County of Santa Clara Will Honor CalWORKs Families at 31st Annual Awards Ceremony

Honorees and their achievements highlight how families facing adversity have used the CalWORKs program to find success and resilience

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF.— A mother of three who lost her husband and then her family business; newly arrived refugees fleeing violence in Afghanistan and El Salvador; women overcoming intimate partner violence. These are families in Santa Clara County who, with help from CalWORKs, persevered through tremendous adversity to find new careers and rebuild more stable lives for themselves and their children.

Their hard work and success will be celebrated on Tuesday, November 16, as part of the 31st Annual California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) Achievement Awards. The ceremony will be held virtually, during the beginning of the County of Santa Clara’s Board of Supervisors meeting at 9:30 a.m.

“I’m thrilled to celebrate these families, who inspire us with their resilience,” said Angela Shing, Director of Employment and Benefits Services for the County of Santa Clara Social Services Agency. “When faced with hardship, they didn’t give up. They reached out for help, and they used the resources available to persevere. Their stories are truly commendable.”

Here are the stories of this year’s honorees:

Caitlyn Yellowhorse is a single mother of two who faced intimate partner violence and struggled with substance abuse, unemployment, and homelessness. CalWORKs’ comprehensive services helped her find a home and a new job in real estate. “Regardless of the situation and my circumstances, I will continue to get back up,” she said. “I want my kids to know that no matter what obstacle they face, as long as they don’t give up, they’ll be alright.”

Mohammad Ahmadi left his home country with his wife and child five years ago, when they faced danger in Afghanistan. He is now enrolled at San José City College pursuing an IT degree and doing an internship with a local technology firm. “I grew up in a war, so it has been challenging. When I look back at what I’ve been through with my family, I’m proud of myself,” Ahmadi said, adding: “It gives me peace of mind that there is help around the corner if I need it.”

Sonia Sandhu, who lost her husband and later her family business, used CalWORKs resources to get back on her feet and pursue paralegal studies. She was recently offered an internship with the Santa Clara County Office of the District Attorney. “The most important lesson I’ve learned in my life is to never give up,” she said. “Achieve your goals and don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it.”

Other honorees include:

Erica Mora, who overcame intimate partner violence and utilized CalWORKs programs to find a new job. Erica later became part of the first volunteer group to serve at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds Expo Hall vaccination center as a Disaster Service Worker.

María Elena Alvarado Guevara, who fled violence in El Salvador with her three children. She enrolled in CalWORKs adult education programs to learn English and now works full-time. María Elena has established a stable home for herself and her family.


The Santa Clara County CalWORKs program serves approximately 5,000 families each year. The program provides families with employment-based services, including assistance with job readiness, vocational training, education programs, and subsidized employment. The CalWORKs program also offers home visitation services to new and expectant parents, and other critical services related to housing, homelessness prevention, childcare, transportation, domestic violence, expungement, and behavioral health.

Despite the continued uncertainties posed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the CalWORKs program has helped approximately 40% of participating families find employment and continues to provide them with the financial, educational, and personal support needed to help them thrive during these challenging times.

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The County of Santa Clara government serves a diverse, multi-cultural population of 1.9 million residents in Santa Clara County, California, making it more populous than 14 states in the U.S. The County provides essential services to its residents, including public health protection, environmental stewardship, medical services through the County of Santa Clara Health System, child and adult protection services, homelessness prevention and solutions, roads, park services, libraries, emergency response to disasters, protection of minority communities and those under threat, access to a fair criminal justice system, and many other public benefits.

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Media Contact: María Leticia Gómez/Quan Vu,  Office of Communications and Public Affairs, (408) 299-5119, [email protected]

Posted: November 15, 2021​


News Release


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