Over two dozen colorful sombreros decorated the Hollister Elks Lodge on May 4 for the 46th annual Mexican American Committee on Education (MACE) Scholarship Dinner and Dance. One hundred and fifty tickets sold for the event at $50 each.
State Senator Anna Caballero, San Benito County Supervisors Mark Medina and Jim Gillio, Hollister School District Superintendent Diego Ochoa and San Benito High School Superintendent Shawn Tennenbaum joined community members including Sylvia Chavez (daughter of Cesar Chavez) to raise funds for students planning to pursue a college education.
MACE has granted over $415,000 to 503 students in the community since its formation in 1970, according to information provided by Veronica Lezama, former MACE scholarship recipient and president of the organization for the last seven years.
“Sometimes students may not necessarily have the grades, but they have that willpower to continue on with their education,” Lezama said.
Lezama said scholarships range from $500 to $1,000, depending on whether students attend a community college or four-year university. Scholarships are available to students of San Benito High School, San Andreas Continuation High School and Anzar High School. A five-member selection committee evaluates applications for financial need, past contribution to the community and what the student wants to accomplish in life.
Fundraiser attendees were treated to a meal of rice and beans, meat, chips, salsa and salad. Some people put their conversations on pause and hit the dancefloor when DJ Sergio Flores played Ramon Ayala’s “Un Rinconcito en el Cielo.” Others joined the celebration by singing along from their seats.
It was also an emotional night as the event was dedicated to Adolfo Berlanga, owner of El Nopal Bakery who passed away in November. Berlanga’s two daughters accepted flowers from MACE.
Al Gutierrez, a MACE founding member, spoke about Berlanga’s quiet yet extensive contribution to the community through donations, at times holding back tears. He said one day, Berlanga revealed to him why he was always contributing to those who asked.
“‘The more I give, the more God gives me,’” Berlanga told Gutierrez that day.
Berlanga’s legacy will continue, because the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Gutierrez said, referring to son Frankie Berlanga. Gutierrez added that like Adolfo, Frankie doesn’t like the spotlight but will do anything to help.
“We can all be happy that we knew him, that he baked for us,” Gutierrez said. “And we had a great time with him.”