Carmita Pena named Woodlake’s “Woman of the Year”

Carmita Pena receives award for Woman of the Year for her dedication to Woodlake students and her hometown pride

WOODLAKE – After dedicating over 20 years of her life to Woodlake’s youth, Carmita Pena was named Woman of the Year this week.

From its rolling green hills to its small town charm, Woodlake has been a place of pride and support for Pena from the start. Pena has spent her entire life in Woodlake. She graduated from the city’s school district and shortly after began her career there, where she has worked for over 20 years now. With her dedication to her small town, Pena received the Woman of the Year award this week.

“I hope I can inspire other women around me to give back to their community.  As a Woodlake graduate, I always hope to inspire our students to pursue their dreams and to always remember where they come from as they attain their goals in life,” Pena said. 

Pena is currently the coordinator of college & careers, which has evolved into overseeing different pathways offered at Woodlake High School along with the Agriculture Academy Program. But her career in Woodlake began long before. She started out as a case manager at the Woodlake Family Resource Center where she worked for three years in the early 2000’s. From there, she began working at Woodlake High School as a counselor in 2004, and quickly became the school’s head counselor in 2006. Investing in youth is a top priority for Pena.

“Something that is very important to me is that our youth make the connection of giving back as they become adults,” Pena said. “This is why community service is such an important part of the culture at Woodlake High School.  We hope to build that sense of community connections and service so that Woodlake students will go out and help where and when they can.”

Pena has a long history in Woodlake, which has given her a sense of pride for her hometown. However, her pride does not only stem from attending Woodlake schools and over 20 years as a school district employee. She said that she loves the support and networking in Woodlake. She said that though some people view small towns as a bad thing, since “everyone knows everything,” she sees it as a positive. Being a parent herself, she appreciates the strong sense of community that Woodlake brings, in addition to the support its residents give.

“I was honored and humbled by the award,” Pena said. “My principal Dr. Mike Burchett informed me of the award along with a group of colleagues who were all in his office to announce the award. I was not expecting it at all.”

This award is part of many that are given to residents or businesses who have contributed to make Woodlake a better place. An anonymous committee reviews nominees to select the winners. The following groups will select an anonymous person from within their group to be on this committee: City of Woodlake, Woodlake Police, Chamber of Commerce, Lions/Lady Lions, Rotary, Kiwanis, The HomeGrown Project, Woodlake Unified School District and Woodlake High School.

On March 3, the city will gather at the Woodlake Veterans Memorial Building to celebrate Pena and other winners this year. The dinner will be at 6 p.m., and tickets will be on sale starting Feb 17. Residents can purchase tickets at City Hall, the Woodlake High School office or by contacting Sally Pace at 559-805-3975.

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