Four Wall of Honor winners stand together, each holding their framed portraits with biographies. One framed portrait and biography is on the wall behind them.

Richland College 2018 Student Wall of Honor

Congratulations to the 2018 Student Wall of Honor honorees! For more information on the Richland College Student Wall of Honor, click here.

Fabian Castro

Fabian Castro has been described as a self-starter who has great self-direction. But one thing he has never been is self-focused.

Fabian was beginning his third year of medical school in Mexico when his family was forced to seek refuge in the U.S. due to threats from extortion groups. Fortunately, Fabian had learned English from spending a year in the U.S. when he was 12-years-old, and he was able to become a translator for his family as they began to establish a new life. For Fabian, this new life included enrolling at Richland College to continue his education.

While at Richland, Fabian considered several majors before eventually deciding on chemistry. Outside of class, he also learned all the aspects of his father’s car business, handled health emergencies his family members faced and mediated business disputes in Mexico.

But it isn’t just his family that Fabian has helped. He is active in the men’s group and is also a reader at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Richardson, where he works to bring the Latino and Anglo church members together to encourage comfortable collaboration and communication.

In labs at Richland, Fabian was known for assisting those around him, yet his own work never suffered. He was also a student lab assistant in the chemistry lab prep area. When the new General Chemistry II labs were being developed, Fabian performed the test runs, documenting results and collaborating with others on modifications. He also took the initiative to improve the sulfanilamide synthesis in Organic Chemistry II. In his last year as a student lab assistant, Fabian had matured into a true lab professional and was able to assist both students and faculty members.

Fabian is now attending the University of Texas at Dallas, where he is continuing his degree path in chemistry.

 

Behrang Hamedani

Behrang Hamadani, Ph.D., is not just a Thunderduck. He’s an inspiration to future Thunderducks and an example of how success comes with perseverance.

Behrang was born in Norman, Okla., to Iranian parents studying in the U.S., and he grew up in Iran. His parents decided to send him back to the U.S. for college, and a family friend recommended Richland College.

While at Richland, Behrang supported himself with grants, scholarships, work-study jobs, tutoring for Upward Bound and retail jobs. In 1999, he transferred to the University of Texas at Dallas with an academic excellence scholarship that covered two years of tuition. Due to a positive experience at Richland, Behrang felt prepared for junior level physics classes at UT Dallas.

While completing the final year of his bachelor’s degree, Behrang taught labs and continued tutoring at Richland. In the fall of 2001, he began his graduate work at Rice University and completed his Ph.D. in 2006. He then worked as a post-doctoral scholar for four years at the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) before accepting a permanent position.

Behrang primarily works on advancing measurement science to further U.S. competitiveness standards and developing reference materials. “NIST sets standards, from the number of calories in a bag of potato chips to how to measure the intensity of light in a room,” he said. “My project focuses on evaluating the performance of photovoltaic cells and modules to develop standards and measures for industry.”

Behrang’s favorite physicist is Isaac Newton, “a man who truly loved science for the sake of science, and who questioned everything.” He has followed the same model throughout his life and believes that life becomes more meaningful for people who question the mundane and have the curiosity to explore the world around them and discover new things.

 

Jewell Love

When Jewell Love enrolled at Richland College immediately after graduating high school, she had a plan in place. Little did she know one class would change everything.

Raised in a single parent household, Jewell’s original goal was to pursue a business degree with a major in marketing. She wasn’t passionate about business, but she was good at it, and it would eventually lead her to a position that would offer the salary she wanted.

Jewell studied at Richland College before transferring to the University of Texas at Dallas and enrolling in a slew of business classes. But Jewell needed an elective, so on a whim she enrolled in Introduction to Sociology at Richland.

“I had never even known anything about sociology, thus all of the material was completely new to me,” said Jewell. “However, everything we talked and learned about was so relevant and relatable to me. I knew on the first day that I needed to change my major because I had found something that was truly my passion.”

Jewell realized she had been pursuing a business degree for the wrong reasons. So, she switched her major, focusing specifically on the most important aspect of sociology that had always been prevalent in her life: race. Since then, she has participated in various research studies pertaining to how racial micro-aggressions affect students of color in higher learning institutions and women of color in interracial relationships. Her current research is looking at how the lack of diversity within the medical field affects people of color.

Jewell graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from UT Dallas in 2016. In May 2018, Jewell will graduate magna cum laude with a Master of Science in Applied Sociology, also from UT Dallas.

 

Tito Salas

Even though it has been ten years since Tito Salas left Richland College, he keeps coming back. It’s because he has education and soccer in his blood.

After graduating from Skyline High School in Dallas in 2006, Tito enrolled at Richland College, where he was active on the men’s soccer team in 2006 and 2007. Coincidentally, the Richland College men’s soccer team won the NJCAA men’s soccer championship both years.

Tito transferred to William Carey University in Hattiesburg, Miss., where he continued to play soccer. Not only did Tito graduate with a 3.9 GPA, but he was also the first in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree. He also won the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Champion of Character award and was named Mr. William Carey University his senior year, an award given to the man who best represents the ideals of WCU, nominated by faculty and staff and voted on by the student body.

Upon graduation, Tito returned to Dallas and began teaching at Franklin Middle School, where he was a physical education teacher and the athletic director. He also coached soccer at his alma mater, Skyline High School.

Tito decided to continue his educational journey and graduated with a master’s in education from Stephen F. Austin State University. He is currently the assistant principal at Emmett J. Conrad High School in Dallas.

Each August, Tito returns to Richland College to speak with the men’s soccer team and has mentored former and current team members over the years. But Tito’s influence has affected more than just the students at Richland and the schools where he has taught and worked. Since his graduation from college, his three younger siblings have also graduated, including two who attended Richland College and played soccer.

Tito is married to former Richland student and soccer player Karrina Almendarez, and together they have two children, Gabriela and Xavi.

 

Temesgen Zerom

In his personal statement submitted to the University of Texas at Dallas when he transferred from Richland College, Temesgen Zerom said he learned the basic principles of mechanical engineering before he could even read or write. When you consider how he absorbs knowledge, this makes complete sense.

Temesgen is originally from the State of Eritrea in Africa, a country known for its poor human rights record. Hoping for a chance at a better life, in 2010 Temesgen paid someone to smuggle him into Ethiopia, walking for days under the threat of death if captured. He ended up in a refugee camp for a year in Ethiopia. With his mother’s help, Temesgen finally made it to the U.S., where he enrolled at Richland College.

While at Richland, Temesgen was a member of Phi Theta Kappa and the Honors Society, and he received the All-Texas Academic Team Award, awarded to the top community college students in Texas. He maintained a 4.0 GPA despite taking some of the most demanding math and science classes offered, and graduated with an Associate of Science in Mechanical Engineering. During his time at Richland, Temesgen was also a member of the STEM Institute, mentoring middle and high school students who had an interest in science.

Temesgen’s dedication at Richland paid off, and he was awarded the prestigious Terry Foundation Scholarship as a transfer scholar from UT Dallas, where he is currently still making a 4.0 GPA.

Temesgen not only defied the odds and has a bright future, but he is also a role model for those who go through difficult circumstances. He often reminds anyone who will listen that your biography does not have to be your destiny. You can do anything.