Theodore Castro, Tiasha Rogers Receive Well-Deserved Alcalá Awards

Wednesday, June 6, 2018post has video

The Alcalá Award is a proud reminder of the mission of all students who attend the University of San Diego. Recipients of this award are a nominated graduating undergraduate male and female student who best reflect the holistic education at USD through scholastic achievement, leadership in co-curricular activities and service to the university community.

So, when the 2018 winners of the Alcalá Award, Theodore "Teddy" Castro and Tiasha Rogers, were announced on-the-spot at the May 27 College of Arts and Sciences Commencement by President James T. Harris, it was a truly fitting reaction.

As Harris rattled off their respective accomplishments and activities — before naming them as award recipients — Rogers listened carefully and had a beautiful surprise reaction as she learned that the president was talking about her. Castro had a big grin on his face once Harris noted two of the recipient's fondest campus connections, the Filipino Ugnayan Student Organization (FUSO) and the fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon.

"I received a few awards from my research programs, department and my peers, but (receiving) an award from my university takes the cake," said Rogers about the Alcala Award in a post on her Facebook profile page later on graduation day. "To be one of only two seniors selected for the only award given during commencement is such an honor."

Powerful On-Campus Presence

Both students had a visible and important presence during their respective four years.

Rogers, a sociology major, Ethnic Studies minor and first-generation college student from Chicago, was a McNair Scholar, a Humanities Center Keck Fellow, was involved in Black Student Union, Black Student Resource Center, Student Outreach and Recruitment (SOAR), Copley Library, Student Leadership, Involvement and Changemaking (SLIC), worked as a resident assistant, hosted ME@USD students and was a volunteer with Pancake Peeps. Furthermore, Rogers is a full-time mother, a military spouse and was honored at the May 25 Black Graduate Recognition Ceremony as a Trailblazer and served as its undergraduate student speaker.

Rogers was surrounded by family and friends at graduation and she thanked them for their unwavering support, but she also thanked many faculty and staff mentors at USD. To name a few, she mentioned Thomas Reifer, Judith Liu, Lisa Nunn, Cid Martinez and Greg Prieto in the Sociology Department, Candice Price in the Mathematics Department, Christopher Carter in the Theology and Religious Studies Department, Karen Shelby from Political Science and International Relations Department and Channon Miller in the History Department.

"What kept me here was definitely the community I was able to obtain from mentors, faculty members, other students and people in charge of the different centers here like the SLIC, the BSRC, CID and UFMC," Rogers said.

Castro's Connections

The importance of connections also resonated with San Jose’s Castro, who double majored in English (emphasis on creative writing) and Economics. In addition to FUSO and Sigma Phi Epsilon, in which he was named the 2016 Greek Torero of the Year, Castro was involved in University Ministry and he dabbled in other organizations through the years, "I participated in various organizations to see different perspectives and opinions that the university and the world had to offer."

He recalled that as a high school senior, he visited USD on its overnight program for admitted students. He met a sophomore student who showed him around the campus. When Castro later started at USD, he reconnected with the student who had helped him and the student introduced him to his friends to expand his community connections.

"I found community here and it helped me a lot. The first two years was a lot of learning and teaching. I was learning a lot from mentors in organizations I was in and I know I would not be the person I am today without them. It also made me want to try and mentor as many students as I could, share with them what I knew and give back to as many as I could," he said.

One thing that attracted Castro to USD was its study abroad program. Currently ranked second in the nation according to the Fall 2017 Open Doors report by the Institute of International Education, Castro made the most of his opportunities to be a global citizen.

He took six different trips, including his freshman year when he traveled with a group of USD, San Diego State and UC San Diego students to India. There, the group had a public and private meeting with the Dalai Lama, including a visit to his home. Castro also felt honored to fully submerge himself and swim in the Ganges River alongside hundreds of native Indians on a pilgrimage.

Castro's other trips took him to Japan, Hong Kong, London, Mexico and a Semester at Sea adventure in which students take classes aboard a ship, but also visit multiple countries and get to explore them on the 100-plus day trip.

Future Plans, Thoughts

Castro's travels will soon be on hold after he heads to Boston where he will begin a two-year stint in the Teach for America program. Castro looks forward to his new chapter, but does so appreciating what he's completed in San Diego.

"I thank USD; these have been the best four years of my life so far and I hope I can continue to grow and foster new relationships, but I also know that I have people here to come back to and see. USD made me the person I am today and I want to be sure to give back as much as I can. I've been blessed and lucky to have had these four years. I want future Toreros to have four great years, too."

Rogers, meanwhile, has a degree, marriage and the continuing responsibility as a mom to her soon-to-be one-year-old son. She's also a strong advocate for an education system that can be helpful to black students. Her research will continue, hopefully soon in a graduate program. The impact, though, of earning a college degree is a great example for her son. It was quite clear that, too, that even with the celebratory glow of graduation festivities, her son’s future was first and foremost on her mind.

"I want my son to know that college is not easy. I really pushed myself, especially this year, to graduate on time, because I really wanted him to know that he too, can be in my position if that's the road he decides to have. I pray that his path is much smoother than mine was by already laying down that groundwork. He will not be able to check off first-generation college student on his application because I've already done that work for him. So, when he needs that person to come to about applying for college or financial aid or has questions about what that experience might be like, especially as a black student, he can come to me with those questions and I will have those answers."

— Ryan T. Blystone

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