Two very deserving women have been honored with prestigious awards.

Carol Ornelas, CEO of Visionary Home Builders, was surprised recently with the news that she has been selected as recipient of the 2016 Athena Award, given each year to a woman who excels in overall work, community service and assisting women in reaching professional excellence.

The award is sponsored by the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce.

“I am speechless,” Ornelas said. “This is so heartfelt.”

Ornelas has worked in the male-dominated building industry for more than three decades throughout the area.

Erin Guy Castillo, a local attorney, was named the recipient of the Young Professional Leadership Award.

She is a partner in the law firm Parish Guy Castillo PLC.

The Athena Awards luncheon will be held at 11:30 a.m. Nov. 17 at the Stockton Golf and Country Club. Tickets are $40. To purchase tickets call (209) 547-2770 or go to


CHEERS: She laces with love

The story of the goodness of Naghina Khan can't help but warm your heart.

The Stockton Unified School District bus driver made a simple gesture, which then turned into so much more.

She saw a youngster enter her bus with tattered shoes and told him, “I can fix them for you. If you can wear a different pair of shoes to school tomorrow, bring them and I’ll fix them.”

That’s turned into a passionate labor of love. She continues to repair the shoes of students who ride her bus at no charge. Hundreds of shoes.

This is a bus driver who — literally and figuratively — goes the extra mile.

“I feel for the kids — a lot of us bus drivers do,” Khan said. “… Once they step on the bus, they’re ours. With the shoe fixing that is something I could do for them.”


JEERS: Uncertainty for trauma center

San Joaquin General Hospital faces a tough deadline notification that its trauma center status is in jeopardy.

The county’s only trauma center was found out of compliance in a number of areas, and has until Oct. 10 to rectify matters.

This is concerning for San Joaquin County residents. Many trauma patients would be transported to facilities further away if the situation cannot be turned around.

Hospital officials are confident that compliance with requirements established by the state and federal governments and by the American College of Surgeons can be dealt with successfully.

But they don’t have much time to make it happen.


CHEERS: National Merit semifinalists

Excellence in education always should be celebrated.

A number of San Joaquin County high school students have been informed that they are among the nation’s 16,000 semifinalists in the National Merit Scholarship program.

Those to reach this level are: Faith Ajayi (Lodi Academy), John Burnside (Ripon Christian High), Daniella Caluza (Stockton Early College Academy), Assad Khan (Merrill F. West High), Molly Pinder (Lodi High), Amal Thornmil (Tracy High) and Charlie Zhang (Weston Ranch High).

They have the chance to continue in the process for the $33 million of scholarships that will be awarded in the spring.

Regardless how they do from this point in the competition, these students already have excelled.


CHEERS: Prom season comes early

United Cerebral Palsy and a fraternity at University of the Pacific are working to make dreams come true.

UCP and Xi Chi Sigma fraternity are hosting the first Spark of Night prom for people with disabilities. It will be held from 6-9 p.m. Oct. 29 in the DeRosa Ballroom on the Pacific campus.

The chances to make UCP clients feel special means a lot to the event organizers. Last week, about two dozen women and girls chose their prom dresses. Men and boys will get their prom tuxedos.

Prior to the dance, there will be hair styling, makeup applications, photos taken, and more.

Those who want to attend the prom have until Sept. 30 to reserve free tickets. For reservations or help finding a gown or tuxedo, call Angela Amaral at (209) 834-3282.