CENTRAL COAST — It was a festive occasion on Nov. 10 as Girls Inc. of the Central Coast celebrated 20 years of successful programming at The Lodge in Pebble Beach.
The Gratitude Gala celebrated the thousands of strong, smart and bold girls who have benefited from the various programs offered throughout the year by Girls Inc. in Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties.
“Each year, it is an honor to celebrate the young women who find their voice and their passion by participating in one of our programs,” said Patty Fernandez, executive director for Girls Inc. of the Central Coast. “In 20 years, I have witnessed the transformative power mentorship programs have in girls who turn out to be beacons of hope as they grow up and continue to make a difference in this world.”
The event boasted a reception, silent auction, dinner and a program. The emcee was 18-year-old Kayla Salazar from Hollister, a Girls Inc. girl, Girls Inc. National Scholar and ambassador. She is currently a freshman at UCLA.
As part of the celebration, Girls Inc. of the Central Coast recognized outstanding volunteers, supporters and donors making a difference in the community. They also launched the Tonya Antle Visionary Award. Tonya Antle was invited to be the keynote speaker and give out the first award named after her.
“One of the greatest gifts we can give to our youth is to share the wisdom of our experiences and life-lessons learned,” said Antle during her speech. “It is our responsibility, everyone’s, to make a positive impact on those that follow us.”
For over 30 years, Antle has been a driving force in the farming and produce industry. Growing up in Delano, Calif., she has become a spokesperson and trailblazer for organic produce and co-founded the Organic Produce Network.
Antle was VP at Earthbound Farm and helped build the brand to its half billion-dollar sales level. She is an avid mentor to youth and volunteers for multiple organization in the area, including the Women’s Fund, the Panetta Institute Board and more.
“Girls Inc. CC is honored to name the Tonya Antle Visionary Award for her dedication to our community, helping advance girls forward, stewardship and overall kindness and support,” the organization said.
Gala honors trio
This year’s honorees were Sara Boyns of Monterey, Tonya Antle Visionary Award; Anita McKean of King City, Girls’ Inspiration Award; and Yajaira Garcia of Greenfield, Strong, Smart and Bold Award.
Boyns, a successful attorney in Monterey with over 35 years in the practice, began her involvement with Girls Inc. in 2007 and became an active board member. She served in the Fund Development committee and enjoyed raising awareness of signature events, like the Bubbles and Bags and Spring Luncheons.
She was instrumental in creating a GICC scholarship fund in honor of Jackie McManus, who introduced her to Girls Inc. This fund has grown to support girls in their pursuit for higher education throughout the years.
“Her vision is for all girls to have access to an education,” said Girls Inc. CC.
McKean worked as a teacher for 33 years, 30 of which she taught elementary school in King City until she retired in 2007. She learned about Girls Inc. at a conference many years ago and knew she had to connect and bring the services to the girls in South Monterey County.
She became a mentor to the ECHO program in Greenfield and was instrumental in organizing a committee to raise funds in King City. Six years ago she joined the board, and is the committee chair for Girls Inc. King City.
“Her volunteerism and involvement has made a huge difference in the growth of Girls Inc. in King City and surrounding areas,” said the organization.
Garcia is a paralegal in Monterey. Her goal is to become a lawyer and work with Latino families in Monterey County and help them navigate the legal system. She is from Greenfield, graduated from Hartnell College and earned her bachelor’s in political science and public policy from Berkeley in 2021.
She was part of the ECHO program while in high school and soon became a youth leader. She is currently an adult mentor for King City, Greenfield and Soledad high schools.
“She is the first in her family to attend college, and she will be applying to law school next fall with hopes of attending a Bay Area school,” added Girls Inc. CC.
Over the past 20 years, Girls Inc. of the Central Coast has served 16,000 girls in the tri-county area.
During the recently completed fiscal year, the organization served over 1,200 girls and 88 parents in seven programs at 37 school sites in Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties. The goal is to continue growing and within the next five years serve 2,500-plus girls annually.
“It is my hope that my role in supporting women and girls, inspires others to use their voices to build momentum and create lasting change,” Antle said.