Congratulations to Ferdinando Castro, who recently won the Hall of Honor Medal for Phi Theta Kappa. He is one of seven students in Texas, which has a total of 55 Phi Theta Kappa chapters, to win this award.
Ferdinando is an international student from Venezuela, speaks five languages, is a former professional athlete and completed 300 hours of service-learning last semester, earning the President’s Volunteer Service Award – Silver. This semester, he is going for gold, which requires completion of 500 service hours in a year. He is involved in 14 student organizations at Richland, he is the SGA Region 2 Resolution Committee Chair who led the creation of several resolutions with fellow SGA members and he recently presented original research at the Richland Honors Conference on Gun Violence Prevention. Fernando will graduate in Dec. 2020 with the designation of Richland Honors Scholar, the highest honors designation available at Richland.
“I am honored knowing that thousands of chapters in the nation apply for this award, and very few students are able to win it,” said Ferdinando. “Volunteering is important to me because I experienced what happens when communities do not support each other.”
When he lived in Venezuela, Ferdinando was a professional athlete in two different sports. His twin brother (a current Richland student) and his older brother (a former Richland soccer player and student) convinced him to visit them in Texas when the political and economic system in Venezuela started to fail and showed no signs of recovery. He resisted at first because he was living with his mother in Venezuela and playing soccer professionally, but his path became clear when a serious injury resulting from an illegal tackle ended his career.
“I regret that I was not involved in my communities back then, so I decided to take this opportunity as a chance to grow as a human being,” explained Ferdinando. “I do not want anyone to go through what my country is experiencing right now, and I will do whatever I can to ensure that it does not happen. I was not sure how to do so though, so my response was to join as many organizations as I could and volunteer for as much as it was possible. It turned out that I was able to do more than I thought I could, and in doing so, help others feel more motivated as well. So, it has become a passion for me and a fulfilling way of living.”
He is working hard to get the gold presidential volunteering service award this year to prove that an international student can get this type of recognition from the White House. He also thought it would look nice for the Hospitality, Exhibition and Event Management Club to have recorded hours of service to the community. His involvement led to many students and clubs wanting to be more active on campus and asking Ferdinando for advice on how to do that. Being an inspiration helped motivate him to keep trying. Finally, he loves volunteering because he always likes to aim to be better, and he loves a good challenge.
Last semester, Ferdinando completed 275 hours of community service, and this semester he has more than 350 hours (and he is still doing some despite being quarantined). “I believe that now, more than ever, it is important to show that no matter the circumstances in which we are living, we can still achieve our goals; moreover, our communities need help more than ever,” he said.
Ferdinando is currently pursuing his associate degree in Applied Science in HEEM at Richland College, where he expects to graduate in fall 2020. He then plans to transfer to a four-year university to earn a bachelor’s degree and become a meeting and event planner. “I plan to create events where people gather to share ideas on how to improve our world or to provide a better community service,” Ferdinando explained. “I am fascinated by how much human interaction can shape our world, by giving them a tool to have a better future. After earning my bachelor’s degree, my goal is to be able to work internationally and help as many other cultures as possible. I want to make an impact and create international events where we can ensure a better future for the next generations.”
If there is one thing Ferdinando has learned, it’s that life is unpredictable. All he can do is focus on what’s ahead of him and take every opportunity that is available. He hopes that he can reach those who are feeling limited or hopeless and inspire them to take action.
“I was not aiming to obtain recognitions; I just wanted to be engaged in my communities and to give back to the institution that gave me a second chance in life,” he said. “Before I started this path, I was depressed, feeling alone in a country that seemed to despise my culture, and not knowing exactly what to do after losing everything I built. My goal was only to learn from my past mistakes and to help others, and in the process of doing so, I obtained so much more than I asked. I am now happy, full of wonderful people I can call friends all over the world, and I have a clearer objective in life. If I was able to do so, I guarantee you that anybody can as long as they take actions and stay authentic.”
“We are thankful for Ferdinando’s engagement with Richland and the DCCCD and his influence on the entire state of Texas,” said Kathleen Stephens, honors program director. “His engagement has made our college, state and country a better place, and we can learn much from his example, engagement and excellence.”
Congratulations to Ferdinando and thank you for all your service to the community!
Richland College president Kathryn K. Eggleston, Ph.D., was one of nineteen presidents/campus CEOs awarded the Shirley B. Gordon Award of Distinction at Phi Theta Kappa’s annual convention in Nashville, Tenn., Apr. 6-8.
College presidents and campus CEOs are selected for this award based on outstanding efforts in promoting the goals of Phi Theta Kappa at their institutions. Nominees must have served as president at least five years at the current institution and demonstrated a strong level of support for Phi Theta Kappa during their tenure.
The award is named for the late Dr. Shirley B. Gordon, Phi Theta Kappa’s longest-serving Board of Directors chair. Gordon was named Phi Theta Kappa’s Most Distinguished College President in 1984.
Following acceptance of the award, Eggleston said, “I am honored to be recognized as a national recipient of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society’s 2017 Shirley B. Gordon Award of Distinction for advancing the goals of academic scholarship, leadership and service among Richland College’s outstanding honor students. I am proud to note that Richland’s Alpha Alpha Xi Chapter continues to sustain annually its Five Star Chapter rating, the highest level of accomplishment by college chapters.”
In addition to the Shirley B. Gordon Award, Eggleston was also recently inducted into the Texas Hall of Honor for Chief Executive Officers for the Texas region of Phi Theta Kappa for her and Richland College’s outstanding support of Phi Theta Kappa.
Phi Theta Kappa is the international honor society for community colleges. Founded in 1918 to give prestigious recognition to students with excellent scholarship and character, Phi Theta Kappa has always maintained fidelity to its founders’ commitment to provide enrichment in four hallmarks: scholarship, leadership, service and fellowship. Phi Theta Kappa features some of the nation’s finest educational programs for community college students.
Richland College’s Phi Theta Kappa Alpha Alpha Xi Chapter was recognized as a 2015 Top 100 Distinguished Chapter at the International Level, was the 2015 8th Most Distinguished Chapter in Texas Region and was the 2015 Most Distinguished Chapter for Honors in Action Theme 3: Quest for Human Expressions. In 2017, chapter secretary Elizabeth Mareesa won a “Distinguised Member” medallion at the Phi Theta Kappa Texas Regional Conference.
For additional information about Phi Theta Kappa at Richland College, visit alt.richlandcollege.edu/phi-theta-kappa.