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Spirit of La Verne awards celebrate University values

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Soheila Azizi receives the Interfaith Cooperation Award for her work in the community as President of the Upland Interfaith Council and Vice President of Upland Spirituality Assembly. The Spirit of La Verne recognition ceremony took place Tuesday April 27 at the La Verne Church of the Brethren. Azizi graduated from the University of La Verne College of Law in 1993. / photo by Kathleen Arellano

Soheila Azizi receives the Interfaith Cooperation Award for her work in the community as President of the Upland Interfaith Council and Vice President of Upland Spirituality Assembly. The Spirit of La Verne recognition ceremony took place Tuesday April 27 at the La Verne Church of the Brethren. Azizi graduated from the University of La Verne College of Law in 1993. / photo by Kathleen Arellano

Taylor Bolanos
LV Life Editor

After demonstrating strong character and activism over the past year, faculty and students from the University of La Verne, as well as community members, were honored at the third annual Spirit of La Verne Recognition Ceremony, Tuesday at the La Verne Church of the Brethren. Award recipients shared inspirational words of advocacy.

The core values, community engagement, diversity and inclusivity, and interfaith cooperation are the foundation of the University of La Verne.

Each value sets the framework for better individuals by encouraging advocacy, acceptance, understanding and service.

The Spirit of La Verne award is based on the combination of these values.

Senior speech communication major Bradlee Johnson received the titular award presented by President Devorah Lieberman.

“Bradlee Johnson has demonstrated commitment and passion in the areas of civic and community engagement, diversity and inclusivity, and is the living embodiment of the spirit of La Verne,” Lieberman said.

Johnson served as president of the Black Student Union, a resident assistant and participated in community charity events such as Relay for Life and the Martin Luther King Jr. Candlelight Vigil with other BSU members.

Johnson said she commends her spirit of involvement to her friends and family, especially her mother and grandfather, as well as the La Verne community.

“Ever since I was young, my mother always said, ‘if you have, give,’” Johnson said.

“By saying that, she meant it in the most altruistic way possible, not with any hidden motives, not with any intentions. You have really helped me grow into the woman that I am today. I thank god every day that I was admitted to this university because I sincerely love it.”

President Lieberman also presented the first award of the night, the Newman Civic Fellows Award, to freshman administration major Maribel Hernandez.

“We are so proud,” Lieberman said.

“Everybody in this room, listening to you, they’re bursting with pride for the work that you’ve already done as a first year student. We look forward to your continued involvement.”

Hernandez served as the director of community involvement for the Latino Student Forum and a freshman ambassador for the Associated Students of the University La Verne.

“As a child, I was given a lot from my community, and it helped me grow as a person,” Hernandez said.

“It helped me value a lot of things that I have.”

Hernandez said she will continue to focus on instilling change for the Latin community as an undergraduate.

Alma Martinez, visiting professor of theater, was given awards for diversity and inclusivity as well as community engagement.

Like Hernandez, Martinez advocates for the Latin community and pushes for diversity in theater arts.

With her release of “Electricidad,” Martinez shines light on Latin actors and storylines in theater.

“The opportunity to be in a place that’s safe for the professors or those of us who teach, we need a safe space in order to share that with our students,” Martinez said. “I can teach you, but what I can’t teach you is passion. I can teach you how to act, but the passion has to come from you, you have to find it.”

Alumna, lawyer and adjunct professor for the La Verne College of Law Soheila Azizi was recognized as an Engaged Alumni and for holding active interfaith cooperation.

As co-founder of Women on the Move and the Upland Interfaith Council, Azizi encourages involvement and unity for spiritual life.

“If you invest your life and your time in the path of service for the community, you will never be spiritually, emotionally, or any other thing that matters, you will never be bankrupt,” Azizi said.

“You will always have this undying source of energy, joy, fulfillment and satisfaction, as I have.”

Other award recipients were graduate students Christina Warren and Helaine Stallion, sophomore educational studies major Melissa Lach, senior English major Carlos Yanes and junior speech communications major Vanessa Oceguera.

Faculty honored were Assistant Professor of Biology Jennifer Tsui, senior adjunct instructors Maria Nieto, Carolyn Payne and Jose Valdovinos, Director of Student Affairs for the College of Law Issac Carter, Associate Professor of Education Cleveland Hayes and Professor of Law Diane Klein.

Community members honored were alumnus and Director of Resident Life and Wellness at Hillcrest Ryan Harrison as well as Dr. Faduma Addow of the Pomona Valley Interfaith Collaborative on Mental Health.

Organizations recognized were the Pomona Valley School District and the Inland Valley Interfaith Group for Middle East Peace.

Taylor Bolanos can be reached at taylor.bolanos@laverne.edu.

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