On April 10, the College of Health and Human Services will host the 2015 Community Heroes Awards to recognize the unsung heroes in our community whose actions, thoughts and words have had a transformative power in our region. Our heroes, who represent each of the seven departments and four centers within our college, put others before themselves to genuinely make a difference for the residents of our region. All month long, we will be highlighting our 11 honorees in our Community Heroes Series.

Victor Hugo Manriquez_2Name: Victor Hugo Manriquez

Occupation: Elementary School Physical Education Teacher for Sanger Unified School District

Nominated By: The Department of Kinesiology

There were many instances in Victor Hugo Manriquez’s early life that have played a substantial role in shaping him into the person he is today – an educator for youth and a motivator for his community. It is a role he holds in high regard and with deep seeded pride.

Manriquez grew up in a poor, predominantly Spanish-speaking household. In elementary school, he was placed in a classroom for students with mental disabilities and special needs, due to the challenges he faced with speaking English. Even at a young age, Manriquez was aware that he was a victim of discrimination due to his economically and socially disadvantaged background. At just 7-years-old, he learned the concept of empathy through his experience. He says it was a great lesson for him on acceptance and respect for all of mankind and today, he is striving to help his students learn that same concept.

As a result, he created the Trucha Camp Physical Education Program, which is the primary physical education program implemented in Sanger Unified School District. As an elementary school physical education teacher, Manriquez wanted to provide a way to empower all students regardless of race, socioeconomic status or abilities.

Since 2001, Trucha Camp has been educating children in the community in fitness and health, as well as teaching ways to develop self-responsibility through character development. A core concept of the program is that it brings the outdoors to Sanger, by providing a camping experience at the school to allow students the opportunity to learn about fishing, hiking and orienteering.

This not only meets the state standards for the Sanger Unified School District’s physical education framework, but it also teaches students lessons that can be instilled in them for life, through the program namesake. Trucha translated into English means ‘trout’, which is the state fish of California. Manriquez’s lesson explains that the trout has to do what is good, right and true, in order to survive. Those three words represent the foundation for Trucha Camp.

Manriquez’s passion for teaching began when he was a young counselor of recreation (and later director) at 4-H summer camps, which gave him the opportunity to educate, inform, and enlighten young people. He credits the late Anita Hill, who was the camp cook in the Ceres 4-H Program, for showing him that love could exist amongst a multiracial society. Manriquez got his start in 4-H as a youth, where Hill would drive him to various 4-H meetings and camps. The kindness she showed motivated him to continue with 4-H into his adult years, taking several leadership positions along the way.

He would go on to obtain his bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology in 2000 from Fresno State and later returned to his alma mater a decade later to obtain his master’s degree in 2010. He is currently in the process of obtaining his doctoral degree and hopes to one day teach the core concepts embedded in Trucha Camp to other educators.

Manriquez was also instrumental in forming the Los Tennis Shoes Fitness Club, which encourages students and their families to walk or run before school. To celebrate their steps and miles achieved each day, they are treated to a healthy breakfast of champions in the school cafeteria. One year, they even logged over 100 miles and close to two million steps.

Manriquez, who has been teaching elementary physical education for the past 15 years, said the experience is rewarding, especially when he sees such positive outcomes for the hundreds of children he’s taught. “I believe the small community of Sanger can develop the next great leaders, but it takes an investment and willingness to plant that seed in the hearts of children,” says Manriquez.

Through his teachings and the belief he’s instilled in his students, Manriquez is positively impacting the youth in his community every day. He firmly believes that in order to implement the best quality and relevant creative instruction within the field of physical education for young people, the whole person must be considered: body, mind and soul. As a multifaceted individual, these are the words Manriquez truly lives by.

The 2015 Community Heroes Awards will be held on April 10, 2015 at Fresno State. For more information on the event, contact Beth Wilkinson at 559.278.3603 or bwilkinson@csufresno.edu or click here.