Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Ben Caldwell and Tam Nguyen are 2020’s three Local Heroes honorees. They were chosen from a group of 12 outstanding individuals nominated by KCET and PBS SoCal’s Community Advisory Board (CAB). Read more about their work in the community below.
Dr. Barbara Ferrer
When she was appointed as the Los Angeles County Public Health Director by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors in January 2017, Dr. Barbara Ferrer was deemed uniquely qualified to lead and serve the community’s diverse populations with over 40 years of professional experience as a philanthropic strategist, public health director, educational leader, researcher and community advocate. Prior to her appointment, Dr. Ferrer had served as the chief strategy officer for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission and director of Health Promotion & Chronic Disease Prevention and director of the Division of the Maternal & Child Health at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. At the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Ferrer became the voice and face of calm to millions of residents throughout California, dispensing consistent and useful information, sharing the facts as she knew them and encouraging Southern California residents to follow evolving guidelines. She has a proven track record of efforts that build health and education equity and has led a wide range of public health programs building innovative partnerships to address inequities in health outcomes supporting healthy communities and healthy families. Read more about Ferrer.
Considered one of the region’s cultural leaders, Ben Caldwell is an artist, director, educator, independent filmmaker and mentor, offering professional advice and support through his KAOS Network media lab and open mic hip-hop workshops. Caldwell grew up assisting his grandfather, who projected movies at a small theater in New Mexico and developed a passion for the visual arts. After studying film at UCLA, he spent the early 1980s teaching film and video at Howard University in Washington, D.C. before returning in 1984 to Southern California’s historic Leimert Park neighborhood to create an independent studio for video production and experimentation. In what eventually became known as the KAOS Network, it remains the only organization of its kind in South Central Los Angeles that offers courses in video production, animation, web development, and even video teleconferencing and the Internet. Caldwell served as a full-time faculty member at the California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts) for 15 years and became a major force at the award-winning CalArts Community Arts Partnership (CAP), a co-curricular program of CalArts, which offers free after-school and school-based arts programs for youth ages 4-18 in every discipline taught at the Institute. Always an inspiration, Caldwell created the now highly regarded Leimert Art Walk and has been connecting youth to art through technology for decades. Having survived past economic recessions and neighborhood gentrification, Caldwell continues to provide support for his community in the present moment and advocating for the arts in the future. Read more about Caldwell.
Tam Nguyen and Nailing It For America Leadership Team
Tam Nguyen is the Orange County United Way’s board vice-chair and president of Advance Beauty College, an accredited beauty academy founded by his parents when they immigrated to California after the fall of Saigon in 1975. Now run by Nguyen and his sister Linh, Advance Beauty College was hit hard by California’s necessary Stay At Home response to this spring’s COVID-19 surge. But when it was announced that the first community spread of the virus started at a nail salon without any other details, Tam Nguyen, Johnny Ngo, Ted Nguyen, Christie Nguyen, Hallie Duong and other leaders in the beauty and nail industry believed it was time to speak up. The next day Nguyen held a press conference and a new organization, Nailing It For America, was born to represent the nail care industry in California. The organization has been involved in finalizing safety guidelines for the reopening of nail salons throughout Southern California, and has become an advocacy group for correcting inaccurate information being spread across the industry. Nguyen and the organization collaborated with other regional leaders and community resources to donate more than 1.2 million items of personal protective equipment worth more than $30 million to hospitals, senior-care centers, homeless shelters and other facilities. The effort also provided more than 52,000 restaurant meals to healthcare workers and other front-line employees throughout Southern California and across the U.S. Read more about Nguyen and Nailing It For America.