Seniors of Color Leadership Awards Ceremony

By Emily Hung ’23, June 2, 2022
More than 60 seniors honored in five categories.

Each year during Commencement weekend, Ithaca College’s Center for IDEAS (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Social Change) recognizes the accomplishments of graduating seniors of color based on involvement, academic excellence, and service. 

More than 60 students in the Class of 2022 were honored at the Seniors of Color Leadership Awards ceremony on May 21. Each awardee received a kente cloth patterned graduation stole to be worn at Commencement. Each specific award had a unique stole.. 

In her opening remarks, Vice President for Student Affairs and Campus Life Rosanna Ferro said she felt honored to have seen the awardees grow from first-year students to alumni of the college.

“All of you are here for a reason,” Ferro said. “You’ve held leadership positions on campus—don’t let that fire dim down. Wherever you land, whether that’s in a field that’s corporate or in education, keep that energy going.”

Awards were presented in five categories.

The Du Bois/Mandela Award for Scholarship, Leadership, and Service

The Du Bois/Mandela Award is presented to students for their significant scholarly achievements and exemplary contributions to the campus and local community through service and civic engagement.

Mark Gregory ’22, an occupational therapy graduate, was a member of the college’s running club and president of the Occupational Therapy Association. In his award acceptance speech, he talked about a lesson he learned from assistant professor of occupational therapy Joseph Ungco.

“Professor Ungco shared with me that first and foremost, our goal is to thrive,” Gregory said. “So, I want to thank everyone here who helped me get to this position, and hopefully, we can all thrive inside and outside.”

Du Bois/Mandela Award Recipients

The full listing of Du Bois/Mandela Award recipients:

Vedant Akhauri, Treasure Blackman, Seidy Bobadilla, Jordan Brown, Alyssa Carbonell, Trinity Gray, Mark Gregory, Yakira Jack, Khadija Musa, Annie Peña-Castellanos, Samantha Ruiz, Kiana Telano, Austin Zhang.

The Chávez/Lorde Social Justice Award

The Chávez/Lorde Award is given to students who have demonstrated a strong dedication to social change for the Ithaca College and local community through various platforms, projects or other initiatives.

Cyepress Rite ’22, who graduated with a degree in integrative studies with a self-designed major in Queerness and Black Identity Politics, was one of six recipients of the award. On campus, they were part of the Martin Luther King Scholar Program and a Student Leadership Consultant with the Office of Student Engagement. In their acceptance speech, Rite said they intentionally crafted their higher education experience to reflect their dedication to social change.

“I come to you with great pride as a queer artist, community builder and freedom dreamer,” Rite said. “I approach this revisionary work, mostly with the tools of art as a call to action and spirit as my guide.”

Chávez/Lorde Social Justice Award Recipients

The full listing of Chávez/Lorde Social Justice Award recipients:

Olivia Carpenter, Sebastian Chavez, Hana Cho, Cassandra Logedo, Cyepress Rite, Amir Tazi.

The Chawla/Ochoa Academic Achievement Award

The Chawla/Ochoa Award is presented to students who have shown a commitment to enhancing their educational experience through research, conference presentations and published works, while maintaining a high level of academic achievement.

One of the nine students to receive the honor, Jessica Wang ’22 studied psychology and was the vice president of communications for the Chinese Students and Scholars Association at the college. She was also part of the BOLD Women’s Leadership Network and a researcher for CRETv, which updates and maintains an expansive archive of television content and conducts various research projects aimed at assessing children’s understanding of television content.

In her speech, Wang said that despite the accomplishments she has achieved at Ithaca College, she found it difficult to fit into the college’s population having previously attended a dual-language school her entire life.

“Although I still do not feel complete to claim my place and identity here at Ithaca College,” Wang said, “what I can say is the amount of appreciation I have to the community who has helped me grow to be a better, stronger person. Special thank you to Sam, our amazing BOLD director, who believed in me and my abilities, granting me a place and opportunity to meet nine other amazing women who are also part of the fourth cohort

Chawla/Ochoa Academic Achievement Award Recipients

The full listing of Chawla/Ochoa Academic Achievement Award recipients:

Julia Batista, Catriona Ferguson, Phung Huynh, Jessica Ketterer, Khangelani Mhlanga, Emma Robinson, Antara Sen, Gabrielle Topping, Jessica Wang.

The Chung/Thorpe Leadership Award

The Chung/Thorpe Award is given to students who have increased the profile of the community of color through their participation in leadership roles throughout their time at Ithaca College.

Brianna Tova ’22, one of 13 recipients of the award, majored in integrated marketing communications and worked as an information technology (IT) support/service desk consultant. She was also a HiFashion Studios Co-Executive for the wardrobe team and part of the Ithaca Achievement Program.

Tovar said it meant a lot to receive the award as someone who identifies as a first-generation student.

“Coming to Ithaca College, it meant the world to me to be able to find a community where I felt comfortable and belonged and that welcomed me for who I was,” she said. “I found that at IT where I worked. I am beyond grateful to have been chosen for an award that represented how I felt about my experience at Ithaca College.”

Chung/Thorpe Leadership Award Recipients

The full list of Chung/Thorpe Leadership Award recipients:

Avery Alexander, Simeon Alvarez, Kinza Ceesay, Ana Garbanzo, Letícia Guibunda, Thais Gutierrez, Emma Kuo, Nicole-Bethany Onwuka, Megan O’Reilly, Akiysa Sanders, Ikraan Sheekh Nurr, Brianna Tovar, Vaibhav Zaveri.

The Gloria L. Hobbs Inspiration Award

The Gloria L. Hobbs Award is presented to students who have shown empathy, helpfulness and a willingness to go above and beyond in support of their peers throughout their undergraduate experiences. This year, there were 21 recipients of the award.

Helen Reyes ’22, who graduated with an anthropology degree, is a first-generation college student, was part of the college’s education department as an education minor and served as an orientation leader to incoming first-year students.

“We have each become someone who people look up to,” Reyes said in her acceptance speech. “People, who in one way or another, continue to give back to our communities that we love.”

The Gloria L. Hobbs Award

The full list of The Gloria L. Hobbs Award recipients

Malachi Burley, Katherine Chan, Tsedale Forbes, Carly Greer, Alma Guardado, Tywanda Jones, Abhinav Kumar, Serah Lawal, Manuel Sanchez, Kyla McCall, Quincie Moe, Cesar Morocho, Meaghan Newkirk, Emily Obando, Helen Reyes, Gisela Rosa, Alyssa Spady, Gabriella Tola, Isabella Topping, Silas Turner, and Nelson Wu.

In the closing remarks, Center for IDEAS Director Angélica Carrington further congratulated the seniors.

“You conquered a system that wasn’t originally created for people like us,” Carrington said. “So remember, you deserve to be where you are today. You earned to be where you are today. And you did it. So now, soar.”