Before stepping down from his post tonight, Mayor Alan Nakanishi will honor three residents he chose as this year's community service award recipients.
Honorees are Maria Cervantes, Richard Jones and Kenneth Mullen. The trio will be recognized at a reception following tonight's meeting.
They were chosen partly because of their contributions to children who live on the Eastside, Nakanishi said.
Cervantes, the principal of Heritage School Primary, credits her successful work with children to the way she was brought up. Today, she is in charge of 600 students of which 65 percent are English-language learners.
Cervantes, who was born in Mexico, came to America when she was 6 years old. Living in a city near San Francisco, she didn't meet another Spanish-speaker until she was in eighth grade.
At home, she was required to speak in her native language, a rule she's thankful for today to have retained her culture. At school, she was challenged to learn in a new language, and her helpful teachers inspired Cervantes to go into the same profession.
"I tell my students and their parents, 'you can learn and you can accomplish and you can never give up,' " she said.
Cervantes, who attended college in Sacramento, has been with the Lodi Unified School District since 1988.
"When I look at this recognition, I think of the inspiration I've received working at different schools," she said. "I feel here (at Heritage), I've been given so much support from different people, and I want to be an advocate for the families here."
Cervantes has helped set up programs on the campus such as Lodi Look, English as a Second Language for adults, community-based tutoring and an on-site health clinic.
"The more services we provide here, the more we're supporting the entire city," she said. "I have a vision to keep Lodi a great place."
When she's not at school, the principal is involved in the local Soroptomist Club, Lodi Area Community Counsel and St. Anne's Church.
Jones, president of the Lodi Boys and Girls Club with 3,000 children, was surprised when the letter notifying him he was selected arrived at his East Poplar Street office.
"I had no idea I was even being considered for such a prestigious award," he said. "This is from my community, that's why it's so special."
Jones, who has been in his position for nine years, is a single father to 10 adopted children. He's served on the city's Youth Commission and the district's charter school committee, and been involved with the Lodi Muslim Mosque, the police department's CrimeStoppers program and the Breakthrough Project, to name a few.
The Lodi Rotary Club vice president has received awards from all over the country and proudly displays them on his office walls.
He has been involved with the national Boys and Girls Club for 35 years, and most recently worked at the club's national headquarters in Los Angeles.
In his 11 months with the city, Parks and Recreation Director Roger Baltz said he's found Jones to be an advocate the youth of Lodi. The two agencies work together on projects.
"When the phone rings and I know it's Mr. Jones, it's always a pleasure to pick it up," Baltz said. "He's straight-forward and a man of integrity. I think the Boys and Girls Club is lucky to have a man like him."
Mullen, a doctor with Lodi Primary Care Associates, is a native Lodian and is currently a member of the Lodi Unified School District school board. He is also a past chief of staff at Lodi Memorial Hospital.
Mullen, who has been married for 26 years and has four children, received notification about the award earlier this month. "I felt good to be honored by Dr. Nakanishi. He is not only the mayor, but a very respected doctor in the community."
Mullen works with the district to treat children for conditions such as Attention Deficit Disorder and has set up an on-site school health site.
For the last 20-plus years, he has served as the Lodi High School team doctor, where he performs about 400 annual physicals per year.
Each year, the outgoing mayor chooses one or more residents to receive a service award. In 2000, former Mayor Steve Mann chose Kenneth Boyd, Dennis Cunnington and Dave Vaccarezza, according to the City Clerk's Office.
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