The new year has brought in a new class of local leaders ready to participate in Leadership Porterville, and on Thursday it was time for the new class to kick off with an orientation on the second floor of the Centennial Plaza. 

Leadership Porterville (LP) is a nine month program with the goal of enabling potential and emerging community leaders to positively impact Porterville as interested and informed residents. LP hopes to inspire active and effective involvement through the confidence, skills and knowledge gained by program participation.

This year, LP is introducing six new members to the program, and at the orientation on Thursday each new member introduced themselves through “life maps.” The life map was explained as being a visual depiction of the important life events that have helped to propel and shape the members as the people they are today. The class was given large sheets of card stock paper, colored pencils, pens and pencils to draw out their life maps every way they chose to. Some did timelines while others drew detailed pictures full of color. After about 20 minutes of working on their life maps, the six new LP members were asked to share their map with the room.

First to share was Martin Medina, the Vice Principal of Summit Charter Collegiate Academy (SSCA). Medina was born in Mexico and came to the U.S. in 1999 where his family made a home in Wasco. One of Medina’s biggest goals is to return to his birth country to try to change and evolve the educational system in the future. He graduated from high school in 2006 and started at Cal State Bakersfield shortly after. It took him until 2012 to obtain his bachelor’s. Medina was the first in his family to go to go to college. Medina met his wife right before graduating from college and married her in 2014. In 2018 his daughter was born. In 2013 Medina landed his first teaching job with Burton School District. In 2017, Medina obtained his master’s and got his first administration job as a Vice Principal at SCCA. One of his future goals is becoming the principal of his own school.

Michael Warden, the Gift Shop Manager at Eagle Mountain Casino, introduced himself second. Warden was born in Porterville in 1982, and went through the Porterville educational system, graduating from Monache High School and attending Porterville College (PC). In 1999, he got his first job at the Long Island Country Club where he worked up to the rank of Assistant Chef. His first son was born in 2009 and his second son was born in 2012. He landed a position as an Ag Lab Manager in Hanford, but in 2014 the company closed and Warden began to rebuild. He started roofing in 2014, but bought a business in 2015 called Maverick’s Coffee Company in Visalia. He left the business in 2019 and was interviewed at Eagle Mountain Casino, where he was quickly hired.

Next to share his story was Derek Mathews, an Engineer with the Porterville City Fire Department. Mathews was born in Bakersfield and lived in Shafter until 2000. He moved to Arizona to attend Universal Technical Institute and secured a degree in Auto Diesel Mechanics. He moved back to Shafter in 2002 and met his wife. In 2005, he got married. He worked at Merle Stone for a few years and worked as a Reserve for the Porterville Fire Department (PFD). In 2010, his son was born, and during that time he was hired as an EMT at Eagle Mountain Casino. In 2012, he secured a full-time position with PFD. In 2018, he was promoted to his current rank of Engineer.

Fourth to introduce herself to the class was Alida Verduzco Silva, who works in the Marketing Department at Sierra View Medical Center (SVMC). She was born in Mexico in 1985 and moved to California in 1990, settling in Porterville in 1992. She graduated from Porterville High School where she focused on art and joined the school’s MEChA club. She didn’t go straight to college after high school, but enrolled in PC in 2008. In 2011, she decided to move to New York City to expand her experiences and lived there for three to four years. After returning to California, she completed her Associate’s Degree at PC and moved to Lemoore where she worked in the health care field. In 2017, she enrolled at Fresno State and earned her bachelor’s in 2018. Last year, she moved back to Porterville and began working for SVMC.

Yuriko Velarde, a Clerical Assistant III in the Human Resources Department for the City Of Porterville, took center stage after Silva. Velarde is one of seven siblings, and grew up in Terra Bella. She completed junior high school in Terra Bella before graduating from Porterville High School in 2007. She was a member of the Panther Band and Student Council. She began college at Cal State Bakersfield, before enrolling into PC for a year. In 2009, she moved to Huntington Beach with her friends and got accepted into Cal State Fullerton. She returned home a year or so later and completed her degree at Cal State Bakersfield. In 2012, she worked for Charter full-time while also pursuing her education full-time. In 2013, she graduated with her bachelor’s. She was hired on by the Porterville Police Department in 2015, and she loved working in that position. She took some time off to help take care of her mother. Velarde got engaged to her long-time boyfriend in 2016 and they got married in 2018. Also during 2018, she felt she needed to do more in her career, so she left her job with the city and worked for Porterville Unified School District for 10 months. She landed a new job working for the City of Lindsay, before she returned to work for the City of Porterville. 

Tara Warren, the AmeriCorps Program Director at Porterville Unified School District, was the last to introduce herself to the LP class. Warren was born in Porterville in 1980 and was part of the first kindergarten class at Oak Grove Elementary School. She credits her Oak Grove teachers for helping shape the person she is today. 

Warren shared her love for basketball and sports, and she was on a traveling basketball team in junior high. She participated in band and sports at Monache High School, and even traveled to New York to participate in the Macy’s Day Parade. 

After graduating high school, she enrolled into PC where she intended to pursue psychology. After her first psychology class, she decided to change her course of study because she didn’t feel psychology was the right route for her. She met her life partner shortly after and together they started a family. Warren is the mother of three children who have been extremely involved in sports. Her daughters were team members of a traveling volleyball team at the same time her son was on a traveling basketball team. 

She took a Correctional Officer job in 2008, but soon realized she wanted to go back to school and returned to PC. She went back to school intending to go into teaching, but finished with a degree in Business. She landed a job working as a Secretary for Porterville Unified School District, but ended up working at Citrus High School. As her life progressed, she moved into the Pathways office and worked as a Work Base Coordinator, which she loved. She was offered her current position at the beginning of this year, and is still feeling out what her new position fully entails, but is excited she still gets to work with youth in the community.

This year’s LP class has many events planned for the nine-month course including focused sessions on healthcare, agriculture, public safety and local government. The LP Board of Directors is composed of nine people and they are as follows; President Irene Ortega; Secretary Debbie Estrada and; Treasurer John Lollis; Board members Sunny Basra, Dave LaPere, Martha Stuemky, Matthew Mingrone, Donna Hefner, and Dr. Claudia Habib.

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