June 6, 2017

SES Awards Recognize Tragedy and Triumph of Higher Ed Calling

Will Pérez and Rachel Heller Monarrez
Rachel Heller Monarrez (PhD, Education/Urban Leadership, ’10) is introduced by School of Educational Studies Professor Will Pérez.

By Marquisha Spencer

“What could prepare you for something so tragic?” Rachel Heller Monarrez (PhD, Education/Urban Leadership, ’10) asked an audience of award recipients, parents, children, administration, faculty, staff, and fellow alumni during the recent School of Educational Studies (SES) Student Awards ceremony.

Held as the end of the spring semester approached, the event provided an opportunity to honor the achievements of SES students and alumni.

Monarrez, who serves as assistant superintendent of student services in the San Bernardino City Unified School District, was referring to the murder-suicide in April at North Park Elementary School in San Bernardino, California, in which a man opened fire on his estranged wife, a special-needs teacher there, and killed her before killing himself. An eight-year-old student who was struck by gunfire also died.

The tragedy was painfully recent—it had taken place just a matter of days before the SES ceremony—as Monarrez addressed the audience in Albrecht auditorium.

The room was still as she answered her own question, explaining, “I sat here, listening to tonight’s honorees and I am reminded that it’s CGU that prepares us for such events. When I think of the education and training that I received here, at CGU, I am reminded that it is here that I was prepared for worldly events.”

Monarrez received the Urban Leadership Alumni Achievement Award; she was recognized for her efforts as a public-school administrator whose post-doctoral career exemplifies a commitment to and success in the achievement of urban student success.

Another alumnus, Kern Oduro (PhD, Education,’12), who serves as principal of Colony High School in Ontario, received the Outstanding Teacher Education Alumni Award, which highlights the achievements of SES alumni whose leadership, innovation, and dedication positively impact the lives of Southern California’s diverse youth.

Along with Monarrez and Oduro, many other current SES students and alumni received a range of awards for academic, community, student leadership, and professional development accomplishments.

This award ceremony is just one of the many ways that SES awards its students and showcases their many talents and accomplishments.

Other award recipients included:

  • Marquisha Spencer, a second-year PhD student and current Graduate Student Council president, received the Academic Excellence in Higher Education Award.
  • Manuel Diaz, a third-year PhD student, received the Winifred-Hausaum Hellen-Fisk Award.
  • Melissa Navarro received the SDSU/CGU Joint Program Achievement Award, which recognizes students in the joint-doctoral program between Claremont Graduate University and San Diego State University. This award is presented to a joint-doc student each year whose work and scholarship match the mission of the program to develop scholars committed to research on democratic schooling, social justice, and educational outcomes for all students and the improvement of educational systems serving diverse communities.

In addition to a night of honors, students and alumni rejoiced at one another’s achievements and shared words of encouragement, stories of times of despair, and, most important of all, their love for CGU’s School of Educational Studies.