Honoring Service: CREATE Colleagues Recognized at Annual Awards Ceremony

EAOP Director Rafael Hernandez (center) congratulates Geneva Fitzsimmons and Thomas Gilkison of UC San Diego’s EAOP program.

CREATE is honored to celebrate five long-time colleagues and dear friends who have worked tirelessly for decades to bring about greater equity and access to low-income, underserved students in San Diego and Imperial Counties. The honorees were recognized at the UC San Diego 2016-17 Service Awards Ceremony at the Estancia Hotel on October 30.

UC San Diego alumnus Jorge Hernandez from the TRiO Talent Search program is a counseling coordinator who works directly with high school students. Jorge provides counseling, advising students about the courses they should take to best access college and those that can help them pursue a particular career dream. Celebrating 15 years at UC San Diego, Jorge’s passion and poetic nature comes through each and every time he interacts with his colleagues at CREATE and TRiO and with the students he serves. Always quick to lend a hand or cheer up others, he is a true asset to the UC San Diego, CREATE and TRiO families. He is among our best and brightest ambassadors of UC San Diego in the community.

Geneva Fitzsimmons is a 15-year staff member who has played an especially critical role establishing and maintaining healthy communication and educational collaborations between UC San Diego and California tribal entities in San Diego County. Working as an Early Academic Outreach Program (EAOP) liaison, Geneva has spent thousands of hours out “in the field” disseminating information concerning college entrance requirements and getting young Native American students access to financial aid for college. She is powerful because she knows the communities she so deftly serves — identifying and tracking Native American middle school and high school students and providing the just-in-time supports in culturally appropriate ways that they and their families need to become more successful educationally. Geneva has been a key player in helping increase the numbers of Native American (NA) students in the sciences/health professions and the numbers of NA students in community college who will transfer to a UC campus in the sciences/health professions. Thank you, Geneva.

UC San Diego service honorees Gilkison, Carol Schrammel and Jorge Hernandez have 65 years of service among them.

Carol Schrammel, a 20-year honoree, is another diligent and committed staff member who oversees the San Diego Area Writing Project (SDAWP) within CREATE. SDAWP is a 40-year program that migrated to CREATE’s umbrella about 15 years ago. The program provides wonderful learning experiences and a rich and friendly teacher community to all pre-K-16 educators in San Diego who want to improve themselves and the way they teach writing. Writing is a key skill for students headed to college or directly to a career, and is at the core of the SDAWP program. The second oldest Writing Project among the 200 National Writing Project sites, SDAWP has been assisting thousands of teachers in our community to be better teachers of writing for decades. And behind each and every program at each and every school is Carol — making them happen one program, one teacher and one student at a time.

Carri Fierro, honored for 20 years of service, is our esteemed TRiO Outreach Programs Director. Overseeing five TRiO Pre-College Federal Grant Programs, which she also helps write and has continued to secure for our campus for the last 10 years, Carri’s commitment is unbounded both to leading her staff and to growing talent within her programs. Under Carri’s direction, TRiO staff create outstanding academic year experiences (tutoring, counseling, and field trips to colleges), as well as summer programs (residential on-campus UC San Diego programs and those in the community) for several hundred low-income, first-generation, college-bound high school students in our region. Her program reaches dozens of high schools, placing counseling and tutoring services directly in the paths of and the places where students live and learn.

Last, but certainly not least, is Thomas Gilkison, Assistant Director of EAOP. For more than three amazing decades, Thomas has worked in his home community, the Imperial Valley, two hours east of the main UC San Diego campus, creating programs, supporting high school students and teachers, as well as our community college colleagues. His work brings the name and dream of a UC San Diego education to his hometown. Very few students in the Imperial Valley would know about UC San Diego, much less ever aspire to attend college here without Thomas’s longstanding and unwavering commitment to them and their families. And EAOP students, on every single bus from the Imperial Valley, have made their stories, voices and needs more visible to our campus as well.  So, it’s time for us to say thank you and to celebrate Thomas for 30 years of outstanding dedication to educational equity in our region.