On December 10, the College of Health and Human Services will host the 2020 Health and Human Services Hero Awards to recognize individuals who are making a bold difference right here in the Central Valley. We will highlight the nine honorees in our Heroes Blog Series.


Name: Sandra Celedon

Occupation:  President and Chief Executive Officer, Fresno Building Healthy Communities

Nominated by: The Central Valley Health Policy Institute 

When asked about her commitment to the people of Fresno, Sandra Celedon’s passion seeps through with fierce vigor and unbridled hope. The Fresno community is special to her, and more importantly – it is her home. After immigrating from Mexico as a young child, Celedon and her family planted roots in Calwa – a small unincorporated community in South Fresno that she says embraced and invested in her growth, from childhood to adulthood. 

“[Calwa] is home to Latino immigrants, Hmong, and Punjabi speaking communities,” Celedon said. “It is not just a place – it is a community of people that look out for and rely on each other. Calwa gave me courage and self-esteem, and instilled in me the values of community, honesty, and integrity. My heart is rooted in community because of my upbringing and I hope that every child that grows up in Fresno is raised in a community like Calwa – full of love, joy, and encouragement.”

As the president and chief executive officer of Fresno Building Healthy Communities (BHC), Celedon leads with those beliefs at the forefront of her work, and strives to invest in people and neighborhoods to create opportunities for everyone to thrive – regardless of zip code or socioeconomic status. She says the goal of Fresno BHC’s work is to bring people together to share skills and resources to make change and to create a better Fresno – one that is built on valuing the well-being of each citizen. 

“Fresno is a diverse community full of talented and motivated people,” Celedon said. “I want to see our talents recognized and leveraged to build the Fresno of tomorrow. I am continuously inspired by the many young people in our community that are using their voices and energy to create the Fresno they deserve.”

Celedon’s efforts have included helping to advance Measure P – a local sales tax measure to fund parks, trails and art programs in the City of Fresno. The work was the result of years of community organizing and investment in youth leadership. Celedon also helped to establish the Non-Resident Specialty Fund to to provide a safety net for undocumented community members, as well as access to specialty care within Fresno County.

Beyond a deep connection with Fresno communities, Celedon has a long history of collaboration with her alma mater, Fresno State – particularly with the Central Valley Health Policy Institute. 

“Sandra was vital to the San Joaquin Valley Place Matters team, a collaboration between academics, community-based organizations, and community members, which brought national attention to the regional social, economic, and health issues present in the region,” said Central Valley Health Policy co-assistant directors, Dr. Tania Pacheco-Werner and Emanuel Alcala. “She also has worked with the institute to develop models that are now being replicated in other areas, most recently the COVID-19 Health Equity Project, a community-based approach to the pandemic response. Sandra is a true community leader and visionary.”

The 2020 Health and Human Services Hero Awards, which celebrates heroes from each of the seven departments, as well as centers and institutes within our college, will be held virtually this year. To register, visit bit.ly/CHHS-Heroes2020. For more information on the event, contact Beth Wilkinson at bwilkinson@csufresno.edu.