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CHABSS College Awards

College Awards Descriptions & Criteria

The College of Humanities, Arts, Behavioral, & Social Sciences has four different academic awards that are bestowed to CHABSS graduating students. These awards are merit-based and the student must be nominated by a CHABSS faculty member. Deadline for all CHABSS Awards is extended to Sunday, March 17. Review to begin on Monday, March 18.

CHABSS Dean's Outstanding Student Award 

The CHABSS Dean's Outstanding Student Award is the highest honor bestowed upon one undergraduate student of the College in the graduating class of 2023/2024. The Dean's Outstanding Student Award winner goes on to compete for the University's highest student award, the CSUSM President's Outstanding Graduate Award.

CHABSS Community Champion Award

The CHABSS Community Champion Award recognizes a graduating student who is earning a Bachelor’s Degree and has demonstrated outstanding achievements in service to the campus and/or greater community during their tenure at CSUSM.

CHABSS Scholarship & Creative Works Champion Award

The CHABSS Scholarship & Creative Works Champion Award recognizes a graduating student who is earning a Bachelor’s Degree and has demonstrated outstanding achievements in research and/or creative works during their tenure at CSUSM.

CHABSS Inclusive Excellence Champion Award

The CHABSS Inclusive Excellence Champion Award    recognizes a graduating student who is earning a Bachelor’s Degree and has demonstrated outstanding achievements in advancing the College’s commitment to inclusive excellence, equity, and social justice during their tenure at CSUSM.

*The nomination period for these awards begins in February 2024. Students are encouraged to work with a CHABSS faculty member to submit a nomination. Nominations are due to the Dean's Office (SBSB 4115) OR via email to Leo Melena by Wednesday, March 13, 2024.

2023 CSUSM President's Outstanding Graduate &

CHABSS Dean's Outstanding Student Award

Krystal Alvarez-Hernandez, 2022 CHABSS Dean's Outstanding Student

Aidelen Montoya

Special Major in Museum Studies, Art, and Art History

  • About Aidelen and her accomplishments.

    It was Aidelen’s goal when she arrived at Cal State San Marcos to be fully involved on campus in many capacities, from working with the STEAM Ambassadors to working on campus exhibitions. Her outstanding academic and service accomplishments, as well as her contributions to campus life, are recognized with the College of Humanities, Arts, Behavioral and Social Sciences Dean’s Outstanding Student Award, the highest award bestowed to a graduating student from the college.

    In addition to being a STEAM Ambassador, Aidelen was also TRIO McNair Scholar and Planet Change Maker. She originally transferred to CSUSM as a business management major with an associate degree in business administration from Grossmont College. She felt she needed to pursue a major that would be financially stable for her family but was never truly happy. When she transferred, she added art history as a minor, and in her first art history lecture, she knew she wanted to pursue this path more in depth. This led her to look at the majors offered, and she came across the special major, which allows a student to combine two or more majors. She submitted a detailed proposal to combine her interest in management and art history and was approved to pursue her own unique path as a special major in museum studies, art, and art history.

    Aidelen was also honored as the 2023 President’s Outstanding Graduate.

    Aidelen engaged in several research projects under the mentorship of Professor Lucy HG Solomon and her work at the intersection of art and science. The project that has been the most meaningful to her, which allowed her to showcase work relating to her mixed culture identity, is titled The Philippines: A Beaded Visual of Rising Sea Levels. To demonstrate the impact of global climate change on sea levels, she created three comparative maps of the Philippines from 2020, 2050, and 2100. The visuals, made using a traditional Filipinx beading technique, shows the amount of land that will be lost due to rising sea levels. She was able to deep dive into her cultural background and the interdisciplinary fields of art and science by making it an art piece. With help from the CSUSM McNair program, she presented this work at the 2022 Gabriel E. Gallardo Research, Student Leadership & Advocacy Symposium at the University of Washington and won Best Oral Talk in the humanities category.

    “Aidelen’s commitment to her own pathway as an interdisciplinary artist and thinker is notable, especially considering that she is paving this path in her family and even created her own special major,” Solomon said. “Aidelen has contributed to the academic and creative community so significantly at CSUSM.”           

    She participated in the 2022 UC Davis Graduate Admissions Pathways program. This eight-week training program was designed to help her develop as a researcher, academic and leader. Under the supervision of Valeria La Saponara, she leveraged her CSUSM training and work with Solomon to contribute to several projects managed by La Saponara. At UC Davis she applied her ability to successfully collaborate with others that grew from her experiences at CSUSM. The program ended with poster presentations, where she gave a talk titled Mycelium-Based Devices for Electronics Applications. She would not have participated in this UC Davis program without the encouragement of her mentors at CSUSM. She was particularly proud to know that the research and professional accomplishments she showcased during her summer training positively reflected the aspirations that her CSUSM support team had in mind for her.

    In her role as a STEAM ambassador, Aidelen developed curriculum and projects about the art and science intersection for grade school students. In Spring 2022, she worked with the STEAM ambassadors to formulate a project to educate and spread awareness about water pollution through human actions like oil spills, run-off and their impacts on the environment. She led the assembly of kits that included clay, vegetable oil, food coloring, water coloring paper and other supplies for students to create and experiment with participating K-12 students created an art piece at the end that was made of the “water pollution” (food coloring) on the watercolor paper. She was especially proud of this work as it is designed to support educational equity by increasing access to the arts for schoolchildren. This work promoted younger students from diverse backgrounds in learning about environmental and social justice issues through artmaking, engaging them in meaningful and tangible projects to encourage their self-confidence. Most importantly, this work allowed her to support and mentor the next generation of CSUSM students.

    She was also a student fellow in a new program on campus called the Planet Mentorship Program, in which they focus on sustainability and social justice issues. She wanted to be in the program because she noticed there is excess waste in museum spaces, ranging from outdated communiques to transportation of artifacts. She set out to bring more environmentally safe practices and steps toward social justice by way of decolonizing museum spaces. In the program, she developed a research project focusing on redlining in San Diego County and created a visual that was exhibited in the next Data Stacks exhibition at Kellogg Library.

    In the fall, Aidelen will attend the University of Buffalo with a full scholarship to its Master of Fine Arts program.

    “As I have watched her path in (Art, Media, and Design) I have been amazed at her creative and intellectual capacity,” AMD chair Judit Hersko said. “She has also gone beyond the call of duty to provide service to the department at events such as Cougar Blue day and Discover CSUSM. She met visitors at the Data Stacks in the library and explained the exhibit as well as discussed our program. I believe she is highly deserving of the CHABSS Outstanding Student Award.”


2023 CHABSS Champions for Inclusive Excellence

Ilianna Ramirez, 2023 CHABSS Champion for Inclusive Excellence

Ilianna Ramirez

Psychological Science

  • About Ilianna and her accomplishments.

    As a senior psychological sciences major, Ilianna dedicated her journey to serving as the American Indian Student Alliance President and representing all marginalized groups on campus as the Associated Students Inc., Student at Large Representative for Diversity and Inclusion. This experience of selfless acts serving her fellow students has earned Ilianna the CHABSS Inclusive Excellence Champion Award.

    Serving as an organization president as well as the work on ASI’s Board of Directors gave her the ability to grow in areas like networking, effective communication, participation in active listening, and public speaking. As American Indian Student Alliance President, she had the responsibility of empowering this particular group of students to feel valid in their sense of belonging at CSUSM. In this leadership position she advocated for this group of students by sitting on various university committees, one of which included the President’s Inclusive Excellence Advisory Council.

    Having the opportunity to speak on behalf of American Indian students in this capacity, Ilianna voiced concerns regarding recognition and basic needs to support their overall success. She also represented these students by sitting on the American Indian Student Success Workgroup as a contributing member, introducing ideas for academic success and planning for future implementation of a student life center.

    “Under Illiana’s leadership, AISA was selected by ASI last spring as the CSUSM student organization of the year,” said Joely Proudfit, the chair of American Indian Studies at CSUSM. “This is the first time the organization has earned that honor. More importantly, Ilianna takes on leadership roles to be a positive changemaker and with a determination to leave CSUSM better for the next generation of students.”

    In her work with ASI, she collaborated with and represented other underrepresented groups at CSUSM. Ilianna utilized her ability to empathize with others who had different experiences to establish strong connections and build relationships where they felt comfortable having her elevate their voices and concerns. Through committee assignments she was able to best practice advocacy efforts for all students as well as focus on those who have been specifically targeted. Serving in these roles was the foundation on which she built her reputation on being an advocate for diversity and inclusion, equity and social justice.


One Reks, 2023 CHABSS Champion for Inclusive Excellence

One Reks

Sociology & Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

  • About One and their accomplishments.

    As a double major in sociology and women, gender and sexuality studies, One was told time and time again to study things through an intersectional lens. But they wanted to do more than just study; they wanted to bring intersectionality to the forefront of how all issues – especially educational – are analyzed. From research done in their classes to a seat on the Presidential Inclusive Excellence Advisory Council, they look at whose voice isn’t being heard, whose face isn’t at the table and how can choices made by those with privilege affect those who may not have the same advantages.

    “Equitable education is the first step in leveling the playing field for everyone to succeed,” One said.

    One is a winner of the 2023 CHABSS Inclusive Excellence Champion Award.

    During the Summer of 2022, One was the only person to be staffed at the LGBTQA Pride Center on campus. Through this work alongside Professor Robert Aiello-Hauser, they were able to help CSUSM walk in the San Diego Pride Parade, create an entirely new format to the center’s procedures and training modules, collaborate with CSUSM housing to create an inclusion initiative (to get more LGBTQA and gender inclusive students to find roommates within the system), and create engaging content for students. These initiatives served to further social media outreach to people who may be considering attending CSUSM in the future.

    A creative way they helped a marginalized group on campus was through TikTok. CSUSM has a population of students that are physically disabled and, being the Cal State campus with the reputation for having stairs, they wanted to help students that may struggle to maneuver around campus.

    They created several TikTok videos showcasing common staircases, elevators and paths on campus that could help people get around easier to their classes. This was done in a POV (point-of-view) style filming with videogame themes to get students even more excited about being on campus.

    “I believe I have made a difference in students’ lives,” One said. “Back during the spring 2022 semester when I was prepping for my “Egg Hunt” event, I ran into a student I had never seen before. They stopped me to ask about the center, and I had them join me as I prepped so I was able to keep the conversation going and get them more comfortable with the idea of exploring a new space on campus. By the end of the conversation this student was crying and hugging me, expressing their relief in finding a space of comfort and solidarity on campus when the world does not always allow room for that.”

    Working resource fairs over the summer was another favorite opportunity to connect with students and show them that CSUSM will make room for them, even before they move in and start classes. These are just some examples of not just how they can help others, but what being your authentic self can ignite in others and help them achieve all that is possible, no matter who they are.

    “One is the epitome of a student that should receive the highest level of recognition for their leadership to a CSUSM student for significant achievements in advancing the University’s goals in the areas of diversity, inclusive excellence, educational equity and social justice,” said Aiello-Hauser, who is also director of the LGBTQA Pride Center on campus. “One currently lives a life of an out proud queer trans non-binary individual. They are an out representative of the LGBTQA+ community that lives every moment of every day attempting to make the campus a safer, more inclusive space for not only themselves but for others. They have gained the confidence to challenge – with grace – students, staff and faculty, that so often make a queer trans nonbinary individual feel unsafe or unseen. This is not always easy as there are often roadblocks or moments of doubt that occur.

    “What I have seen is that One steps back, takes a breath, processes the issue and then strongly moves forward. As a future educator, One works to educate and inform individuals on this campus the importance of pronoun usage, transphobic language, the importance of gender inclusive restrooms, and the acceptance of all individuals no matter what intersection of identities they hold.”


2023 CHABSS Champion for Scholarship & Creative Activities

Kennedy Caudle, 2023 CHABSS Champion for Scholarship & Creative Activities

Kennedy Caudle

Environmental Studies

  • About Kennedy and her accomplishments.

    As Kennedy sees it, as humans have changed and developed, so has the world around us. Throughout her experience in undergraduate research she has seen how one project surveying invertebrate pollinators has changed not only urban places like our campus but also natural areas.

    For her work and leadership, Kennedy was honored with the 2023 CHABSS Scholarship & Creative Activities Champion Award.

    In her small hometown in central California, college was not something that the education system prepared her for. There was hardly any mention of possibilities of advancing education beyond high school, nor any encouragement to take specific courses that prepared students for college admission. She was fortunate enough to have a supportive family to help steer her in line to attend CSUSM.

    Participating in undergraduate research was something she had never heard of before so when the opportunity presented itself, she was thrilled but also nervous to participate in something beyond the required college courses. Many thoughts of, “will I have what it takes to excel in my everyday classes and accomplish new research projects?” occurred to her. But as she moved forward with the CSUSM Pollinator Monitoring Program, she immediately connected with like-minded peers who were having similar thoughts. They encouraged each other, and in a few short months of conducting pollinator monitoring, they realized the bigger impact they were providing to not only CSUSM but to their community.

    The biggest takeaway from participating in undergraduate research for Kennedy was the ability to start networking with the community at an earlier start than in graduate school. She was able to form relationships with individuals who are in careers that she found interesting. She was fortunate enough to form a relationship with the San Diego Safari Park Conservation department where she constantly asked her mentors questions about their daily career as habitat conservationists. She also received feedback on how to improve methods and analysis of data collection. The entire experience was invaluable and something she plans to present positively onto graduate school applications.

    “Within a few short months of joining my team in late 2020, it was clear that Kennedy had the motivation and skill to do more,” said Christina Simokat, a lecturer in the environmental studies program at CSUSM. “First I asked Kennedy to act as site supervisor for our primary campus sites, and shortly thereafter I hired her as the first overall program supervisor for our rapidly expanding research group. Over the past two years, Kennedy has helped to grow our program from two to six sites and from five to 25 student field monitors. Further, Kennedy has singlehandedly managed our shift from paper to GIS-based data collection, as well as to using Teams and creating training materials and workflows for all.

    “Kennedy has received praise and gratitude from so many of our student researchers, who credited her patient encouragement with their ability to participate in our project. As one student put it, ‘Kennedy gave me the confidence to try – I’d never done fieldwork or worked with any of these programs, but she helped me every step of the way.’ My student researchers are primarily people under-represented in science, and Kennedy’s support and assurance enabled many of them to develop new skills and inspired them to explore work or graduate school in STEM fields.”

    From starting as a monitor to becoming a supervisor, Kennedy earned the confidence and encouragement to continue to graduate school, where she will be earning a master’s degree in urban planning. She hopes to not only use her knowledge from graduate school but also the knowledge received at CSUSM to create urban places that are sustainable, equitable and profitable for cities all around the world.


Mia Lorence, 2023 CHABSS Champion for Scholarship & Creative Activities

Mia Lorence

Environmental Studies

  • About Mia and her accomplishments.

    For her work and leadership, Mia was honored with the 2023 CHABSS Scholarship & Creative Activities Champion Award.

    Mia’s passion for botanical sciences and environmentalism heavily influenced her college experience as she took every opportunity to learn and grow as both a botanist and a student. When she started at Cal State San Marcos in 2019 as an environmental studies major, she grew more confident in the path to pursue as an environmentalist from learning with other students and connecting with professors.

    In spring of 2021, Mia was invited to participate in a research project based on observing pollinators through interactions with plant species native to San Diego. She started doing basic focal monitoring for the CSUSM Pollinator Monitoring Project and was assisted by Kennedy Caudle. They worked together to identify plants and pollinator species for their project located on campus. They performed observations in CSUSM’s Ethnobotany Garden, which sparked her interest in anthropology, which she added as a minor in fall 2021.

    The following semester, she was asked to co-manage the Encinitas locations for Pollinator Monitoring that are located at the San Diego Botanic Gardens and Oakcrest Park. She worked alongside colleague Tyler Smith to establish transects, monitor and create reports for their project. They had the opportunity to monitor some endangered and threatened species such as Encinitas Baccharis and Orcutt’s Hazardia. The research they conducted was essential to understanding the effects of climate change on both pollinators and native plants. As our climate changes, we must understand the integral cycles that align with these patterns and affect species of all kinds. With this research, they also teamed up with Jasmine O’Hara and Jessica Keatly to establish camera monitoring for Encinitas Baccharis. Their knowledge of native plant species mixed with their expertise in AI technologies made it a successful collaboration that has kept the project going.

    “Mia showed her dedication and understanding as she quickly completed her training,” CSUSM Professor Christina Simokat said. “When we launched a new site at the San Diego Botanic Garden (SDBG) in Encinitas, Mia was my first choice to co-lead the project. She and her partner created new transects and worked with the SDBG Conservation Department staff to establish protocols. In addition to performing regular focal observations, last summer Mia assisted and trained our new team developing camera traps for insect pollinator surveys of the rare plant B. vannesae. It was no surprise to me that Mia was recently offered a staff position at SDBG, given the motivation, reliability and teamwork she demonstrated.”

    With her work at the gardens, Mia was offered to further educate visitors and work with staff at the Welcome Center, and she soon became a visitor’s associate for SDBG in February 2023. Additionally, she was given the opportunity to work with local San Diego residents at Kate Sessions Commitment to further her understanding of the importance of trees in San Diego communities. As communications intern she worked diligently to create a digital Tree Gallery for the San Diego community. These experiences connected her with San Diego residents and fellow environmentalists in various ways, which has led to amazing outcomes from collaborations to conducting vital research.

    “Working with these amazing women and collaborating with people from all walks of life has influenced me to keep researching and continue my studies in botany,” Mia said. “Although we may be graduating, I hope to stay connected with my peers and continue working together in some way. Our research has given us data that is necessary to understand as our climate changes. Pollinators and especially native plants are essential to not only the environment but the wellbeing of our communities. I hope that our work goes farther with new researchers as we continue to graduate and grow as environmentalists and women in STEM.”


Jessica Keatly, 2023 CHABSS Champion for Scholarship & Creative Activities

Jessica Keatly

Environmental Studies

  • About Jessica and her accomplishments.

    When she first enrolled at CSUSM, Jessica didn’t know what to expect or what she was getting herself into. As a commuter school for many students, she had a feeling she would come to class and then go right home. She was content to get a degree while leaving the collaborative benefits of college alone. However, this changed after the pandemic when Professor Christina Simokat approached her ENVS 210 Research Methods course about writing a proposal for research on native invertebrate pollinators in San Diego County.

    It was in the process of writing this proposal, and carrying out the research that Jessica was shown the true benefits of teamwork and collaborative research.

    “Professor Simokat, Professor Ferguson, Jasmine (O’Hara), Kennedy (Caudle) and Mia (Lorence) have all infinitely enriched my college experience and provided me with a feeling of community I didn’t know I was looking for,” Jessica said. “The research Jasmine and I are carrying out would not be possible without the incredible work that Kennedy and Mia have done in previous semesters.”

    For her work and leadership, Jessica was honored with the 2023 CHABSS Scholarship & Creative Activities Champion Award.

    As the Pollinator Monitoring Program has been carrying out focal research on the frequency and diversity of native insect pollinators in coastal sage scrub habitat, Simokat was interested in applications of newer data collection techniques. After being approached by Simokat, Jasmine and Jessica, along with two other students, wrote a proposal to construct camera traps to facilitate automated data collection, which would then be processed using a deep learning software for more efficient data analysis.

    This research is on the cutting edge of invertebrate insect data collection and could lead to more accurate identifications of pollinators. This would allow us to better understand which species are contributing to reproduction. For threatened species such as Encinitas Baccharis (Baccharis vanessae), this could be crucial to their continued survival. Using the data collected, they compared the efficacy of their new method while building upon their previous research.

    “Due to my amazing experiences working with this team, I now fully understand the meaning and value of teamwork in a field in which women are traditionally underrepresented,” Jessica said. “I have felt compelled to share my experiences with my fellow classmates and encourage them to look for similar opportunities to make the most of their college experience. STEM needs all of us to support each other and nowhere have I felt that more than in the Environmental Studies department, or while conducting this research. My colleagues have given me a place of belonging and a sense of community that I would otherwise be sorely missing, and I truly mean it when I say that they have made my college experience worthwhile. I feel privileged to have gotten the opportunity to work with such wonderful people, and I know that wherever my future career takes me, I will be able to look to them for support.”

    Conducting this research was beneficial to Jessica’s professional development and future career preparation. She not only learned hands-on skills with highly desirable new technology, she was also given numerous opportunities she wouldn’t have otherwise received. Jasmine and Jessica were invited to give a presentation on their findings at an event hosted by Pacific Horticulture at the San Diego Botanical Garden. This prepared the duo for when they presented their research this year at the CSUSM Symposium on Student Research, Creative Activities, & Innovation, in which they were chosen as finalists to represent CSUSM at the state symposium.

    “These extraordinary young women not only made significant progress in our field of research during a global pandemic, they also inspired a large number of their peers to be involved in research and campus activities,” Simokat said. “In early 2022, as we began to return to campus, all four of these students began communicating their experiences with others in their classes and in the Environmental Stewards Association on campus. Consequently, in fall 2022, we had a record number of more than 30 students contact our research team to interview for monitoring positions. This is a direct result of Kennedy, Mia, Jasmine and Jessica encouraging involvement in research and modeling inclusivity and excellence. They actively support each other and the whole team to expand their work and communicate their results, to find jobs in the field, and to prepare for graduate school. This is what the culture of scientific research and academia should be.”


Jasmin O'Hara, 2023 CHABSS Champion for Scholarship & Creative Activities

Jasmine O'Hara

Environmental Studies

  • About Jasmine and her accomplishments.

    Jasmine joined Christina Simokat’s research, the Pollinator Monitoring Program, in 2022. The group of four students (Jasmine, Kennedy Caudle, Mia Lorence and Jessica Keatly) performed weekly field monitoring and data management for native invertebrate pollinators – a vitally important area of research in San Diego County.

    The program gave Jasmine opportunities to work with community partners and gain research and fieldwork experience that will assist her in future academic and professional endeavors in the field of environmental studies. Pioneering the newly created subproject of the pollinator monitoring program taught her both academic and life skills such as responsibility, organization, problem solving, computer programing and pollinator interactions. The skills attained during one’s senior year are necessary for professional development in the environmental field. She plans to use her achievements and what she has learned from working on this project for a career in the field of botany or entomology.

    Going into this project, she had limited knowledge of coding and computer programming and had no knowledge of camera trap building techniques. Her senior year she was able to quickly adapt to the new information and became passionate about the technological side of camera surveillance. Her and her research partner overcame many technical and physical obstacles such as mistakes in code and manual camera focusing. Introducing this technology to the program allowed her to connect with more students who she wouldn’t have met otherwise.

    For her work and leadership, Jasmine was honored with the 2023 CHABSS Scholarship & Creative Activities Champion Award.

    “They immediately proved themselves to be adept researchers and effective team members,” Simokat said. “Gathering a small group of students for the project, Jasmine and Jessica showed leadership and organizational skills as they helped assign tasks among the group, which played to all their strengths and led to their success. While most members of this team had little experience with this new technology, they supported each other and achieved impressive results.”

    Jasmine has made many friends as well as several networking connections from the participants of the Pollinator Monitoring Program. Her involvement also made Jasmine a more active student in the environmental studies program. She connected on a deeper level with professors and built relationships that will help her future career.

    In October 2022, Jasmine and Jessica were invited to present their results at an event at SDBG hosted by Pacific Horticulture and were finalists at our campus and presented in April at the 2023 CSU Symposium on Student Research, Creative Activities & Innovation. They also presented a poster and participated at a workshop at the Ecological Society of America conference in Portland.

    “In just over one semester, Jessica and Jasmine brought their team from concept to completion, proposing and building insect camera traps with AI image recognition to identify insect pollinators of an endangered native plant, B. vanessae,” Simokat said. “Jasmine and Jessica developed taining for the camera traps so we can expand to other sites, as the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and several land conservancies have expressed an interest.”

2023 CHABSS Champion for Community Service

John Edwards, 2023 CHABSS Champion for Community Service

John Edwards

Social Sciences 

  • About John and his accomplishments.

    Volunteering was at the heart of John’s experience at Cal State San Marcos. As a student leader at on campus, he was a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated, a member of Summit Church San Diego and dedicated his time to making a positive impact in the community.

    One of his most rewarding experiences was through Homes of Hope – Youth With a Mission (YWAM), where he volunteered 96 hours building homes in Mexico. John also participated in fundraisers for Just in Time, a non-profit that supports foster youth leaving the child welfare system, and organized a toy drive for Promises2Kids, where they donated 320 toys to foster youth. Additionally, he mentored foster youth through Promises2Kids' Tutor Connection program for over 250 hours. The partnership derives from a service learning course he took during his first semester at CSUSM which changed his life and how he approaches the responsibility of showing up for others.

    “Based on my experience and extensive discussions with Mr. Edwards, I can attest to his strengths and commitment to serving his campus and greater community,” said Aleksandria Perez Grabow, an assistant professor of psychology at CSUSM. “What makes John so unique among our students is his ability to immediately connect with others, and as a student at CSUSM, he has pursued several service opportunities both on and off campus.”

    As a volunteer for First Chance U, John contributed to their scholarship program and served. This program prides itself on helping young male student athletes understand the importance of being a scholar above all things. As a peer educator at CSUSM, he served as a mentor whose responsibility was to teach the campus community about health and wellness at a level relatable to them.

    As a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated-Xi Gamma Gamma Chapter, he helped organize a talent hunt contest for high school students where they awarded $1,500 to the top three contestants. He also participated in the Adopt-A-Highway monthly cleanups along the 78 freeway near campus where he committed to ensuring that the roadways around the campus community are clean and well kept. Lastly, he volunteered annually on Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service by participating in a church cleanup and feeding the homeless.

    In addition to his many service projects, John works as a licensed barber and an advocate for mental health. As part of his work, John offers free haircuts to men of color and includes a confidential pre-post survey that assesses for treatment seeking behaviors and mental health symptoms before and after their visit. He presented his work at a national-level conference in summer 2023.

    Through these experiences, John has learned the importance of giving back to the community and supporting underserved individuals. He his passionate about making a positive impact in the world and being a positive force for change.

    “As I conclude my time at CSUSM, I will carry the same attitude of service with me for the rest of my life,” John said. “I am honored to be considered for the Community Champion Award.”