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Assemblymember Arambula Chooses Genoveva Islas, Founder and Executive Director of Cultiva La Salud, as the 31st Assembly District Woman of the Year for 2023

For immediate release:
  • Felicia Matlosz
  • 559-304-9286

FRESNO, CA – Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno) has chosen Genoveva “Veva” Islas, founder and executive director of Cultiva La Salud and president of the Fresno Unified School District governing board, as Woman of the Year for the 31st Assembly District.

The honor is part of the annual recognition by the California Legislative Women’s Caucus of women who are making a positive impact in their communities. The State Assembly will have a ceremony for this year’s recipients early this afternoon at the State Capitol. The theme is “California Women Making Herstory.” The honorees are announced in March, which is Women’s History Month.

Islas’s childhood as the daughter of Mexican immigrants and farmworkers instilled in her a drive to help people from disadvantaged and underserved communities. She is the leader of Cultiva La Salud, a Fresno-based nonprofit organization focused on creating health equity in the San Joaquin Valley. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Islas and her organization were part of crucial efforts to coordinate and conduct vaccination events in rural communities that had little or no access to basic health services. Islas’ current efforts include assisting mobile food vendors in upgrading their carts to bolster their small businesses.

Islas also is the current president of the governing board for the Fresno Unified School District, the third-largest school district in California that serves an ethnically diverse and economically disadvantaged student population.

Her expertise has been recognized by prominent organizations. For example, she was selected to be part of the Culture of Health Leaders program supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. She also served on the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley and on the Covered California Health Exchange Board, with both appointments made by then-Governor Jerry Brown.

Assemblymember Arambula said: “I’ve seen firsthand the important work that Veva undertakes to protect and improve the health and lives of our underserved communities. She believes in the strength of grassroots efforts to educate people and affect change. She also is actively involved in major collaborations to uplift all our communities, such as the Fresno-Merced Future of Food Innovation Coalition to further merge technology into food production and improve the lives of farmworkers.

“And, during the COVID-19 pandemic, she was a critical partner in ensuring that vaccinations were available to our most vulnerable residents. Veva is a tireless, fierce, and exceptional advocate for improving access and equity to build healthier and better communities.”

Islas said: “I am deeply humbled and honored by my recognition and selection as a 2023 Woman of the Year. The recognition is even more poignant given that it’s being bestowed by a man who I greatly respect and admire, Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula.

“On behalf of my mother, an immigrant, all the humble Mexican immigrant women who helped to raise and nurtured me, my Abuelitas and Tias, the wonderful immigrant women who I get to work with every day in the Central Valley, my phenomenal female staff, the hardworking women and advocates I call friends, who are fighting to create a more just world, I proudly accept.

“I hope that my personal life journey as an impoverished child of farmworkers who is now an executive director, an English language learner who now has a master’s degree, a teen mother who now presides as president of the school board, and a survivor of violence who now leads domestic violence prevention efforts inspires more vulnerable women to understand that their worth is immeasurable, that their futures are only limited by their dreams, and that despite the bleakness of their current circumstance to never lose hope because better days will come.”

Islas is proud to be a first-generation alum of Fresno State, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Health Science, with an emphasis on community health. She also earned a Master of Public Health in health education and promotion from Loma Linda University.