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Student leaders recognized with special awards

A select group of graduating seniors at Washington State University Vancouver recently received awards that recognized their achievements and service. Julian Rivas, Julie Mercado, and Jasmine Rucker were each recognized by WSU Vancouver administrators for their ongoing efforts in student leadership and community service.

During WSU Vancouver’s 2017 Commencement ceremony on Saturday, Rivas was presented a Chancellor’s Medallion for Student Achievement, an annual award given to those who excel in leadership. The award signifies Rivas’ love of learning, resilience in the face of barriers in pursuit of academic goals, and student involvement on campus. As a further honor, Rivas’ academic achievement was recognized by graduating summa cum laude.

For Rivas, graduating from WSU Vancouver was part of a story of redemption. After being released from prison, Rivas took a bus to Longview, Washington, and enrolled in Lower Columbia College. “I feel that someday my hard work will pay off,” Rivas said in a press release sent out by the Office of Marketing and Communications. “The past does not define me, I wouldn’t be where I am today without my support system.”

After receiving his associate’s degree at Lower Columbia College, Rivas transferred to WSU Vancouver to study social sciences, work as an intern for the Student Financial Services and Admissions team, and as a technical research assistant in the human development department. As an active member in the Latino Student Association, Latino Outreach Committee, and Human Resource Society, Rivas strove to benefit WSU Vancouver’s diverse student population.

On Apr. 18, the 2017 Leadership and Engagement Awards of Distinction (LEAD) ceremony celebrated student leaders from across the WSU system. Among the other 45-plus winners of the award, Mercado was the only recipient who came from the WSU Vancouver campus. As the lead for student ambassadors, her nomination came on behalf of her advisors and was reinforced with a letter of recommendation from Nancy Youlden, vice chancellor for student affairs and enrollment.

“To be recognized for the hard work I have been doing, like promoting the ideals of higher education and participating in community outreach opportunities, was surreal,” Mercado said. “At the ceremony, I kept asking people if it was real, or if I was dreaming.”

For Mercado, the award not only represents her struggles as a first-generation college student after immigrating to the United States about five years ago, but also reinforces her commitment towards pursuing a career in student affairs and her interest in community outreach.

On Apr. 28, Mercado and Rucker each accepted the Washington Campus Compact President’s Leadership Awards. The statewide Students Serving Washington Awards program paired with Washington Campus Compact institutions to recognize students who are creating change and solving critical issues in communities. Both recipients were nominated by representatives in Student Affairs and then appointed by the Chancellor. The pair comprised the only two students selected from WSU Vancouver.

The Washington Campus Compact President’s Leadership Award was multi-faceted. Both recipients were provided with an opportunity to apply for the Outstanding Service Award, which offers a $7,500 prize split between the student applicant, institution, and a community partner whom they were working with on community service projects.

“It was rewarding to learn that others took the time to nominate me,” Rucker said. “For them to spend their own time on my behalf shows me that the work I’m doing is making a difference in the community.”

For Rucker, the award reflected her ongoing work with the Diversity Center and Black People United club. Her efforts include raising awareness on campus about social issues, promoting ally-work and participating in community events.

“I don’t want to downplay anyone else’s work, or take full recognition for our ongoing efforts to tackle issues like systematic oppression,” Rucker said. “Issues like these are bigger than myself, and require others to help as well.”

For more information on the Washington State Campus Compact Award, visit http://www.wacampuscompact.org. To view the press release on the award recipients, search for the university’s April 24 edition of its “Campus FYI” newsletter on the WSU Vancouver website.

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