The 2022 Bernard Osher Philanthropist of the Year Awards were held on April 13th, honoring the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians (SMBMI) for their unwavering support of community colleges across California. The award, named after Bernard Osher, was created to recognize his initial gift to the community college system.
CEO Geoff Green celebrated the event, stating, “Celebrate philanthropy and all the good work of those who support our community colleges. Many of you know our community colleges are among the best investments you can make for a greater quality of life.” He highlighted the importance of community colleges, which hold over half of the state’s students, and the diverse age range of attendees.
Special guests included Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, Dr. Diana Rodriguez, Chancellor of San Bernardino Community College District (SBCCD), and Lynn Nay Valbuena, Chairwoman of the SMBMI.
With approximately 2 million individuals attending a community college in the state, the organization reports a 12 to 1 dollar success rate – for every dollar donated by a contributor, the community of the student receives an additional 12 dollars. This support helps close equity and opportunity gaps, transforming and enriching lives.
Chancellor Diana Rodriguez expressed her gratitude towards SMBMI, sharing a heartfelt story about a young man who overcame adversity with the help of the Valley Bound Commitment Program, which would not have been possible without SMBMI’s support.
She said, “One particular young man, Devin, was against all odds; he dreamt big and grew up in a disadvantaged neighborhood in the Inland Empire. He refused to be defined by his circumstances and was determined to be the first person in his family to attend college. His dream came alive when he became accepted into the Valley Bound Commitment Program.”
Rodriguez continued, “He excelled in the program and inspired his peers, he was on track, but then life had other plans for him. He had to get a job to make ends meet; he felt lost and drifted, and tragedy struck. Devin was in a life-threatening car accident. It was a wake-up call, and he needed to change to live his life to the fullest and give back to his community. With the Valley Bound Commitment Program’s support, he decided to return. He faced many setbacks but never gave up.”
Chancellor Rodriguez proudly shared the young man’s success: “I’m thrilled to share that Devin will be graduating this August with a degree. It is a testament to his resilience and unwavering determination. But his achievement is also a testimony to the transformative power of the support from SMBMI. They have been incredibly supportive to students like Devin, showing that you can achieve anything you desire with determination, hard work, and support. So, on behalf of the community and the 20,000 students that we have, we express our sincerest gratitude to the SMBMI; we truly appreciate it.”
The Valley Bound Commitment Program has been pivotal in eliminating financial barriers for nearly 2,000 students, providing them with essential resources and support.
Lynn Nay Valbuena, Chairwoman of SMBMI, emphasized the importance of education as a top priority. She said, “We believe in investing in the future through education and creating pathways for those who would not have had the opportunities.” Through our commitment, SMBMI has supported students at Chaffey College, Crafton Hills College, San Bernardino Valley College, and Victor Valley College with textbooks, scholarships, supplies, and more.
Valbuena added, “Together, we are not only improving students’ lives but uplifting families and communities and driving economic development.” Then, in the Serrano language of the SMBMI, she concluded, “Hakup A’ Ai,” meaning thank you, regarding the recognition.
The Tribe’s Tribal Secretary, Johnny Hernandez Jr., spoke about the Spirit of Yawa’ – acting on one’s belief – and the Tribe’s commitment to helping those on their ancestral lands.
The virtual event, held on April 13th, successfully highlighted the transformative power of SMBMI’s support and the importance of philanthropy in enriching the lives of community college students across the Inland Empire and the nation.
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