LOS ANGELES –  MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) awarded community service awards to three esteemed leaders at its first Los Angeles gala since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ceremony was postponed from late 2021.

“This first in-person MALDEF Los Angeles gala since November 2019 was a tremendous success, presenting an opportunity to hear from three incredibly accomplished and inspiring honorees,” said MALDEF President and General Counsel Thomas A. Saenz. “The event also allowed MALDEF to re-connect with some of our most committed supporters, to celebrate the recent critical accomplishments of our dedicated staff, and to talk about the current challenges faced by the Latino community in the post-Trump era.”

Among the honorees celebrated for his years of work and commitment to civil rights was Stewart Kwoh, President Emeritus and Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles. His leadership of the organization led to Advancing Justice-LA becoming the leading advocate for Asian American and NHPI (Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander) communities.  He also worked to build bridges with African American, Latino, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities. Kwoh received the Lifetime Achievement – Excellence in Community Service Award.

“This honor means the world to me,” Kwoh said. “MALDEF is one of the most respected civil rights organizations in the country. I have deeply appreciated its partnership over the years on immigration, redistricting, and workers’ rights. I hope this legacy lasts into the future.”

Also honored with a Lifetime Achievement – Excellence in Community Service Award was Dr. Darline Robles, Professor of Clinical Education at the USC Rossier School of Education, and the former superintendent of Los Angeles County Office of Education (2002-2010). While leading the largest regional education agency in the U.S., Robles focused on at-risk and special needs students. She also made it a priority to direct services to cash-strapped districts, particularly those with low-performing schools.

“I am humbled to be honored by one of the most influential and premier Latino civil rights organizations in the country,” said Robles. “MALDEF is committed to policy issues that affect our community, education, voting rights, immigration, and access to justice. As a proud Chicana, my work has been built on the shoulders of many other Latinas/Mexican-American women leaders who have fought for the same issues. I consider myself fortunate to know many of them and hope that I can continue to build on their legacy.”

Long-time ABC news anchor and journalist, John Quiñones, was recognized for his work with the Lifetime Achievement – Leadership in the Arts and Community Service Award.

He is known for his work as host and creator of “What Would You Do?” an ethical dilemma news show. Quiñones also works to spread the message of “doing the right thing” to millions of fans and at numerous public speaking events.

“Both MALDEF and I were born in San Antonio – a city with a rich history of Chicano power and progress,” Quiñones said. “For this barrio kid who had few role models, MALDEF was a shining beacon of hope, fairness, and justice. They had our backs when few others did and with their support, inspired us to believe that anything is possible. Who would have thought that someday, I would be receiving this beautiful award? I am tremendously honored and humbled.”

The event was emceed by ABC chief White House correspondent Cecilia Vega.

MALDEF recognizes the significant contributions of these outstanding leaders and their dedication to advancing civil rights for all. The event draws notable government and community leaders from around the nation.