Downey Soroptimist honors inspiring women

DOWNEY – Five women who actively give back to the Downey community were honored by Soroptimist International of Downey on Thursday during a breakfast event at the Rio Hondo Event Center. 

Honorees included Jackie Pardo, a teacher and club advisor at Warren High, who was honored with the Soroptimist Ruby Award; and four Women of Distinction: Blanca Rochin, Lupe Rodriguez, Nancy Swenson and Patricia Russell-Rohrer. 

Jackie Pardo
Pardo has taught at Warren High for 14 years, and first began motivating her students when her daughter’s preschool friend was diagnosed with leukemia. She, along with her students, raised over $8,000 for the family in a matter of three weeks. 

In 2009, she became the advisor for the Warren Humanitarian Society and has helped expand the club to more than 300 members. Club members volunteer alongside Pardo at several community events, including Downey’s Halloween pumpkin patch, where they prepare thousands of hotdogs for local families. 

The club has also been honored by the DUSD Board of Education and Rancho Los Amigos for their volunteer efforts. 

“The Warren Humanitarian Society members might not be the best at a sport nor have the highest grade point average, but one thing they do possess is the biggest heart,” Pardo said. 
Formerly the Soroptimist Making a Difference for Women Award, the Soroptimist Ruby Award recognizes and honors the first federation president, Ruby Lee Minar. 

The award honors women who have worked to improve the lives of women and girls through their professional and/or volunteer work. 

Blanca Rochin
Rochin has worked in the field of education for over 15 years and has been a volunteer in different organizations for more than 20 years. 

As president of Downey Soroptimist in 2014, she worked hard to fight for human rights for all, global peace, and international goodwill, in addition to advancing women’s potential. 

She has tried to inspire other women by committing to different projects, such as “Adelante Youth Alliance,” an education and career conference for girls ages 12-24. The conference’s mission is similar to Rochin’s mission: “to educate and empower youth to develop their academic, career and leadership potential.” 

She has also served as a Downey Parks and Recreation commissioner for the past two years. She lives in Downey with her husband and has two daughters. 

Lupe Rodriguez
Rodriguez was born in Camaguey, Cuba. At the age of 5, she and her parents, brother, grandmother and uncle escaped the communist regime and immigrated to the United States. 
In 1996, she and her husband, Rick, founded a private security firm, RMI International. RMI is one of the largest minority-owned security firms in the United States and employs people in many countries around the world. 

The thriving business has enabled Lupe to spend time on other projects near and dear to her heart. In 2013, she joined the Assistance League of Downey, and she regularly volunteers at the Second Tyme Around Shop. 

In 2012, with her husband Rick, she founded the Living Tree Foundation. The foundation assists many in need, from immigrants new to the United States to U.S. combat veterans adjusting to civilian life. The foundation’s goal is “providing a helping hand, whenever it is needed, and to those who need it the most.” 

Lupe is a mother of seven and grandmother of eight. She resides in Downey with her husband. 

Nancy Swenson
Swenson has been a resident of Downey for more than 40 years and is a graduate of Warren High School. She earned an AA degree from Cerritos College and went on to earn a B.S. in Business Administration, Computer Information Systems with honors from Cal State Dominguez Hills. 

She retired in July 2013 from Raytheon Systems, where she had worked for 28 years. Over the course of her employment at Raytheon (previously Hughes and GM/Hughes) there had been several reorganizations. Swenson was the lead on a team responsible for tracking multi-million dollar budgets for the engineering computing environment. Her responsibilities included assisting engineers in developing their computing requirements, direct database development, and supporting her team in initiating and implementing improvements to existing systems and processes. 

She was elected to the DUSD board of education in 2005, and has been a member of both the Budget and Audit committees as well as a member of the Character Counts coalition. She has been on the technology 5-year planning team, and is the school board representative on the Common Core coalition transition team. 

Swenson regularly coordinates visits between Raytheon engineers and CTE engineering students. She attends music and drama presentations, after-school functions, and regularly visits school sites while classes are being taught. 

She is an active member with Gangs Out of Downey, Downey Symphony Guild, Downey Sister Cities Association, and has been chairman of the Assistance League of Downey Gypsy Johnson Auxiliary for the last two years. 

Patricia Russell-Rohrer
Russell-Rohrer was born and raised in Downey. Her father, Don Russell, has lived in Downey 94 of his soon-to-be 96 years. Her parents have lived in Downey for 69 years together. 

Since Patty was in fourth grade at Rives Avenue School, she knew she wanted to be an architect. She loved putting floor plans together and she adored Victorian architecture, and she made it her goal to renovate and restore old Victorian homes before they were destroyed. 
To achieve her goal, she began taking drafting classes in ninth grade. She received her AA degree in Architectural Drafting from Cerritos College and later earned a Bachelor of Science in Construction Management/Engineering. 

While in college, she went to work for one of Downey’s architectural drafting firms where she prepared the construction documents for hundreds of Downey’s apartment buildings that were built in the ‘70s. Through high school and all the way through college, Patty worked for Karen and Richard Carpenter (“the experience of a lifetime,” she said). 

She now works for the County of Los Angeles where her projects have included assisting with construction of the L.A. County-USC Medical Center. 

She has been a board member on the St. Mark’s PTA, board member of the Academic Booster Club and Grad Night, and has served as senior warden at her church as a member of the Altar Guild. 

Patty joined the Assistance League of Downey as a member of the Gypsy Johnson Auxiliary, where she was co-coordinator for their Iridescent Ball for two years. She recently has served as co-coordinator for the Assisteens.