On November 3, the College of Health and Human Services will host the 2017 Health and Human Services Hero Awards to recognize the unsung heroes in our community whose actions, thoughts and words have had a transformative impact in our region. For the rest of the month, we will be highlighting our ten honorees in our Community Heroes Series.


NikkiCornell_smName: Nikki Cornell

Occupation: Manager and Coach, Central Valley Ghostriderz and Physical Therapist for Clovis Unified School District’s Division of Special Education

Nominated by: The Department of Physical Therapy

Each week, Nikki Cornell can be found at St. Anthony Elementary School in Fresno, cheering on the Central Valley Ghostriderz – the team she manages. It is the only power soccer team within a 150-mile radius. The team provides opportunities for adaptive sports in the Valley and allows power wheelchair athletes the ability to compete professionally.

Cornell founded the team in 2010, after meeting a local high school student determined to play a sport, regardless of the fact that he used a power wheelchair. His tenacity inspired Cornell to form the Ghostriderz, who had just four players at the time. The team has grown significantly since then and are on their way to a Conference Cup run in June 2018.

Through Cornell’s connections, doctoral students in the Department of Physical Therapy have the opportunity to volunteer with the team, which gives them valuable insight into the lives of athletes and their families who are living with long-term physical disabilities.

When Cornell is not on the court, she serves as a physical therapist for Clovis Unified School District in the Division of Special Education. She previously spent 15 years at Valley Children’s Healthcare in the Outpatient Rehabilitation Department, as the physical therapist for the Pediatric Muscular Dystrophy Clinic in collaborative with Valley Children’s and the Central Valley Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Through her careers in both pediatric and educational physical therapy, Cornell has been able to make a positive impact on the lives of countless children and families in the Valley.

An alumna of Fresno State, Cornell received her bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology (Exercise Physiology) and a master’s degree in Physical Therapy. She is steadfast in her belief that life’s limitations do not matter, as long as there is determination.


The 2017 Health and Human Services Hero Awards, which celebrates heroes from each of the seven departments, as well as centers and institutes within our college, will be held on November 3, 2017 at Fresno State. For more information on the event, contact Beth Wilkinson at 559.278.3603 or bwilkinson@csufresno.edu.