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32nd CalWORKs Awards Ceremony: Finding Resiliency in the Face of Adversity

The County of Santa Clara will honor five CalWORKs clients and share their stories of success

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF.— Five families in Santa Clara County will be honored this month for their stories of success using CalWORKs services to help them rebuild more stable lives and find new careers. They are among the roughly 5,000 clients each year who seek services, many of them with journeys that are paved with hardship and resilience.

This year’s honorees include a mother of three who overcame substance and physical abuse to change her life and start anew for her children; a single father with limited English who navigated the social justice system to build a better life for his children in the U.S.; a mother who channeled her grief of losing multiple family members to COVID-19 to work as part of the County’s pandemic response; and women who persevered through intimate partner violence.

Their hard work and success will be celebrated on Tuesday, November 15, as part of the 32nd Annual California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) Achievement Awards. The ceremony will be held virtually, during the beginning of the County of Santa Clara’s Board of Supervisors meeting, which starts at 9:30 a.m.

“These stories never fail to amaze me and are constant reminders of human resiliency,” said Angela Shing, Director of Employment and Benefit Services for the County of Santa Clara Social Services Agency. “We commend these families for their perseverance in the face of adversity, and by extension, I hope by sharing we’re also inspiring all to find their own journeys of success.”

Here are this year’s honorees:                                                                                

Gerardo Contreras and his children

Gerardo Contreras is a single father of three who worked with CalWORKs staff to gain full legal and physical custody of his children. He worked with our partners to renew his green card and find housing.  Gerardo told us that, “no matter how difficult our history has been, it is always possible to grow by overcoming our fears for the sole purpose of seeing our loved ones productive in this great nation.”

Coralynn L. faced physical and substance abuse in past relationships. After discovering she was pregnant with her oldest son, she was motivated to change and turned to the CalWORKs program for support. “When I found out I was pregnant, that was the day I realized I need something better to be able to give him something better,” said Coralynn. She added, “I have three boys and they are my pride and joy.”

Ruth Cayetano Galindo, her husband Mario, and two sons moved to Santa Clara County in pursuit of a new job opportunity. Mario lost his job and the family lost three family members and their pastor to COVID-19. Ruth turned to CalWORKs to help the family and started working at the County’s Emergency Operations Center after she grew tired of being afraid of the virus. “Overall, I met a new version of myself that is able to overcome obstacles,” she said. “Challenges do not paralyze me anymore.”

Other honorees include:

Denise King, who used CalWORKs resources to get back on her feet after facing intimate partner violence. Denise went back to school and pursued a career in paralegal studies. She received aid from the CalWORKs Domestic Violence Program and obtained her AA degree from De Anza College.

And Valerie Lasquety, who overcame intimate partner violence and utilized CalWORKs programs to find a new job. She learned how to prepare for an interview including how to speak, dress, apply, and follow-up with a thank you letter. As a result, she was able to obtain full-time employment with Apple.


The Santa Clara County CalWORKs program serves approximately 5,000 families each year. The program provides families with employment-based services, including assistance with job readiness, vocational training, education programs, and subsidized employment. The CalWORKs program also offers a variety of support programs to help families achieve economic stability. These programs include home visitation services to new and expectant parents, as well as other critical services related to housing, homelessness prevention, childcare, transportation, domestic violence, expungement, and behavioral health.

Despite the continued uncertainties posed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the CalWORKs program has helped approximately 40% of participating families find employment and continues to provide them with the financial, educational, and personal support needed to help them thrive during these challenging times.


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The County of Santa Clara government serves a diverse, multi-cultural population of 1.9 million residents in Santa Clara County, Calif., making it more populous than 14 states in the U.S. The County provides essential services to its residents, including public health protection, environmental stewardship, medical services through the County of Santa Clara Health System, child and adult protection services, homelessness prevention and solutions, roads, park services, libraries, emergency response to disasters, protection of minority communities and those under threat, access to a fair criminal justice system, and many other public benefits. 
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Media Contact: Maria Leticia Gomez / Quan Vu, Office of Communications and Public Affairs, [email protected], (408) 299-5119

Posted: Monday, November 14, 2022