On November 18, the College of Health and Human Services will host the 2021 Health and Human Services Hero Awards to recognize individuals who are making a bold difference right here in the Central Valley. We will highlight the ten honorees in our Heroes Blog Series.

SHawkins2Name: Sarah Hawkins

Occupation: Coordinator of Clubs and Organizations, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and Owner, Race Rugrats and Course Care, LLC

Nominated by: The Department of Kinesiology

A hero is often described as a person of great distinction who provides noble acts of service. In this case, Sarah Hawkins became a hero in 2019 when she donated a kidney to Fresno-based Surgeon, Dr. Terry Gillian. However, her hero journey started long before that.

Growing up with parents who worked at a nonprofit, service to others was a normal part of life for Hawkins. Every job or position Sarah has ever held has in some way been tied to service and to making an impact on the communities around her. Perhaps her most meaningful experience came from the local nonprofit Break the Barriers, which provides opportunities for physical education for children and adults of all abilities. She became a member of the Break the Barriers performance team at the age of eight, and later began teaching at the facility when she was 16. She would eventually become the organization’s first health and fitness director. 

“Advocating for people with disabilities has been such an important part of my life, as I experience several invisible disabilities myself,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins got her start at Fresno State in 2000, as a prestigious Smittcamp Family Honors Scholar, where she majored in kinesiology. After graduating Magna Cum Laude, she returned to obtain her master’s degree in the same field and went on to earn the Outstanding Thesis award. A mentorship with Justine McAlpine, a lecturer in the Department of Kinesiology, gave Hawkins the idea to combine her passion for working with individuals with disabilities with her love of aquatics. She has since worked in aquatics education at Ithaca College, San Jose State, Cuesta College, and is currently the coordinator of Clubs and Organizations at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

Hawkins is one of only a few Aquatics for Children with Challenges Instructor Trainers in the world, a program that uses innovative methods to train instructors how to effectively teach aquatics to children with disabilities. She got her start with this program in 2012, after being hired as the director of San Jose State’s Timpany Center – a nonprofit therapy pool affiliated with the university’s Department of Kinesiology. Hawkins completed the course so that she in turn could provide her team, who were all kinesiology students, with the best possible training. She was the first person to ever offer the Aquatics for Children with Challenges Course as a for-credit college course. 

Hawkins regularly stays connected with Fresno State and the Department of Kinesiology, by providing guest lectures and nurturing close relationships with many of her former instructors. She was proud to supervise a Fresno State graduate student while teaching at Ithaca College. 

Hawkins lives life to the fullest, pushing herself physically and mentally. She has completed 19  triathlons, including two half Ironman Triathlons, and is currently training for her first full Ironman. She also provides service to her community, volunteering on the San Luis Obispo County Search and Rescue team and is currently a board member of Kidney Donor Athletes. 

“I will always give back, be it with time, talent, or money,” Hawkins said. “I’ve overcome so many health challenges in my life and I count each day I can be active as a gift. I don’t want to waste a single day!”

The 2021 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 virtually this year. For more information on the event, contact Beth Wilkinson at bwilkinson@csufresno.edu.

Read more:

Fresno State alumna donated kidney, gained more in return