The College of Health and Human Services at Fresno State will celebrate 10 individuals for their contributions to the community during the 11th annual Health and Human Services Hero Awards, which will be held virtually at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18, via Zoom.
The awards recognize those making a difference in the fields of health and human services through their work, service and advocacy on behalf of children and families in the Central Valley. Each honoree was nominated by an academic department, school, center or institute within the college.
“A hero is often described as someone who is lauded for their courage, achievements or noble qualities,” said Dr. Denise Seabert, dean of the College of Health and Human Services. “Although our 2021 heroes certainly deserve that praise, most of them will tell you that they are just simply doing what they love to do. Each of these individuals serve their profession, community and our University in significant and meaningful ways — and we are so pleased to now honor them as outstanding alumni.”
The 2021 Health and Human Services Heroes are:
- Scott Brown — As the athletics director and a physical education teacher in Madera Unified School District, Brown is committed to making sure his students have the proper knowledge and nutrition it takes to succeed. Through his “whole child” approach, students are taught to care for themselves in mind, body and spirit.
- Chris Di Redo — Since 2006, Di Redo has provided the gift of service to his Merced community, providing pro bono or low-cost physical therapy services to those who would otherwise not receive care. He stands by the belief that each individual is deserving of the most basic human rights — love, dignity and respect.
- Sarah Hawkins — From competing in triathlons to giving the gift of health, Hawkins does it all. She is also one of only a few Aquatics for Children with Challenges instructor trainers in the world. The program uses innovative methods to train instructors how to effectively teach aquatics to children with disabilities.
- Elizabeth Henderson — Teaching with compassion and care is Henderson’s mission. As a middle school teacher at the California School for the Deaf, she models how her own deafness can be a powerful tool to empower others.
- Genoveva Islas — Growing up with immigrant parents, Islas saw firsthand how health inequities impact underserved communities. As founder of Cultiva La Salud, she works to ensure other immigrant families have proper health care access. Her advocacy during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a testament to that.
- Pam Loewen — For 15 years, Loewen has been chronicling nursing alumni as a historian with the Central California Center for Excellence in Nursing. She’s made history herself, as a nurse in the U.S. Air Force and a nursing career that spans nearly four decades.
- Brandi Muro — A public health professional of over 15 years, Muro strives to improve the health and wellness of California residents. In her role as senior director of program services at the California Health Collaborative, she is able to do just that, while also inspiring future generations of leaders.
- Mor Xiong Popper — As executive director of Healing Hope, Inc., Xiong Popper aspires to be a servant leader to those most in need of a helping hand. Hardships in her own past fueled her dreams to one day give back to her community, particularly among Southeast Asian refugees, just like herself.
- Andy Taylor — Taylor believes that all student-athletes should have the best possible care, and as an athletic trainer, he makes it his mission to be their advocate. Through his organization, Central Valley Athletic Training Services, he connects student-athletes in rural communities with the proper training needed to excel.
- Corey Torres — As the general manager of the Tehachapi Valley Recreation & Park District, Torres oversees services for a population of just under 13,000. For him, being a leader in the mountain community he was raised in is not just a career, but a privilege.
Since the very first Hero Awards were held in 2011, over 105 individuals have been honored for their leadership and commitment to their respective profession.
The Health and Human Services Hero Awards is a free, online event and is open to the public. To register for the virtual event, contact Beth Wilkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org.