of eating disorders began in the late 1990s-early 2000s.

·         Lisa Mantarro-Moore — Outstanding Woman: Mantarro-Moore has a dedicated career of serving the public in a variety of capacities. Professionally, she served as Deputy Chief of Staff for U.S. Congressional Representative Dennis Cardoza and is currently the District Director for State Representative Adam Gray. Mantarro-Moore has had her own public service career as a Ceres City Council Member and Vice Mayor.

·         Sue Rich — Outstanding Woman: Rich has been a resident of Oakdale for 40 years. She currently serves as the Assistant Superintendent at the Stanislaus County Office of Education. Before working at SCOE, she taught high school English in Oakdale for 13 years. In her leadership position at SCOE she has worked on several cross-sector initiatives including Stanislaus READS, Stanislaus Futures and Destination Graduation.

·         Sue Richardson — Outstanding Woman: Richardson has been the director of the historic State Theatre for over a decade. She has used this platform to provide a wide variety of programming to not only entertain but inform and inspire.

·         Jessica Self — Outstanding Woman: Self has been an active member of the Stanislaus County community since 2013. As the Vice President of the MoPride board, she advocated for the LGBT community, promoting events and sensitivity training county-wide. She is active in local politics, creating the Blue Wave movement, seeking to recruit and encourage people to run for elected office.

·         Alana Scott — Outstanding Woman: Scott is the Founder and President of the Women’s Education and Leadership League, an organization providing physical, emotional and financial wellness to women of all ages and backgrounds.

·         Betty Jean Reynolds — Woman Living Pioneer: Reynolds graduated in 1950 and spent much of her teaching career at Bret Harte School where she was a Master Teacher. Her target population was migrant children. She wrote several successful grants for Early Childhood Education. Reynolds Is the oldest member of the Delta Kappa Gamma, Epsilon Nu Chapter in Modesto. She received the State Distinguished Career/Professional Service Award at the Chi State Convention in San Francisco.

·         Patricia Bettencourt Tharp (1954-2015) — Woman of History: Tharp grew up in Modesto. She had a 32-year career with the Modesto Bee as Circulation/Marketing Manager. She had a strong commitment to her community and her profession. She headed “Kids Day,” a special fundraiser for the Salvation Red Shield Center. Tharp was on the advisory council at the Salvation Army Red Shield Center. She was the treasurer for the Stanislaus Police Activity League which provides recreational, educational and social programs for youth ages 6 -18.

·         Kiana Engle — Outstanding Young Woman: Engle is a senior at Gregori High School where she maintains a 4.1 GPA, is the Senior Class President and a member of the California Scholarship Federation. In her years at Gregori, she has been instrumental in creating and strengthening three projects: the all-campus Breast Cancer Awareness event, the adoption of families from the Soroptimist Community Christmas Tree and being a SPOT leader to increase school spirit.

·         Allison Jensen — Outstanding Young Woman: Jensen is a senior at Central Catholic High School and a member of the 2017-18 Leadership Academy Class. She has received a Religion Class Award, Agriculture Biology Award, Biology and Algebra Award, Block CC Academic Honors and Golden Scholar Athlete award. She is the Coordinator of Community Service for FFA and regularly volunteers at the Salvation Army Child Day Care and Teen Shelter. She independently organized a canned food drive at her school and was able to bring 25 times the number of bags of pantry items to the Salvation Army required as part of her Leadership Academy class.

·         Katherine Swarz — Outstanding Young Woman: Swarz is a senior at Gregori High School where she is an AP student with a 4.34 GPA. She is involved in a variety of school activities including concert band, Academic Decathlon and is a member of the Mock Trial team. She is a member of the Jag News Network and is the sole producer for JNN. She reports, edits, designs sets and lighting and manages all aspects of production. Off campus, she volunteers at the library and Bethany Home and works for the Modesto Nuts.

The 39th annual Outstanding Women Awards will be presented on March 10 at the Assyrian Cultural Center of Bet-Nahrian in Ceres. The event begins at 6 p.m., and dinner will be served at 6:30 p.m. The awards program gets under way at 7 p.m.

Cost is $45 per person, and pre-paid reservations are required. Contact Jennie Sweeney at 209-404-4414 or to reserve tickets. Details are also available online at