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Ventura County Review

Business Group's Scholarships Give Minorities a Career Boost


Yosely Cardenas got her diploma from Fillmore High School just last week, but she already has her sights set firmly on her post-collegiate future.

"I plan to pursue a career in advertising," said Cardenas, 18, who will major in communications at Loyola Marymount University beginning in the fall. "I want to emphasize music and I like art, painting and drawing. I think I would like to start off working with a major corporation or firm that involves the arts business."

It is this business-oriented thinking that helped earn Cardenas a $4,000 scholarship last week from the Ventura County Minority Business Group.

Cardenas was one of nine graduating high school seniors in the county who were awarded a total of more than $20,000 by the organization. The winners, chosen from among 14 applicants, won in part because of their plans to pursue business-related careers after completing their educations.

The Minority Business Group, founded in 1992 by Ventura County National Bank to assist local minority businesses, is supported by such corporate sponsors as Southern California Edison, Procter & Gamble, Jones Intercable and the Southern California Gas Co., as well as individuals and private business owners from throughout the county.

In addition to the annual scholarship program, the Minority Business Group sponsors workshops and speaker forums and assists local minority-owned businesses in such areas as developing business plans and obtaining financial support.

Mary Martha Stewart, a senior vice president at Ventura County National Bank, said the group was founded with the intent of helping to expand and support the county's minority-owned businesses. The scholarship program, she said, is a key step in that direction.

"It puts finances in the hands of local students and our hope, as local employers, is that they will bring that money back to the community," Stewart said, "to either work here or start a business here."

Alfredo Plascencia, president of Radio Lazar, KXLM-FM (102.9), has been involved with the Minority Business Group for the past three years. He said that as a community business leader it is important for him to help local students, particularly minority students, to succeed.

"The students who come in are bright young students, but sometimes they lack the funds to continue their education," Plascencia said. "I certainly hope for these students to graduate and come back to the community and be a part of it. Being a minority myself, I believe it is needed in our community."

David Garza, president of Oxnard Precision Fabrication, has similar feelings about his participation in the Minority Business Group.

"I joined because I wasn't offered this opportunity when I was younger," he said. "There weren't services out there exposing us to scholarships. Now I am a business owner who has the capability of giving back to the community."

Garza said he would like to see the scholarship winners act in a similar manner when they make it in the business world.

"I anticipate these individuals going out, getting a higher education and then employing other individuals themselves," said Garza, whose company manufactures sheet metal products used largely by the military and in aircraft. "They will be continuing the cycle."

Another member of the business group, Javier Castro, said as college costs continue to rise, it is more and more important to help minority high school students continue their schooling.

"There is a lack of minority representation in business education and throughout the educational program for blacks, Hispanics and other minorities," said Castro, the owner of Bianca Holdings, the parent company of Oxnard-based B.V.S. Reemployment Services, previously known as Bilingual Vocational Services.

B.V.S. consults with insurance companies to help rehabilitate employees, particularly in workers' compensation cases, and get them back to productivity as soon as possible.

"There is growth in small businesses owned by minorities in California," Castro said, "but there's not a lot of training there yet. There are not a lot of Hispanics or blacks trained in business administration."

Along with Cardenas, the 1996 Minority Business Group scholarship winners are Rhonda Casas and Heitiare Johnson of Santa Paula High School, Rashadd Cousins of Hueneme High School in Oxnard, Olga Urinyuk of Royal High School in Simi Valley, Mayra Said of Simi Valley High School, Theresa Hernandez of St. Bonaventura High School in Ventura, Ramiro Lopez of Oxnard High School and Michael Jaravata of Channel Islands High School in Oxnard.

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