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!
Congratulations to the 2019 Student Wall of Honor honorees! For more information on the Richland College Student Wall of Honor, click here.
When Hope Anderson began her educational journey as a dual credit student at Richland College when she was 16-years-old, no one knew just how far she would go. Hope’s journey is a testament to the power of purpose and planning.
As one of five siblings attending Richland College, Hope was responsible for her own higher education expenses. Undaunted by this challenge, Hope got a part-time job and created an aggressive four-year university transfer strategy.
By the time Hope completed 40 hours at Richland College, she not only was a member of Phi Theta Kappa and named to the President’s Honor Roll, but she also had a number of scholarship offers from top universities. Having an interest in human rights and wanting to stay near her family, she selected Southern Methodist University.
Hope graduated from SMU in 2017 with a 3.97 GPA and three undergraduate degrees: a B.A. in Human Rights with distinction, a B.A. in History, a B.S. in Sociology and a minor in Spanish. During her four years of study at SMU, Hope earned more than $150,000 in scholarships. Some of Hope’s many accomplishments include, but are not limited to, being a John Lewis Fellow, a Fulbright semi-finalist, a 2017 recipient of the SMU “M” Award, a Humanity in Action finalist and a member of both Phi Beta Kappa and the Dedman College Scholar University Honors Program.
In addition to her educational accolades, Hope’s human rights travels have taken her to countries including Nepal, Jordan and Chile. She served as a student leader for the Death Row Facilities in the American South program and interned with the International Rescue Committee of Dallas and the International Justice Mission in Washington, D.C.
In 2018, Hope became the community outreach coordinator for SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program, and this fall she will begin her graduate studies in the field of human rights.
As a student in Richland College’s Honors Program, Kirubel Moges has been described as “fearless in his pursuit of knowledge and academic enrichment.” Instead of protecting his GPA and playing it safe, Kirubel has enrolled in honors courses in a variety of disciplines.
Kirubel grew up in Ethiopia, and when he was three-years-old his father passed away, leaving his mother to care for her three sons. The family moved into a smaller house on their property and rented out the larger main house, and it was from this rental income that the family survived.
Always having the courage to dream big, Kirubel graduated from high school in Ethiopia in 2016 and was excited to attend Richland College that fall. However, political instability in Ethiopia forced him to delay traveling for six months. He got to the U.S. just in time—his travel window to the U.S. expired only one day after he arrived in early 2017. Once on campus, Kirubel threw himself into his studies and did more than excel: he thrived.
In addition to presenting at the 2018 Richland College Honors Conference and the 2018 DCCCD Philosophy Conference, Kirubel presented research on the death penalty in the U.S. at the 2018 Great Plains Honors Council Conference, and he also became the first Richland College Honors Program student to have a poster presentation accepted at the national level by the National Collegiate Honors Council’s 2018 Conference. There, Kirubel’s presentation expanded on his previous research, utilizing computer programming and philosophy to examine interviews as a data set to find which word was most commonly said by death row inmates in their final interviews. Kirubel found the most common word was “love.”
Kirubel is also active in a variety of campus organizations, including Phi Theta Kappa, the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, the Male Achievement Program, the Philosophy Club, the Computer Club and more. He is on track to earn the Richland Honors Scholar designation when he graduates this May, the highest designation possible through the Richland College Honors Program.
Adeeba Muntazer has a true joy for learning, and at one time in her life she risked literally everything in pursuit of an education.
Growing up in Afghanistan, Adeeba was just nine-years-old when the Taliban gained control of nearly 90 percent of the country and adopted brutal policies that forbade women from receiving an education. People who were found violating these laws were sentenced to death. Despite this risk, many female teachers who had been dismissed from their jobs rebelled and opened secretive, underground schools for girls.
As a teacher himself, Adeeba’s father knew of some of these covert schools, and he understood the value of his daughter receiving an education. At the risk of being killed for facilitating her learning, her father enrolled Adeeba in a secret school. Every day for three years, Adeeba walked jagged roads, sometimes crawling and hiding to evade authorities, to attend the facility her teachers had made into a school. She and other girls gathered in the small, dim and dank room to learn and support each other, and it was here that Adeeba completed her 5th, 6th and 7th grades.
In 2007, when Adeeba turned 18, she honored her parents’ traditions and culture with an arranged marriage, and Adeeba was accepted to study at Kabul University the same year. She balanced her studies with motherhood and caring for a large extended family. In 2009, Adeeba and her family were provided with an opportunity to immigrate to the U.S. because of her husband’s employment with the U.S. Armed Forces in Afghanistan.
Adeeba put her education on hold when she and her family moved, but in 2015 she resumed her dream and enrolled in her first ESOL class at Richland College. Since then, she has become fluent in English and has completed 58 credit hours, maintaining a 3.5 GPA. In the spring of 2018, she even earned the highest grade of her Speech 1311 class with Dr. Sherry Dean Rovelo. Adeeba has plans to soon transfer to El Centro College or Brookhaven College to complete a degree in nursing.
Thao Nguyen didn’t mean to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a nurse. But when she grew to love science through her professors at Richland College, she changed her mind, and she has been using her profession to help other people ever since.
Thao was 17-months-old when she and her parents escaped the Communist regime in Vietnam on a small fishing boat with 72 other people. The trip was harrowing and included a pirate attack in the South China Sea before they were rescued by a U.S. Navy ship. The family ended up at refugee camps in Thailand and the Philippines before moving to the U.S. Once there, Thao’s parents worked hard, and Thao’s mother graduated with an associate’s degree in nursing in 1988.
Inspired by the tenacity of her parents, Thao enrolled at Richland College before transferring to Texas Woman’s University, graduating in 2004. In addition, she was awarded for having the most community service volunteer hours and was the first in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree.
After graduation, Thao became a registered nurse with Texas Health Dallas and won multiple awards and honors, including making the 2012 Great 100 Nurses list and earning the D Magazine Nursing Excellence Award in 2013. But even though Thao has a passion for nursing, she also has a passion for helping others. Thao enrolled at Christ for the Nations Institute in 2016 as a full-time student and will graduate in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in practical ministry with a major in creative media.
Some of Thao’s humanitarian efforts include partnering with World Relief to aid Afghan refugees in Dallas and creating ArtBark, a dog-friendly event that raises money for local nonprofits. She has also taken eight mission trips since 2012 to provide health care and take family photographs that were often a family’s first photo ever. Thao also volunteers her time to photograph babies in the NICU, documenting holidays and special occasions or taking bereavement photos to capture a baby’s final moments with his or her parents.
During his tour of duty in the Vietnam War with the U.S. Air Force, Steve Rodgers found himself facing a choice when feeling overcome with emotional and physical hardships: He could focus on the bad in the world, or he could become the good and help those who suffered. He chose the latter, and his first act was teaching English to Vietnamese citizens.
Upon returning to Dallas, Steve began raising funds and promoting business investment within the Asian community. He has been instrumental in encouraging young people of Asian origin to pursue an education, even helping some of them finance their studies at Richland College.
Some of Steve’s other humanitarian contributions include: working with young addicts at the Palmer Drug Abuse Program; serving lunch at the Stewpot Ministry at the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Dallas; cofounding Restart, a program that assisted homeless and unemployed individuals affected by the recession of the 1980s; volunteering with the Eritrean refugee community in Dallas through organizing and furnishing a community center that offered services including ESL courses, job placement and legal assistance; cofounding the Dick Granger Society to help individuals and families needing assistance with housing, job placement and other necessities; and currently participating in the planning for a retreat center for battered women and children in Belize.
Steve has a degree in international trade from Texas Tech, an MBA from the University of Texas and took French classes at Richland College. Steve has used these educational pursuits to further his global service. During a dangerous mission to develop a camp in Algeria in 1996, Steve hit upon the idea of drilling for water instead of oil in impoverished areas.
Steve learned about digging and repairing wells from Living Water International. Since then, Steve has channeled his oil drilling expertise to provide potable water and teach pump repair and replacement at more than 20 sites in Ethiopia, Uganda, Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala and Belize.
Richland College recognized outstanding students and teaching practices in a ceremony on April 2. The 2013-14 Student Wall of Honor recipients are Martha Camarillo, Karen Cuttill, Tsegazeab “TJ” Gebreyohannes, Jorge Valderrama and Horacio Velador, who were honored for their outstanding academic achievements, perseverance through adversity and contributions to the community. Current and former students, in both credit and continuing education, are named to the Wall of Honor each spring. Read the recipients’ bios on the Wall of Honor webpage.
Richland College also honored the following instructors with the 2013-14 Student Engagement Awards: Professor Gabe Edgar for his innovative use of iPhones to ePortfolios with ESOL students; Dr. Lesley Daspit for leading her Anthropology students in a Garbology research project; and Professor Vicki Mayhan for designing an opportunity for her art students to create works for the Network of Community Ministries’ Clinic.