University of La Verne’s Growing with Diversity committee awarded Joanna Acentares as the winner of the first student diversity paper competition on Tuesday.
Acentares, who said she is not a writer by nature, had no idea that her paper could win her $1,000.
“I can’t believe it,” said Acentares, a student in the psychology doctoral program.
She was notified by the committee last week that she had been selected as a finalist and had to quickly prepare a presentation.
Acentares wrote her paper on how family members respond when becoming caretakers for a mentally ill relative.
“It is interesting to see how the caring of the mentally ill relative affects all different members of the family,” Acentares said.
She said she was led to the topic because she helped care for her aunt who was mentally ill and also because of her work at the Orange County juvenile drug court and previous work as a school counselor for students with mentally ill parents.
Roughly 20 students, faculty and administrators attended the event during which all four of the finalist gave a short presentation about their paper. Guests were able to discuss papers and ask questions.
Like Acentares, the other three finalists, Nick Guzman, Lanitha Barnes and Rasheed Ivey, are psychology majors and each based their papers on family dynamics among different cultures. Through their research they tried to find out what external and internal conflicts and influences affect the behavior of families and how those families behave in specific situations.
The finalists were selected by a panel of faculty judges outside the diversity committee.
Third place winner Ivey wrote his paper about the absence of positive male role models within the African American community.
His research showed that many young black men living in the inner-city see entertainers, like rappers and actors, as father figures. For Ivey, this topic hits close to home because he grew up in the inner city where this problem is prevalent.
“I hope people will take this study seriously,” Ivey said. “We need more programs that can help develop the youth that live in these inner-city neighborhoods.”
Ivey received $100 for placing third.
This is the first time the Growing with Diversity Committee has recognized students for their work.
“It gives students the opportunity to show off their talents and also for us to celebrate our students,” said Julius Walecki, an associate professor of business and public management, who coordinated the contest and the event. “I think these were all wonderful and very interesting projects. Diversity changes and it sort of revolves around us and we have to recognize that and embrace it. There are new issues that we need to deal with and today was the perfect example how many issues there are.”
Walecki said he would like to encourage students from other areas of study to participate in the future competitions.
Jessica Warden can be reached at email@example.com.