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29 Who Shine 2017 Award Winners: State Universities

Melvin Caballero, Hyde Park
Bridgewater State University

Melvin Caballero is using his powerful personal experience to educate and inform Massachusetts citizens about the experience of immigrants, particularly those who are undocumented. Melvin, one of 12 children, grew up in poverty in Honduras and worked as a coffee picker, unable to attend school consistently. Longing for an education, he left his hometown eight years ago at age 16, alone. Melvin walked and hitchhiked through Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico. After enduring exploitation at the hands of human traffickers and crossing both the desert and Rio Grande, he was arrested in Texas and detained for fourth months. However, a family in Hyde Park agreed to sponsor him, allowing him to settle in Boston, learn English, gain citizenship, and work his way through high school and college.

Melvin has spent his alternative spring breaks serving migrant farm workers in Florida and the homeless in Arizona. He was awarded a BSU research grant to write his memoir.  His goal is to become a teacher in an urban school district in Massachusetts.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Melvin chose to recognize Jenny Shanahan, Director, Undergraduate Research. “From the first time that I had the chance to meet in person with Dr. Jenny Shanahan, the director of undergraduate research at Bridgewater State University, I discovered in her a wonderful supporter and encouraging human being.”

Breanna Lyn Hadley, Chelmsford
Fitchburg State University

Breanna Hadley has used her talents to enrich the quality of life on the campus. As membership recruitment director of her sorority, she has embodied the best tenets of Greek life and community service. Breanna was named president of the University’s Greek Council and stood out among her peers as a member of the Leadership Council. She received leadership awards in her sophomore and junior years. Beyond campus, she has been active with the Alternative Spring Break program, raising funds and donating her time building and rehabilitating homes for those in need.  This Dean’s List student graduates with a degree in criminal justice and plans to enter law enforcement.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Breanna chose to recognize Kelli A. Lundgren, Staff Assistant, Human Resources. “I had the privilege of working with Kelli for two years on the Alternative Spring Break trip. She has been nothing but supportive, inspiring and caring. She has pushed me to new heights that I could only have dreamed of. Kelli has been a huge influence on me becoming who I am today.”

Brittany Florence Cormier, Ashburnham
Framingham State University

Putting her art and design skills to work on behalf of the Framingham Public Schools, Brittany Florence Cormier helped the district’s Community Resource Development Office create marketing materials to promote afterschool programs.  She led public school staff and students through the process of developing logos and identity visuals, then creating a comprehensive marketing and communications plan which is currently in use by the district. The title of Brittany’s honors thesis was “Who are we? Engaging communities through design for social change.” Graduating with a 4.0 GPA, Brittany plans to open her own design firm and use her skills to market educational opportunities to the public.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Brittany chose to recognize Stephanie Grey, Assistant Professor, Art. “Professor Grey has really opened up my eyes to seeing design every day. She has broken down the process of understanding the audience and defining a purpose for each design. She is always encouraging her students to push themselves, whether it’s by attending AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) events in Boston or taking part in student events and portfolio reviews.”

Andre Hester, Boston
Massachusetts College of Art and Design

Andre Hester served as Art Director of the Roxbury Boys and Girls Club for nearly a decade before entering MassArt to complete his Art Education degree. He has developed as an artist and is a skilled teacher who draws from his own experience growing up in Boston to teach and mentor urban youth. He has taught in MassArt's Artward Bound program for the past two years, and hopes to “build a full-scale art curriculum in a Boston area school” upon graduation this spring.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Andre chose to recognize Lois Hetland, Chair, Art Education. “Lois Hetland’s hard work and dedication have been an integral part of my success at MassArt. I have come to look at her as not only my professor and advisor, but as a colleague and a friend. Lois has dedicated her life to academic success and creative excellence; her framework for writing curriculum and engaging students as artists is something that I model my own teaching philosophies after. From my counsel and discussions with Lois, I have seen the level of commitment it takes to work with each student and find pathways for them to learn and succeed no matter the obstacle. Through her written works and contributions to the community, I take her example and continue to work to guide students towards their own great potential through education, art and an expanded view of the world.”

Kayla Theresa LaVoice, Springfield
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

Kayla Theresa LaVoice has taken on multiple leadership and mentoring roles at MCLA. She created the Pathways to College program, which sends MCLA students to nearby Drury High School to help students learn more about college and career choices. She also worked for two years at the Adams Youth Center program as a mentor and a tutor, and was honored for her community service by North Berkshire Community Coalition, telling the group upon acceptance of her award, “I love building connections between college campuses and the surrounding community.” She is applying to Americorps’ FEMA program.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Kayla chose to recognize Spencer Moser, Community Engagement Director, Center for Service and Citizenship. “Spencer has supported me by providing me with opportunities and having confidence in my ability to lead. Spencer has encouraged me to challenge myself in positions I wouldn’t normally take on.”

Rashida Abena Plummer, Mashpee
Massachusetts Maritime Academy

As the 2016-17 Regimental Training and Retention Officer, senior Massachusetts Maritime Academy cadet Rashida Abena Plummer oversees the Academy’s Training and Retention program.  She is responsible for helping students succeed academically and acclimate to the regimental lifestyle at MMA.  Reporting to the Commandant of Cadets and Vice President of Enrollment Management, her duties include overseeing the regimental study program, coordinating the peer tutoring program, and supporting Admissions and the Maritime Academy Preparatory Seminar (MAPS). Her company assistants respect her leadership. Rashida plans to pursue a master’s degree in public safety with the goal of working as an occupational toxicologist in Massachusetts.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Rashida chose to recognize Portia Fikile Ndlovu, Associate Professor, International Maritime Business. “Dr. Portia Ndlovu makes herself available to support all cadets at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. As a student, she has helped me to build on my strengths and overcome adversities, such as self confidence. With her assistance, I have been able to broaden my purpose at the Academy - to excel at my academics, to be a role model to the student body but most importantly, to maintain a positive outlook in all situations.”

Elizabeth Cabral, Dorchester
Salem State University

The daughter of immigrant parents from Cape Verde, Elizabeth Cabral is a first-generation college student who has excelled academically, as a campus leader, and as an advocate for social justice.  Over the past four years, Cabral has held internships with the Malden District Courthouse, Department of Youth Services, the American Civil Liberties Union, and with both Massachusetts senators, Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey. On campus, Elizabeth was elected by her peers to represent students on Salem State University’s Board of Trustees. She was a strong advocate around issues of diversity, inclusion and climate change and helped lead efforts to persuade the Board to partially divest its holdings in fossil fuel companies. Elizabeth graduates with dual degrees in Political Science and Criminal Justice and wants to attend law school.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Elizabeth chose to recognize Jennifer Jackman, Associate Professor, Political Science. “Jennifer Jackman is the true definition of a mentor. When I took my first public policy class she noticed my passion and drive for issues surrounding public policy. Whenever there was an opportunity or an event that she believed I would benefit from she would always tell me. Through her impeccable career and all of the things that she has accomplished, she has taught me that anything is possible. She has always been in my corner rooting me on, and there to talk to me about anything and offer me advice whenever I needed it. She will be my lifelong mentor and is the reason for my success.”

Joseph De'jon Seal, Springfield
Westfield State University

Joseph De’jon Seal is deeply involved in Westfield State University’s Urban Education program on campus, an academic success and leadership development initiative. He has served as ambassador and community service leader, and most recently, as a recruitment mentor. He is also Vice President of the Multicultural Student Association and has organized several events to promote cultural awareness and acceptance. 

Joseph remains connected and involved in his hometown of Springfield. He volunteers for the 100 Males to College initiative, which strives to increase college access, enrollment, and retention for low-income males and males of color in the Springfield Public Schools. He hopes to earn a master’s degree in higher education.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Joseph chose to recognize Chaitali J. Brahmbhatt, Academic Advisor, Urban Education Program. “Ms. Brahmbhatt interviewed me for the Urban Education Program at Westfield State and has continued to serve as my mentor and support system. Her guidance helped me determine which academic and career paths to pursue.”

Andrew Huy D. Ngo, Worcester
Worcester State University

Huy "Andrew" D. Ngo is a Business Administration major who has served as the Worcester State University Student Government Association President, an Upward Bound Peer Mentor, and manager of the WSU Student Center. He is one of the WSU coordinators of Trew Friends (a chapter-based, student-run community that operates as an extension of The Heather Trew Foundation for Organ Donation and Research).  Additionally, Andrew has represented the Commonwealth and Worcester State to elected officials in Washington, D.C. He has been nominated for Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges for 2017. Andrew is employed at the corporate offices of Uber.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Andrew chose to recognize Jason Grant, Clerk IV, Department of Sociology. “Jason has played a big role in my journey here at Worcester State by encouraging me to put myself out there and take on new and different experiences. Jason was actually the person who got me to study abroad, which has made me a better person and a global citizen. I am thankful for having such an incredible mentor over the past few years.”