The Latina Leading the Way Awards and Dinner Banquet is LLKC’s annual fundraising event that honors three local outstanding Latina professionals in Kern County. Latinas Leading the Way also salutes their Youth Leadership Program high school Latinas during this event.This major fundraiser supports our youth program, and other activities targeted to professional Latinas in our community. The women honored with the awards are selected for their exceptional professionalism, achievements and commitment to our community.
LLKC Objective/Goal: To highlight the achievements of local Latinas and build acknowledgement of their contributions to Kern County. The event is expected to raise as many funds as possible for the annual Youth Leadership Program (the cornerstone program of LLKC).
Gabriela Murguia was born and raised in Zamora Michoacán and comes from a family of merchants. Her grandparents founded a small factory of religious articles, furniture, and interior decorations. By the time Gabriela was 16, she was participating in the family business, while going to school studying secretarial work and accounting. She continued to work in the family business for twelve years. When she was 21 she married and had her first baby Yeudiel at 22, and continued working with her father. She later had her second baby Yair at 27, but still continued working with her family until she was 29, contributing to its ongoing success. Eventually, she decided to take the biggest risk in her life leaving her two children with her parents to move to another country – the United States!
She originally moved to Ontario, California but found it difficult to find viable work. She moved to Delano, and worked in the fields picking grapes. She later left Delano to move to Shafter to work at a restaurant she then decided she couldn’t be without her two children, and later brought them. She was working two jobs the restaurant and a gas stations to be able to sustain her family. After a lot of hard work and dedication, she was promoted to full time at the gas station, with benefits and better pay. Meanwhile she was preparing herself for the field she liked the most – sales!
On her days off, she began to learn sales from a company that distributes businesses supplies. She was eventually offered a position selling Mexican groceries to Latino and other markets on a route from Arvin to Fresno. By 2004, she was pregnant with her third baby Gabriel, and after nine years of working and learning, Gabriela still had the dream to start her own business and decided to seek information and support on how to do that.
By April 2014, she got her fictitious business name: Mercamex. Her goal was to sell Mexican Candies to the businesses that she had established relationships with while driving her delivery route. The business community quickly supported her by buying her products, and her dedication paid off! She started to generate sales of $10 thousand a month and quickly grew out of her garage where she had been running her business, by November 2014. The demand for her products was so great that she established her new business entity, MercaMex Distributor, Inc.
In December 2014, with the corporation registered, she hired her two sons, Yeudiel and Yair, as her first employees. She was also able to buy two new vehicles: a van and a 26-foot truck. Her distribution route grew to the point that she was selling an average of $45 thousand dollars per month, and some months, double that!
When people from her neighborhood learned that she was distributing unique products at fair prices, they wanted to buy from her, and word quickly spread. Even though she didn’t originally want to own her own store, she saw a great opportunity to establish her own retail outlet and, by late June 2015, Mercamex Distributor, Inc. started to grow again and opened Dulceria Alebrijes, in Delano.
Dulceria Alebrijes quickly became the place to go for Mexican candies, party favors and other products that her customers needed. The store has been such a big success that after less than a month, she was already planning process of opening a new store in another city!
By the end of January 2016, she opened the new retail store and distribution center warehouse in Bakersfield: also called Dulceria Alebrijes #2. With all the success from her stores and warehouses she has now created 10 jobs, both part-time and full-time. She also closed out last year with $1.1 M in sales.
Dr. Raquel Pina joined the Southern California Permanente Medical Group i2005 and became partner in 2014. Dr. Pina graduated from medical school at the University of California, Los Angeles and completed her residency in Family Medicine at White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles. Dr. Pina is board certified in Family Medicine. Born and raised in Bakersfield, she balances her roles as Chief of Family Medicine for Kaiser Permanente Kern County and as a mother to two young children.
Dr. Pina brings much knowledge and passion to her role as local Intimate Partner Violence Committee champion. She is committed to impacting the lives of others by improving screening and detection of domestic violence and child and elder abuse in Kern County. She also works with the local committee to promote awareness among physicians and staff and inspires other through data, stories of abuse, and examples of how intervention can make a difference. As a result, Kern County is now one of the highest in the region in detecting and reporting domestic violence.
As champion, Dr. Pina has also presented to Kaiser Permanente and community physicians and staff about the importance of screening for domestic violence in the Emergency Department and Urgent Care setting. Her work in the community has included building a partnership between Kaiser Permanente
Kern County and the non-profit organization, Alliance Against Family Violence. She also volunteers her time to speak to high school students, educating them about domestic violence, teen dating violence, and healthy relationships.
In addition to her expertise and work in the area of family violence, Dr. Pina is very knowledgeable in the area of how adverse childhood experiences are linked to chronic medical conditions. She recently spoke to residents, medical students, and physicians about adverse childhood experiences, dose related response to chronic medical conditions, and the need for intervention at the California Academy of Family Physicians 2016 Family Medicine Summit.
Dr. Pina is grateful for having the support of her husband, Alex Soriano and family, including her parents and sister who help her to balance work and family. She is very active with her two children, Alex, 11, and Jilianna, 9, and enjoys taking trips to the beach, traveling, reading, jogging, and baking.
Xochitl M. Garcia is a family law attorney and owner of the law firm, XM Garcia, Attorney at Law. Ms. Garcia grew up in Arvin, California, where she attended local schools and graduated from Arvin High School in 2001. While attending Arvin High School, Ms. Garcia set her goal of becoming an attorney based on her experience as a member of the high school mock trial team. To achieve that goal, Ms. Garcia attended the University of La Verne (main campus) on a debate scholarship which afforded her the opportunity to travel the world as a member of the university’s international debate team. After earning her bachelor’s degree in Political Science, Ms. Garcia earned her Juris Doctorate from Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, California. After law school, Ms. Garcia moved home to Kern County to accept a position as a program manager and staff attorney at Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance, Inc. There, Ms. Garcia created and managed projects providing legal services to the county’s most vulnerable indigent population. In 2013, Ms. Garcia decided to stake her claim in the legal community by opening her own firm.
Ms. Garcia enjoys being an engaged member of the community and values her responsibility to give back. Ms. Garcia is currently a commissioner on the Kern County Planning Commission, sits on the board of directors for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Business Education Foundation, and is a panelist on the Immigration Justice Collaborative. Ms. Garcia is most proud of her position as Attorney Coach for Foothill High School’s mock trial team; a position she had held since 2011. In her down time, Ms. Garcia enjoys pretending to assist her husband (a chef) in the kitchen, raising her two dogs, and singing in her car.