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Overcoming Long Odds in the Central Valley

SCE celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month by honoring those who give back and inspire.

Having your life portrayed in a Hollywood movie can be pretty heady stuff. Just ask the Diaz brothers.

Since “McFarland, USA” hit theaters earlier this year, the story about underprivileged high school kids from California’s Central Valley winning the state cross-country championships has made celebrities of Danny, David and Damacio Diaz.

Speaking at Southern California Edison’s (SCE) fifth annual Hispanic Heritage Month celebration in Tulare recently, Danny brought it back down to earth a little bit. He didn’t stress fame. He stressed the basics.

“Because of education, we have become champions in life,” said Danny, now a counselor at McFarland High School. “Never mind champions in cross-country.”

The Diaz brothers and four younger siblings ran for coach Jim White on McFarland High's cross-country team whose first state championship in 1987 inspired the Disney movie. The brothers credit White and a childhood of picking almonds and grapes alongside their parents for developing their work ethic and inspiring community involvement.

Despite never having a relative make it past the ninth grade, all seven Diaz runners went to college and built successful careers in agriculture, law enforcement and education. David and Damacio also won scholarships from Edison International, parent company of SCE.

At the Oct. 9 event, SCE recognized those who are giving back and making a difference in the larger community. The city of Visalia was honored for its water conservation and energy-efficiency efforts. The nonprofit Porterville Area Coordinating Council, which provides help with electric bills, doctor’s visits and water distribution to city residents, will receive a $5,000 grant from SCE. And the Tulare Kings Hispanic Chamber of Commerce received SCE’s Diverse Business Enterprise Award for helping local businesses navigate contracting and regulatory issues.

“This celebration recognizes the importance of Hispanic contributions to our communities, our state and our nation,” said Pedro Pizarro, president of SCE, who attended the event. “We are also celebrating diversity, one of the core values for our company. It is central to how we work with customers, vendors and employees.

“In today’s economy, workforce diversity and inclusion are critical to our continued success in serving our customers.”