The United Front Multicultural Center’s sixth annual Diversity Banquet Wednesday night had it all — a celebration for top students, recognition for graduating students, an update on successful programs and initiatives, insightful perspective, and one student who, as she prepares for graduation, has already done her part to give back.
Eight University of San Diego students — each one a member of the Class of 2011 — earned a C.L.A.S.S. Award for their efforts during the 2010-11 academic year and, in many cases, an exclamation point on the impact they’d made during their entire college career.
The student recipients were: Joseph Rocha and Jayzona Alberto (L. Reuben Mitchell Award for Campus wide Impact); Joy Utomi and Lorena Hernández (Dr. Evelyn Kirkley Award for Leadership); Shannen Cravens (Dr. Eugene Labovitz Award for Academics); Anayensi Juarez Jacobo (Dr. Judy Rauner Award for Social Justice); Roberta Garcia (Dr. Judith Liu Award for Service); and Gibrán Chávez-Gudiño (United Front Multicultural Center Award for Inspiration).
“It’s really inspiring to win this award and a little daunting to win an award for making an impact on campus, but to be recognized in this way is a big achievement,” said Rocha, a double major in political science and philosophy. His work with the PRIDE organization provided the campus community with opportunities to learn and understand the importance of inclusion at USD. Furthermore, Rocha, the first member of his family to earn a college degree, said he cherished that his accomplishment would be achieved in the context of a Catholic education.
“It’s a great honor,” said Hernandez, a double major in Ethnic Studies and Spanish, has been a tutor and mentor in USD’s Upward Bound program and active in student organizations MEChA and AChA. The banquet was a reminder that her decision to come to USD has been mutually beneficial. “I’m happy and emotional. (Graduating) makes me think about all of the wonderful people I’ve met. I think everyone I’ve met has helped me in some small way.”
To demonstrate the work ethic and dedication Alberto has shown at USD beyond her studies, when the banquet ended around 8:15 p.m., she had to rush off to a Associated Students’ Torero Program Board planning meeting regarding tonight’s Ole Music Festival concert. “I got a text from TPB during the banquet,” she said.
Alberto, selected as the USD Women’s Center’s Student Woman of Impact winner last fall, is a psychology major, leadership minor and has done pre-pharmacy coursework for certification as a pharmacy technician. Despite her busy schedule, she’s always thinking about ways to give back. She has been a mentor for the UFMC’s Link Peer Mentoring program and she led the way for the creation of the UFMC Diversity Scholarship Fund. A silent auction took place Wednesday with all proceeds going to the fund. The first scholarship is expected to be awarded at next year’s banquet.
Forty students from the Class of 2011 — undergraduates and graduates — were recognized and presented with UFMC graduation stoles featuring a replica of the colorful wall mural that signifies unity amongst all who have been part of the United Front Multicultural Center since it originally opened in the Hahn University Center in 1997.
UFMC Director Mayte Perez-Franco talked about the center’s progress with Link Peer Mentoring, a strong connection to the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, Rainbow Educators and the work of 15 student organizations, most of whom run their operations within the UFMC’s Student Life Pavilion, Room 418, space.
Keynote speaker Michael Lovette-Colyer, director of University Ministry, spoke passionately to the banquet’s Catholic Social Thought-inspired theme, “Dignity of Work and Workers” by relaying the experience that he, staff members and USD students had when they met workers who toil in a maquiladora during UM’s annual service and immersion trip, the Tijuana Spring Breakthrough.
Vice President of Student Affairs Carmen Vasquez concluded the evening with a reflection that both praised the graduating class and expressed optimism, fittingly, for all.
— Ryan T. Blystone