An Interview with California’s Woman of the Year

Maya Mercado-Garcia, Photographer

Maya Mercado-Garcia

During Women’s History Month, Alyssa Joanna De La Cerda, 11, was awarded California’s Woman of the Year from assembly member Cristina Garcia. The award is granted by an official representative based on the district one resides in. Nominations are chosen based on a multitude of criteria, mostly relating to dedication and service while noting the impact on one’s community and, overall, the state of California. 

 

De La Cerda stated how she was left in utter shock.  “It was pretty shocking, I mean I didn’t even know there was an award like this for the state of California, much less that I would be someone receiving it,” De La Cerda stated. “There are truly no words to describe it other than completely grateful and appreciative.” 

 

To be awarded Woman of the Year is a major accomplishment, especially for a high school junior. De La Cerda explains how she was able to make a lasting impression on assembly member Cristina Garcia and prove her service for the people of her community and California. 

 

“I had the pleasure of meeting with Christina Garcia when I was only 8 years old at a protest against a measure to cut school funding. Since then I have continually voiced my opinion on issues regarding children’s rights and childcare from speaking at the Coliseum here by USC, East Los Angeles College and other events surrounding topics I am enthusiastic about,” De La Cerda explained. “I also created a website to help students of DUSD come forward about their experiences and struggles in order to make our community a safer place for open conversations about how to change for the better. Alongside that I am a part of Eco, Youth For Change, Erase The Stigma, and Kiwins Club to better Downey as a city and help in any additional way I can while also serving Downey High students directly by being a Link Crew leader and a writing center tutor while maintaining a 4.64 GPA throughout a pandemic.” 

 

De La Cerda has shown her passion and dedication to serve those in her community, illustrating her strength to be Woman of the Year. Despite her many accomplishments, De La Cerda has had doubts and worries at times. However, she reminds herself that if she was not worthy or capable, she would not have received this award. 

 

“I was struggling a lot in my own mind the days preceding that big announcement because I had a meeting with Mrs. Ekk (my counselor) and I was feeling very unsure of myself when it came to college and I was struggling to find out who I was and what made me stand out. There was a lot of self-doubt happening in my mind where I felt more often than not that I wasn’t special and that nothing I do helps anyone or matters,” De La Cerda said. “But, when I found out I had won and was shown the list of things I did and the impact that I have been making since such a young age I realized that there is a lot more to me than just numbers and grades and that there is actually a lot that makes me Alyssa, and it was an incredibly remarkable feeling that I will never forget in my entire life.”

 

After being awarded such an outstanding and prestigious award, De La Cerda was left inspired and motivated to continue to serve those in her Downey community as well as the whole state of California. 

 

“This award has pushed me to be a better role model for my little brother and sister who look up to me while also inspiring me to continue serving my community,” De La Cerda explained. “I hope to do as much as I can to repay them for all that they have given me, including the space that they have allowed me to grow in.”