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Encinitas resident honored by council for longtime community service

Beatriz Villarreal
(Courtesy)

Encinitas resident Beatriz Villarreal received a proclamation from the Encinitas City Council on Nov. 18 in commemoration of her 30 years of service to the community, particularly to Latino children and their families.

Over the last 30 years, most of that work has taken place through the Mano a Mano Foundation, a nonprofit she started. The foundation’s workshops and other events have focused on drug and alcohol abuse, gang violence and teen pregnancy.

In a brief ceremony during the online council meeting, Mayor Catherine Blakespear presented the proclamation.

“We are grateful for your efforts in teaching families through your Mano a Mano Foundation,” it read in part.

Originally from Mexico City, Villarreal relocated to California in the 1980s when she was 24 to pursue a master’s degree in special education and teaching at the University of San Diego. She then completed a doctoral degree in education.

“It was intense, it was hard, but now that I look back I’m so thankful I was able to do that,” Villarreal said, adding that her father encouraged her to go for the doctoral degree. “I’m like a model for a lot of kids who are seeing me as, ‘If she can do it, I can do it.’ That’s my message to them too.”

Early in her career, Villarreal designed the transitional housing program at St. Vincent De Paul for homeless families in San Diego County. The program helped hundreds of families receive employment, housing, and education for their families.

She eventually went on to work in a counseling program for children in San Diego County’s juvenile detention facilities where she saw the need for additional outreach to the Latino community.

“They didn’t have any support or individual counseling in juvenile hall,” she said.

In 1990, Villarreal started the Mano a Mano Foundation with the goal of providing parents with information that can help them prevent children from getting into trouble and encourage them to pursue higher education.

“So now I work everywhere,” Villarreal said. “All the school districts know me very well. My workshops are very, very popular because they’re in Spanish and I developed a curriculum. The curriculum is based on things that happen in our community and how we deal with them, and how we deal with kids who are learning other values, other ways of thinking.”

Villarreal said it’s important for them to learn how “to take advantage of both” the lessons and values offered by their ancestry and their families’ adopted homeland to succeed in life and school.

Villarreal has lived in Encinitas for almost 31 years. Among her other roles in the community, she has emceed the city’s Dia de los Muertos(Day of the Dead) celebration.

“I love Encinitas, I will die in Encinitas,” she said. “I love my community.”

For more information about the Mano a Mano Foundation, visit mamf.org.


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