Ernesto Vela

MONTEREY COUNTY — Siembra Latinos Fund of the Community Foundation for Monterey County has announced that Ernesto Vela, assistant superintendent of student services for the Monterey County Office of Education, is the recipient of the inaugural Alfred Diaz-Infante Award.

The award was established in 2023 to honor the late Alfred Diaz-Infante, a community leader and nonprofit executive who created partnerships to elevate the Latino community in Monterey County.

In his 27 years in public education, Vela has served as an elementary school teacher, principal, district office administrator and program director. He considers himself a lifelong learner and constantly finds ways to build his knowledge and capacity. 

He holds two Master of Arts degrees in education and a doctorate in educational leadership. Intending to attend law school, he held a summer position supporting out-of-school youth for the Migrant Education Program. This short-term position made him realize that his true calling was in education, recognizing his potential to make a difference in the lives of others.

Vela cherishes his background as a migrant student and English language learner while attending Bardin Elementary, El Sausal Middle School and Alisal High School in Salinas. He stays active and gives back to the community as a member of the Salinas-Alisal Rotary Club and is in his 10th year as a board member and team leader for the Salinas Valley Dream Academy, a nonprofit youth leadership organization that supports high school youth with civic engagement, leadership development and college and career readiness.

“I am thrilled and humbled to be recognized with this award. Thank you to the Siembra Latinos Fund, the Community Foundation for Monterey County, and especially the Diaz-Infante family for this great honor. I can’t express in words what this honor means to me,” said Vela when notified of the award selection.

The Alfred Diaz-Infante Award was created to honor his legacy by recognizing individuals who work in a collaborative way to make positive change for the Latino Community. “Siembra” means “to sow,” and Alfred sowed seeds of goodwill and progress along his path, leaving this community better than he found it. 

The award is presented to someone who uses their position and influence in the community to advance positive change for Monterey County Latinos and has a commitment to areas including equitable opportunities, civic engagement, housing, education and the farmworker community.

“We are honored to present this award to Dr. Vela who carries on Alfred’s spirit as a champion for the Latino community in Monterey County,” said Lorraine Yglesias, Siembra Latinos Fund co-chair. 

Louie Diaz-Infante, Alfred’s brother and member of the Siembra Latinos Fund Advisory Board, added, “Our family is proud to honor the legacy of my brother by partnering with Siembra Latinos Fund on this award. We hope it will inspire others to continue in his footsteps.”

The award will be presented at the Siembra Latinos Fund Annual Celebration on Thursday, Sept. 28, at Taylor Farms, 150 Main St. in Salinas. For more information, call 831-375-9712 or visit

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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