Orange County trio receive Women of the Year honors in state’s 73rd district
Three Orange County women, including a Costa Mesa resident, are being honored by Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris as Women of the Year.
The honorees, one each from Costa Mesa, Irvine and Tustin, the cities represented by Petrie-Norris in the state’s 73rd district, were recognized in a ceremony Thursday.
“One of the things that I always come away with after these events is just a sense of inspiration and, really, of hope,” Petrie-Norris said. “All of these women, and so many of the women that we’ve been able to honor over the years, they’re tackling some of the toughest challenges facing our cities today and facing the planet today.”
Costa Mesa’s Jennifer Friend, who experienced homelessness as a child, is the chief executive of Project Hope Alliance, an organization that works to end youth homelessness. Under her leadership, the group has expanded from serving one school and 65 kids to 47 schools across three districts: Newport-Mesa Unified, Santa Ana Unified and Huntington Beach Union High School District.
“I used to think that I was successful despite what I went through,” said Friend, who added the honor is reflective of her organization’s collective work. “I realize now that it’s because of it, and I hope that the kids that we walk alongside can internalize that and realize that much earlier than 53. I think it’ll turn the impostor syndrome thing on its head if we look at it from an asset perspective, not a deficit perspective.”
Dr. Shaista Malik, the Irvine honoree, is the founding executive director of the UC Irvine Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute. She is also an associate vice chancellor of the College of Health Sciences at the university.
“Receiving this award is a testament to the importance of whole health and the contributions of women in this field,” Malik said. “I want to use this recognition as an opportunity to continue advocating for healthcare quality, equity and access for all, and to inspire others to engage in integrative whole-person health.”
Dr. Samar Aziz, a 30-year resident of Tustin, is the chief executive of Sabil USA, a nonprofit that provides myriad services, including help with food insecurity, rental assistance, and mental health services. Over the past 11 years, Sabil has provided 7.3 million pounds of nutritious food to those in need, Aziz said.
“It’s an honor to be servicing my community and the nearby neighborhoods and to be recognized for my city that I’ve been here for 30 years, and especially that this year, the theme is equity,” Aziz added. “As a woman, an immigrant from an Egyptian family, I really believe that it’s about time that we stepped up into our greatness and we shine and we are contributors of society.”
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