The annual gala, held at the Lone Tree Golf Course and Event Center, also included honors for Citizen of the Year Sean Wright; A Lifetime Achievement Award for Walter Ruehlig; Clay, Millias and Co., LLP, as Small Business of the Year; and Allied Waste as Large Business of the Year.
Hernandez was named Antioch’s Youth of the Year for a multitude of reasons. He was elected student president of the 2,000-member California Health Occupation Students of America. Hernandez, who plans to become a surgeon one day, goes around the state talking with students about future careers in health care.
He also volunteers with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and is a member of the Young Entrepreneurs at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. Hernandez is also the first person in his family to apply to a university.
Hernandez doesn’t strive for the hardware – he just loves to help people. “It’s a great honor. I didn’t even know that people gave out awards to the youth for the things they do,” he said. “I didn’t go out and do the things I did because I wanted an award. I did them to help.”
The Chamber of Commerce conferred on one of its own – former chairman and current CEO Sean Wright – the prestigious Citizen of the Year award. Owner of Wright Start Chiropractic in Antioch, Wright tackled the difficult job of guiding and rebuilding Antioch’s Chamber of Commerce through rough economic times. One of his first tasks was to pare the Chamber’s paid staff and cultivate a group of volunteers to sustain the organization’s work. Wright was key in reshaping the Chamber’s mission and organizing events such as A Celebration of Antioch, in which city leaders shared with residents the things that make Antioch a great city.
Wright also serves as a Scoutmaster for Troop 28 and devotes time to the Antioch Chichibu Sister City Organization, the Delta Baseball League, Delta Youth Soccer, Youth Intervention Network, El Campanil Theatre and the Kiwanis of the Delta.
Wright has a passion for bringing to light the positives in a city often known for its negatives. “I’m going around doing nothing but spreading the positive that I see,” Wright said. “If we can focus on the positive and keep going in that direction, I know we’ll be there.”
Following Wright’s reception of the gala’s top honor, tireless Antioch advocate Walter Ruehlig was given the Lifetime Achievement Award. Ruehlig, a member of the Antioch Unified School District Board of Trustees, also counsels adults with disabilities who are trying to re-enter the workforce.
Ruehlig’s efforts have been vital to the campaign to fully revive the Rivertown Fourth of July Parade. He also co-founded the Antioch Music Foundation, through which he has donated eight pianos and raised more than $80,000. Ruehlig donates his time to several other noble efforts around East County, such as the Interfaith Peace Project, the Knights of Columbus, Antioch’s Katrina Relocation Project and the Mello Roos Board.
“To be recognized by your neighbors,” Ruehlig said, “is really something special.”
Accounting firm Clay, Millias and Co., LLP, was named the city’s Small Business of the Year. The firm earned the honor based on its commitment to the community and willingness to aid nonprofit organizations through pro bono work. The company currently assists 12 local nonprofits for free, helping them get up to speed on state and federal regulations.
Allied Waste earned the title of Large Business of the Year. The company routinely cleans up the city by disposing of illegally dumped waste, and promotes recycling throughout Antioch.
Allied Waste has also donated money or services to a variety of city functions, such as Keep Antioch Beautiful, the El Campanil Theatre, Antioch Delta Skimmers, Safe and Sober Grad Nights, Friends of Animal Services and the Delta Blues Festival. The company became a Certified Green Business in November of 2009 – the first of its kind in the county to earn the distinction.