2015 Keynote Speaker
2014 Keynote Speaker
Tamara Mena was born and raised in Mexico and immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 13. At the age of 19, she suffered a horrific car accident that left Tamara paralyzed from the mid-chest down and, unfortunately, killed her boyfriend. From surviving a near death experience, Tamara chose to dedicate her life to share her message of hope, and above all, motivate people to believe in themselves. Despite the great tragedy she endured, she never lost sight of her goals; Tamara retook her studies, graduated from Modesto Junior College with honors, and promptly attended California State University Stanislaus, where she majored in Communications Studies and graduated with highest honors, Summa Cum Laude. Tamara has been a guest speaker at numerous events and conferences. She has been featured on several TV shows, English and Spanish-speaking, as well as international TV shows, among those Sabado Gigante, The Doctors, and El Hormiguero. Her desire to break barriers, took Tamara to participate on the famous reality TV show, Nuestra Belleza Latina, and impacted a large number of viewers, as she was the first women in a wheelchair to be selected on the show. Her story has reached millions of people with her determination to succeed. Tamara is a motivation speaker, host, spokesperson, product representative, and an eternal optimist.
2013 Keynote Speaker
Opening Keynote | Special Presentation:
Tomás and the Library Lady
Tomás and the Library Lady tells the true story of a son of a migrant farm worker during the 1940s. Feeling a little out of place since his family's move to Iowa from Texas and wanting to know more than just his grandfather's stories, Tomás stumbles into a library and is welcomed by the librarian. Through her patience and understanding, Tomás develops a love for books and knowledge that he always wanted to have, inspiring a life-long love of learning that culminated in his becoming a chancellor at a university.
This play is produced in collaboration with Modesto Junior College Theatre Department.
In partnership with the Gallo Center for the Arts
Special Appearance & Presentation
Playwright José Cruz González
José Cruz González's plays include Los Valientes, The Sun Serpent, Super Cowgirl and Mighty Miracle, Invierno, Sunsets and Margaritas, The Heart's Desire, The Blue House, Tomás and the Library Lady, The Cloud Gatherer, Earth Songs, September Shoes. A collection of his plays, Nine Plays by José Cruz González Magical Realism & Mature Themes in Theatre for Young Audiences was published by the University of Texas Press in 2009.
Mr. González has written for PAZ, the Emmy Award nominated television series produced by Discovery Kids for The Learning Channel. Mr. González was a recipient of a 2004 TCG/Pew National Theatre Residency grant. In 1997 he was awarded a NEA/TCG Theatre Residency Program for Playwrights, and in 1985 was a NEA Director Fellow.
He teaches theatre at California State University at Los Angeles. He is a member of The Dramatists Guild of America and TYA/USA. He is a Playwright-in-Residence with South Coast Repertory (CA) and Childsplay (AZ), and an Associate Artist with Cornerstone Theater Company (CA).
2012 Keynote Speaker
Astronaut Jose Hernandez
Back by popular demand!
Jose Hernandez was born to Mexican immigrants in French Camp, California and has spent most of his life in the northern San Joaquin Valley. Jose and his family were migrant farm workers, following the harvest in the valley. At age 9, Jose was inspired by the Apollo17 mission to the Moon and was encouraged by his father to pursue his dream.
Jose obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering from the University of the Pacific, and a Master’s Degree in Engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He then served as an engineer at the prestigious Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for 15 years. In his time at Livermore, Jose was recognized for his work helping develop the first full-field digital mammography imaging system that has successfully increased early detection of breast cancer, as well as working in Russia to help reduce its nuclear stockpile.
In 2004, Jose reached a lifelong goal of becoming a NASA astronaut, and in August of 2009 he flew on a 14-day mission as the flight engineer on Space Shuttle Discovery’s mission to the International Space Station.
After returning from Space, Jose worked for NASA in Washington. He also started the “Reaching for the Stars Foundation” which sponsors an early education summer academy program at his alma mater Pacific in an effort to improve performance in math and science and thereby prolong the education of young promising students in Science, Technology and Mathematics.
2011 Keynote Speaker
Martial Arts and World Champion
Owner /Chief Instructor- 24 years of Martial Arts experience
16 years Boxing and Kickboxing experience
8 years Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training
Certified Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Instructor Level #3 under the Ralph Gracie Training Association
Former Stanislaus County Law Enforcement Defensive Tactics Instructor
Trainer for professional fighters in the areas of:
Mixed Martial Arts (cage fighting)
9 time Black Belt Fighting Champion
Instructor of the year award 1992-International Martial Arts Competitors Federation
Competitor of the year award-1990,1991 & 1992-International Martial Arts Competitors Federation - Interview Video
Paul Mendoza's Website