When Mary Valdemar received an award from the 47th Assembly District Community Recognition Program on Feb. 15, it felt like a late valentine. "It was nice, since my heart has really been in the community work we do," Valdemar, a San Bernardino resident and advocate for the Inland Empire, said.

Mary Valdemar, member of the SBVC library and learning support services team, was honored with the #Fab47 award by Assemblymember Eloise Reyes. This honor goes to nominated individuals, businesses, and community organizations that are making a difference.

"I'm not sure who nominated me, but it’s my guess that it’s based on my work with youth here in the IE and on equity and diversity issues here at San Bernardino Valley College," she said. "In both these areas, I have been a voice for change and innovation as we push to ensure that the community is not left behind, especially our young people who deserve an education, safe community, healthy environment, equitable justice, and to be empowered to heal and love themselves."

Valdemar is involved in several groups, and is a mentor to students through the SBVC chapter of MEChA and co-founded ChICCCAA (Chicano Indigenous Community for Culturally Conscious Advocacy and Action), which focuses on Chicano indigenous reconnection, environmental justice, and sacred site protection. Through these organizations, she has helped numerous students with internships and advocacy work, and she credits many of her former professors and current co-workers for getting her to where she is today.

"As an alumni here from SBVC, there were so many people who mentored, guided, and supported me on my journey as a young single mother, struggling to survive," she said. "From Juliann Martin, former chair of Child Development, and the entire department, to Dr. Edward Millican in political science, to the amazing people in the library working under Director Ron Hastings, I have been blessed to be surrounded by like-minded faculty and staff who care deeply about this community and our students. I do this to pay forward what each of these folks has given to me, and I don't do it alone. If it wasn't for them, I literally would not be here."

Pushing for change isn't easy, and Valdemar said there were "many times where I wanted to give up and stop fighting for what I believe in," but her strong passion for social justice and bettering the community kept her going.

"It's worth the stigma of being a 'radical troublemaker' to see some of the battles we have fought for together come to fruition to benefit our community and our students," she said.