Gina Dalma views her life’s work as a bridge to help people see both the suffering that many less privileged people in our community experience, as well as the gifts they have to offer.
This mission has driven her to advocate for change on a wide variety of issues, including expanding housing options and seeking equal access to education regardless of background. Dalma is Executive Vice President of Community Action, Policy and Strategy at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.
“We just need to open our eyes to the pain that most of our community live in,” Dalma said in an interview with this news agency. “I think it’s really our obligation, and my faith actually drives me to always think about how we can play a part in healing the world.”
For her decades of work, Dalma is receiving the Athena Leadership Award this year, which will be presented by the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce at a ceremony next month.
The Palo Alto Athena Awards are part of an international program that recognizes the achievements of professional women. The Athena Awards program has awarded more than 7,000 awards since its inception in Michigan in 1982.
“It celebrates people who strive for the highest level of achievement: women who excel in their chosen field but who also blaze new trails for others to follow,” according to the company’s website. Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce.
Dalma’s advocacy has included seeking solutions to the region’s housing shortage, including serving as Vice President of [email protected]of the Board of Trustees and advocates for changes to the education system aimed at ensuring that children have a fair chance to succeed.
“I care very deeply about these issues because they are key determinants of the health of our communities,” Dalma said, adding that systemic injustices like a history of housing redlining continue to plague our region.
She played a major role in passing the California Mathematics Placement Act of 2015, which required school districts to assign students to math classes based on objective criteria. The bill, sponsored by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, sought to address the pattern that students of color were placed in lower math grades regardless of their grades and test scores.
At the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Dalma said she’s also focused grantmaking on investing in leaders and organizations that work on the ground, like neighborhood groups and tenant associations, rather than to limit its attention to large non-profit organizations. These small groups are key to creating the accountability that ensures policy changes are implemented effectively at the local level, Dalma said.
Former Palo Alto Mayor Judy Kleinberg, last year’s Athena Award winner, was among those who nominated Dalma, writing in a letter that she would be an outstanding and inspirational recipient of the award.
“Gina is best described as a ‘spark plug’ and has always been an inspiration and support to other women in the community, especially in the Latina community,” Kleinberg wrote.
Born and raised in Mexico, Dalma moved to the United States as an adult. Dalma said in an interview that she had access to incredible opportunities throughout her life and was inspired by the courage immigrants show when they settle in this country and work to support to the needs of their family.
When her son was in high school in Palo Alto, Dalma started a group for Spanish-speaking parents at school. She also served on the school district’s Minority Success and Talent Development Advisory Committee during the 2015-2016 school year.
“Because of where I have been privileged to be, I am very committed to working to end the systemic injustice that people are subjected to,” Dalma said.
The Athena Awards Ceremony is scheduled for 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 18 at the Sheraton Palo Alto, 625 El Camino Real. The Palo Alto Weekly is the media sponsor of the Athena Awards.
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit paloaltochamber.com/athena-awards.