For the past three years, Bertha Garcia-Tucker has dedicated herself to helping youngsters stay in school and stay out of gangs.
As a counselor with Community Service Programs Inc., Garcia-Tucker, 50, works with city, school and police officials to inspire children who are at risk and offer them choices.
Her face is familiar at San Clemente schools, where she works with children to plan after-school activities, and at a number of homes where she counsels parents on how to set their children on the path to success.
“She’s the best. There’s no one else like her,” said Cynthia Arteaga, a junior at San Clemente High School. “If you have a problem, you can always go to her. As soon as you talk to her, you feel like she really cares. She hears you.”
Garcia-Tucker, a Laguna Hills resident, is a 10-year veteran of the community program and said she has worked with more than 300 children and their families in South County.
“I love what I do,” she said. “I never seem to get tired of it.”
Last month, she learned that she had won national recognition for her service on behalf of local youth. Garcia-Tucker was selected from more than 200 applicants as one of 10 people cited by the nonprofit National Child Labor Committee.
Executive Director Jeffrey Newman said the award is presented annually to five professionals and five volunteers who go the extra mile for children.
Garcia-Tucker was nominated by City Councilman Steve Apodaca. “I couldn’t think of anyone who could be more deserving,” he said. “She’s a pretty special person.”
Garcia-Tucker said she was stunned when she got the call in January telling her she had won.
“It is a big honor to be recognized for your work,” she said. “It’s important to let other people know what positive things are happening here.”