Skip to main content

Award Recipient Profiles 2023-2024

Congratulations to the 2023-2024 award recipients!

Yvette Hernandez

Public Health Major an Public Policy Minor

Mather Good Citizen Award

Yvette Hernandez is the daughter of Mexican immigrants and was raised in El Monte, Southern California. She is a proud first-generation fourth-year student at the University of California, Berkeley, studying Public Health and Public Policy. Yvette is actively involved and passionate about policy and advocacy work associated with health and education equity. Yvette has worked with the Campaign for College Opportunity, conducting research to update the data for the Left Out Report, highlighting racial disparities within the UCs, CSUs, and California Community Colleges. Before that, Yvette also worked with the Southern California College Attainment Network as a Basic Needs Fellow, Ambassador, and Changemaker fellow. There, she advocated to seven legislators in California for the expansion of food stamp eligibility for college students and the need for affordable housing. Yvette also testified to the Senate Higher Education Committee in Sacramento in support of AB 288 to end Scholarship Displacement, which Governor Newsom signed into law in 2022. She created virtual educational campaigns on social media about available resources for students like Cal Fresh, Basic Needs Centers, Food Pantries, and affordable housing options on the official @GotoCollegeCa Instagram and TikTok pages. In addition, she led advocacy efforts for Doubling the Pell Grant and increasing Cal Grant financial aid for students. Yvette has also worked for the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, Kaiser Permanente, the Southern California College Attainment Network, the California Research Bureau at the State Library, the California Center for Civic Participation, and other organizations focusing on education, basic needs insecurity, healthcare access, public health, public transportation, and more.

Alondra Torres Arenas

Political Science and Chicano Studies

Undergraduate Award for Civic Engagement

Alondra will be receiving her BA in Political Science and Chicano studies. She was raised in Pittsburg, CA, but the real home that watched her grow was La Laborcita, Sain Alto, Zacatecas, Mexico, next to the animalitos and the smell of tierrita mojada. Her parents, Mexican economic refugees, and her great grandfathers, who were Braceros, have ignited a passion for pursuing justice for immigrants in and outside the United States. It is her life journey to contribute light and authenticity to the world. She is part of the Voces Maya outreach team at East Bay Sanctuary Covenant. Alondra participates in immigration, workers’ rights, and hate crime rights outreach in Oakland and the broader Bay Area. She is a two-time co-leader for Alternative Breaks, leading the San Diego critical service learning trip where she partners with Border Angels to conduct water drop-offs and day laborer outreach in San Diego during spring break.

Chandra Marina Laborde

Architectural and Urban History

Graduate Award for Civic Engagement

Chandra Laborde is an architect, architectural theorist, and historian. Her work focuses on the intersections of gender, ecology, justice, and the built environment. Laborde is a Ph.D. candidate in Architecture at the History, Theory, and Society Program, where she works on the history of radical ecological communes in Northern California. She holds a Master of Science in Architecture from UC Berkeley, a Master in Advanced Architectural Design from the California College of the Arts, and a Bachelor in Architecture from Mexico’s National Autonomous University UNAM, in Mexico City. She has professional design experience with ecological architecture in Tijuana, Baja California. Laborde is a part of the TurkxTaylor Initiative, an ad-hoc group that came together to liberate the landmark building of the Compton’s Cafeteria riot of 1966 in San Francisco’s Tenderloin.

William Arthur Ehren Tool

Art Practice

Staff Award for Civic Engagement

After serving with the Marine Corps in the 1991 Gulf War and being honorably discharged, Tool received his BFA from USC in 2000. Tool Recieved his MFA in 2005 and has worked as the Senior Laboratory Mechinician in the Art Department at Cal since 2005. Tool has been working with Veterans, their families, refugees and other folks affected by war and violence for more than 20 years. Tool has given more than 26,000 handmade ceramic cups since 2001. Tool has done workshops across the USA, Germany, France, China and Vietnam. Tool’s work in Museums and more importantly in thousands of homes around the world.

Trinity Balla

Law Library

Staff Award for Civic Engagement

Trinity Balla works at the UC Berkeley Law Library as the Evening/ Weekend Patron Services Assistant Supervisor where she helps with the circulation desk. In 2016, at 15 years old, Trinity founded a non-profit called Grace Period aimed at ending period poverty among the unhoused in her hometown of Oakland, CA. This goal is accomplished by monthly direct distribution of menstrual care kits to homeless encampments and to shelters. These menstrual care kits are filled with pads, tampons, Advil, heating packs and more. Since its inception, Grace Period has been able to help more than 500 families and distribute thousands of menstrual hygiene items.In 2023, Trinity invited her friend, Edinna Obaseki, Grace Period is funded by donations from generous community members and staffed by volunteers.


Campus-Community Partnership Award

CalHOPE Student Support is a multi-stakeholder, partnered initiative – between sectors, across regions, and between system levels, intended to help California educators in the unprecedented task of bringing children back into and improving the normative routines of learning and development by strengthening capacity for Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) implementation statewide. The CalHOPE Student Support planning team is led by the Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE) and the University of California, Berkeley, who partnered with 55 additional county offices of education (COEs). Together, they collaborate with 27,000 administrators and 30,000 pupil services personnel, supporting over 300,000 teachers, serving over six million school students in public schools statewide. UC Berkeley partners include: the School of Social Welfare – providing tools, training, technical assistance, and feedback loops for the continuous improvement of SEL implementation; the Greater Good Science Center – translating science into practices for student and educator well-being; and University Extension – collaborating with the School of Social Welfare to offer a graduate-level SEL Foundations course to 1200 in-service educators statewide. The work of this partnership is made possible by the California Department of Health Care Services.

Bear Bones Lab

Student Group Award for Civic Engagement

The Bear Bones Lab is a multidisciplinary research cluster that is dedicated to engaging with an ever-expanding network of cross-campus and community partners. Our student-led efforts incorporate undergraduate and graduate students from multiple fields to participate in community-based collaborative projects in direct partnership with Native Californian communities. Amongst these projects, teams of students and affiliates have helped deliver low-impact archaeology workshops to Native Californian community partners as well as an audience of State and Federal agency personnel. Our goal is to demonstrate and teach a suite of non-excavation methodologies available to communities who wish not to disturb Ancestral places and how to apply them in negotiations with agencies, municipalities, and other land managers. Several of these low-impact methodologies have been incorporated in projects exploring the relation of different types of fire regimes (Out of control/Wildfire, Industrial/Controlled Burns, or Traditional/Cultural Fire) to presentation and legibility of Ancestral places and practice. Members of our team have also been working under the direct mandate of the Tribal Council of the Mono Lake Kootzaduka’a to amass, digitize, and organize materials to be evaluated by the Office of Federal Acknowledgement to restore Federal Recognition to the Tribe.

Amy E. Lerman

Goldman School of Public Policy

Faculty Award for Research in the Public Interest

Amy E. Lerman is the Michelle Schwartz Chair and Professor of Public Policy and Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley. She is also the Executive Director of the Possibility Lab, where she leads a team of researchers and practitioners who collaborate with government and community organizations to design, pilot, and scale data-driven innovation for the public good. Her scholarship can be found in a wide variety of academic journals and several award-winning books, and has been featured in numerous media outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, CNN, and NPR. She consults widely on issues related to political behavior and trust in government, evidence-based policymaking, access to higher education, prison reform, and law enforcement mental health. In addition to her research, Lerman previously served as a speechwriter and communications consultant for national nonprofits and members of the United States Congress, a community organizer in Latin America and Southeast Asia, and an adjunct faculty member of the college at San Quentin State Prison. In 2023, Lerman was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  

Christine Schiavo

School of Journalism

Faculty Award for Community Engaged Teaching

About 15 years ago, the Journalism School established the local news sites Oakland North and Richmond Confidential to train student reporters in covering governments and communities. After becoming the sites’ first full-time editor in 2021, Christine Schiavo expanded the coverage to include communities around Oakland and Richmond such as Piedmont, El Cerrito, San Pablo and Pinole, as she oversaw a year-round staff of student reporters that totaled 60 at its peak and included two Richmond community members, who were invited to join the J200 class that supports the sites in the fall. The sites provide a tremendous public service for residents looking for information about what their city councils and school boards are doing, what businesses are opening and closing, what crimes are trending in neighborhoods, and what’s new in the arts, entertainment and recreation scenes. In Richmond, a virtual news desert, Richmond Confidential has given residents an alternative to the Chevron-sponsored Richmond Standard, which did not cover the refinery’s 2021 oil spill in San Francisco Bay or the 12-hour flaring event that blanketed Richmond in smoke in November. But Richmond Confidential did. And it went deeper, questioning why Chevron didn’t immediately report that spill as required by law, and why Contra Costa County did not independently investigate it. In 2023, the sites published more than 200 stories, generating about 330,000 views. By hiring a full-time editor to manage the sites, edit the stories and promote them on social media, the Journalism School doubled-down on its commitment to Oakland and Richmond as well as to local news — a public service that has disappeared in many communities.

Christian Dieguez

Political Science

Robert J. and Mary Catherine Birgeneau Recognition Award for Service to Undocumented Students

Christian Dieguez is an ambitious first-generation student at the University of California, Berkeley, majoring in political science with a minor in public policy. As someone who was raised by undocumented parents, he has become aware of the limited access to certain resources and opportunities available to undocumented community. Since coming to UC Berkeley, he has become committed to serving as an advocate and representative for low-income, marginalized communities on and off campus. Christian has worked with NAVCAL, NAV2CAL, the Puente Project/PoderOso, the Institute of Governmental Studies, and the Public Service Center, where he is actively learning how to utilize his knowledge of networks and resources to support and direct the needs of the undocumented community. Christian is eager to continue his professional and personal development in public service.

Mellony Palma


Robert J. and Mary Catherine Birgeneau Recognition Award for Service to Underrepresented Students

Mellony is a testament to the transformative power of education and the importance of community support. Her early life, marked by family challenges and personal adversity, taught me resilience and the value of a strong educational foundation. Today, as a sociology student at UC Berkeley, she approaches her studies with a focus on systemic change and social justice, aiming to apply academic insights to real-world issues. In her roles at the Student Parent Center and the REACH program, she provides guidance and support to student parents and those transitioning into university life. These experiences allow her to share practical strategies and resources, helping others navigate their educational journeys while managing personal challenges. Her academic work extends into research, particularly focusing on the dynamics of California’s foster care system, an area deeply connected to her own experiences. Through this, she aims to contribute to a broader understanding and improvement of the system, advocating for those who are still within it. Beyond academia, she is committed to continuous personal and professional growth, leveraging her past as a foundation for future contributions to society. In sharing her journey, she hopes to inspire resilience and determination in others facing similar obstacles. She is dedicated to making a meaningful impact in her community and beyond, driven by a belief in the power of support and education.