To mark the end of African People’s History Month on campus, the Rosa Parks Awards ceremony honored outstanding Fresno State students and faculty at the Smittcamp Alumni House on Thursday.
Richard Alonso-Lazaro, a senior majoring in criminology from Clovis, was honored with two awards.
Alonso-Lazaro received both the Athletic “Just Do It” Award and the Outstanding Person Award at the Feb. 28 ceremony, which recognized two other students, a Fresno State faculty member and an organization.
The Outstanding Person Award recognizes an individual who exemplifies the principles Rosa Parks lived by. The winner must be active in community and campus leadership and work to implement the messages Parks fought for, said Francine Oputa, director of the Central Valley Cultural Heritage Institute that coordinates the month-long observance on campus.
Alonso-Lazaro is a member of various student clubs and organizations, including the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity, the Gamma Sigma Alpha Honors Society and the Renaissance Scholars Program. He has volunteered at more than 30 different locations in the community through these organizations, with a focus on helping foster youth.
“I am very fortunate to receive this award. There were a lot of great candidates, and I am grateful to receive the award. It has been a humbling experience,” he said.
He is also on the Fresno State men’s soccer team and has completed his Level 1 certification to become a CrossFit personal trainer.
Teroy Roberts, a senior from Stockton majoring in Mass Communication and Journalism (broadcast emphasis), was the recipient of the Owning the Spotlight Arts Award, an award based on character and performance. Roberts is president of the Pi Beta Chapter of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity at Fresno State. He is also an intern at a local radio station, B95.
“This has been a great experience. I hope to inspire people to do better. Where you are and where you’re going is up to you,” Roberts said.
The Outstanding Scholar Academic Award, to honor academic achievement and working for community improvement, was presented to Raven Kapphahn, a senior from Porterville majoring in Sociology. Kapphahn is currently studying abroad in Jordan, Africa. Since entering the university as a transfer student in 2010, she has been on the President’s List, for her 4.0 GPA.
The Unsung Hero Award went to Marnel Niles-Goins, an associate professor and graduate coordinator in the Department of Communication and a faculty coordinator for the First-Year Experience (FYE) program and the African American Edge Initiative. Niles-Goins serves as the campus advisor for the Black Students United student club.
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority received the Making It Happen Group Award, which honors a campus organization that mobilized its members to be proactive citizens and dedicates itself to a cause by expanding outreach and creating a network of socially conscious students.
Jothany Blackwood was the keynote speaker for the evening. She spoke about students and their journey through their academic careers.
“It is not about the triumph,” she said. “It is the journey in how you learn about yourself.”
She also talked about perspective – of how though the history of African-Americans has been marked by challenges, none are too great to overcome.
“My 10-year-old son taught me about perspective,” she said. “I was driving through Fresno in the rain. We came to a stop sign, and my daughter said, ‘Look at that tiny puddle.’ My son said, ‘Yeah, to you. An ant may see it as an ocean and can’t get across.’ ”
Blackwood encouraged students to look at things from different perspectives and never stop exploring.
She said, “Consider a legacy of excellence where you encourage people.”
Student reporter Kelci Goss contributed to this story.