Twelve students with major achievements in the classroom and in the community will be honored in a special ceremony on March 1 as recipients of the 37th annual Lieutenant Robert Merton Rawlins Merit Award.

The award—one of the largest and most prestigious at Chico State—celebrates scholarship, extracurricular activities, and outstanding academic and professional accomplishments. Awards are also based on evidence of a student’s sincere intent to complete their education, to increase their personal knowledge, and to achieve success in every aspect of life.

The Rawlins merit scholarships are named in honor of Lt. Robert Merton Rawlins, who died piloting a B-29 bomber over Tokyo Bay during World War II. Wishing to leave a legacy in the name of her son, Fern Rawlins established the Lt. Robert Merton Rawlins Merit Award endowment in 1981.

Since the program’s inception, more than $1 million in scholarships has been awarded to more than 800 deserving CSU, Chico students.

Meet the students joining the ranks this year:

Diana Castellanos

Nominated by Brian Brazeal

Portrait of Diana Castellanos

Diana is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in anthropology. A winner of the University’s Biliteracy Award, she is fluent in English and Spanish as a speaker, writer, and reader. Diana has shown a voracious appetite for personal growth throughout her time at Chico State, including involvement at leadership levels with Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlan de Chico State, Latinas in Action, Native American Interest Group, the Chico State pep band, the Chico Anthropological Society, the Latino Graduation Ceremony Committee, the Native American Heritage Society, and Leaders Educating for the Advancement of Dreamers. Her activism and passion for social and environmental justice have driven her through her entire collegiate career. Diana has developed a love and proficiency for videography, assisting on a documentary of the Pomo Nation and serving as a media intern with the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Construction Management. She has also served as the community youth organizer in Sacramento for the Alliance for Education Solutions since 2017. Wrote her nominator, Brian Brazeal: “Her spirit is unbowed and she has dedicated herself to excellence in intellectual pursuits, as well as creativity and service to our community.”

Makenna Boggio

Nominated by Kristin Minetti

Portrait of Makenna Boggio

Makenna is a senior completing her bachelor’s degree in business administration with an option in marketing. She has been a member of the American Marketing Association (AMA) since 2016, where she has been an integral contributor to the association’s national ranking in case study competitions. As her AMA chapter vice president, she is now responsible for leading large teams of students in constructing marketing case studies for national competitions. She was also recently selected to attend the International Collegiate Conference in New Orleans to compete in marketing stimulations and pitch competitions. Makenna is pursuing her career through her growth marketing internship with JoyRun, and working as a marketing intern for Frito-Lay in summer 2018. For the last decade, her passion for cancer research has inspired her to volunteer for Relay for Life, where she regularly participates in events, assists in fundraising, and has donated 10 inches of her own hair to Locks of Love. Her nominator, Kristin Minetti, wrote: “Most importantly, she has excellent evidence of scholarship, extracurricular activities, and outstanding professionally related and academic accomplishments. She has also shown that she can pursue a successful life in any chosen capacity.”

Damien Bonis

Nominated by Amanda Muller

Portrait of Damien Boris

Damien is a senior pursuing a bachelor’s degree in concrete industry management and a minor in business administration. He is the current president of the International Concrete Repair Institute’s Chico State chapter, and works as a lab assistant for the Concrete Industry Management program through the University Research Foundation. Damien recently completed an internship with Master Builders Solutions in Beachwood, Ohio, where he was a researcher and developer in market research and product development and testing. Damien also completed an internship with the Concrete Preservation Institute in San Francisco, where he evaluated the integrity of concrete structures on Alcatraz Island, and restored some of the city’s concrete buildings while maintaining their historic aesthetic. Due to his academic performance, Damien has been a recipient of the President’s Scholarship since 2015, has also received several other honorable awards such as the Weatherton Award Scholarship and an ACI fellowship, and is a Dean’s List recipient. Aside from his academic achievements, Damien has also completed several service projects in the Chico community, such as renovating Caper Acres Children’s Playground and Sierra View Elementary’s courtyard. One of his nominators, Amanda Muller, wrote: “Damien has a lengthy resume but some of his best qualities are seen in his day-to-day interactions between his peers . . . Damien’s enthusiasm for knowledge and the concrete industry only inspires those around him to be better and to be more involved on campus and in the community.”

MacKenzie Deeter

Nominated by June Covington

Portrait of Mackenzie Deeter

MacKenzie is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business administration with and option in management, as well as a minor in sustainability management. She is both a Dean’s List and a CCAA All-Academic Award recipient. Since 2016, MacKenzie has been an athlete for Chico State’s women’s track and field, specializing in the 400-meter hurdles and the mile relay. MacKenzie’s passion for sustainability echoes through her campus and community involvement, including her previous position as the regional director of Opal Cliffs Recreation District and her creation and leadership of the volunteer recycle collection system at Soquel High School. At Chico State, Mackenzie is a member of Sustainable Consultants of Office Practices, where she serves as a sustainability consultant and auditor for the environmental and cost efficiency of on-campus offices. Through this campus organization, she has had the opportunity to present at sustainability conferences such as Sense of the Place Symposium and This Way to Sustainability Conference. Outside of her academic disciplines, MacKenzie is also certified to recognize and prevent human trafficking in our community, and she has worked as a special education aide. Her nominator, June Covington, stated: “from the first day of class she distinguished herself as a natural leader and someone who is committed to academic excellence.”

Yoana Guzman Hernandez

Nominated by Lori Holcombe

Portrait of Yoana Guzman

Yoana is pursuing both a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a bachelor’s degree in applied physics. In addition to having been a Dean’s List recipient, she has also been a scholarship recipient of several Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Merit Awards and a MESA Engineering Program Scholarship since 2016. Yoana is involved in a multitude of on-campus programs that aim to spotlight underrepresented populations in STEM majors, such as Latinos in Technical Careers, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). She is employed with Chico STEM Connections Collaborative as a student contact and recruiter for incoming high school students. In addition to her extensive involvement with campus organizations, Yoana has also volunteered as a fundraiser for the Salvation Army and as a lab assistant for Imagineer Day—an on-campus event curated by SWE to expose K–8 students to STEM on Chico State’s campus. Her nominator, Lori Holcombe, stated: “It is her genuine curiosity and hard work that motivates her to excel. I am confident that this delightful young woman will be successful in her matriculation and in her life.”

Brian Harris

Nominated by Lori Holcombe

Portrait of Brian Harris

Brian is completing a bachelor’s degree in mechatronic engineering, as well as a minors in computer science and computer engineering. He is an active member of the Upsilon Pi Epsilon Computer Science Honor Society, as well as the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program. Brian’s academic performance has qualified him as a continuous recipient of Chico State’s Presidential Scholarship, a LSAMP Merit Award, a Dean’s List recipient, and the MESA Engineering Program’s Freshman of the Year Award in 2016. He recently completed an internship as an engineering technician with the Mendocino County Department of Transportation, broadening his skills into civic engineering. His responsibilities included inspecting construction sites’ safety and environmental standards, analyzing data reports about traffic signs and repeat accidents, and conducting traffic safety reviews of county-maintained roads. Brian has also pursued technical projects through both the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and SolidWorks. He enjoys being involved with the community through volunteer work with the Boys and Girls club during the summer, and with his church’s after-school AWANA program. Lori Holcombe, Brian’s nominator, wrote: “I have no doubt that Brian will shine with his own unique intensity in his major, mechatronics, in our University, and in our community.”

Amandeep Kaur

Nominated by Peter Lopez

Portrait of Amandeep Kaur

Amandeep, a 2016 Chico State graduate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, is currently finishing a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy. Her pursuit of a career in therapy resonates through her extensive volunteer, academic, and community achievements in the field of therapy. She has been working closely with community members through the Community Action Volunteers in Education program throughout her years attending Chico State: from supervising tutoring programs for 1st–12th graders to building friendships through weekly visits to local elderly homes through the Adopted Grandparent program. Amandeep has previously worked as a student counselor at Chico Junior High School. She currently holds a student counselor position at Sherwood Montessori in addition to a position as an individual and group practicum at Chico State’s Counselor Training Center. Amandeep is also an Alpha Gamma Delta sorority alum, where she was involved in its Alpha Gamma Delta Foundation for Diabetes Research. Amandeep’s nominator, Peter Lopez, stated: “Ms. Kaur’s compassion for others is remarkable and inspiring; her goodwill and generosity is like a rising tide that lifts all boats—everyone around her benefits from her presence.”

Juan Lombera

Nominated by Sae-Mi Lee

Portrait of Juan Lombera

Juan is junior pursuing a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology as well as a minor in psychology. Juan is currently an instructional student assistant for the Department of Kinesiology, where he assists in lectures, research projects, and grading. Even as an undergraduate in his second year, Juan was recently recruited by his nominator to co-author a research paper on the study of minority stress in sports after he displayed a genuine passion and talent for research in his classes. Through his research involvement and class contributions, Juan has been an integral influence in understanding minority stress in sports among campus faculty, proven by his leadership in research discussions and meetings about the topic. Additionally, Juan works as a student assistant for the Office of Student Conduct, Rights, and Responsibilities, and also as a student assistant for KIDS: PLAY, where he assists children with disabilities to enhance their motor skills and self-esteem through physical and social activities. Outside of his on-campus involvements, Juan is a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success and is actively involved in events and leadership development programs. Juan’s nominator, Sae-Mi Lee, stated: “Mr. Lombera is a dedicated student who was always prepared for class, offered thoughtful insights, and listened carefully to his peers . . . His ability to initiate ways to further apply and extend his learning experiences demonstrates his ability to actively pursue success in any chosen capacity.”

Branden Newberg-Cuellar

Nominated by Lori Holcombe

Portrait of Branden Newberg-Cuellar

Branden is completing a bachelor’s degree in both applied mathematics and a bachelor’s degree in computer science. Branden was initiated into the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program after earning a LSAMP Merit Award for demonstrating overall excellence in Calculus II in 2014. Branden later earned additional awards through several other classes and has since been an active member of LSAMP. He currently serves as a member and senator of both the National Mathematics Honor Society Pi Mu Epsilon and the Chico State Math Club. Branden is presently working in the Student Learning Center as a mathematics tutor and in the Department of Computer Science as a science tutor. While continuing to gain experience for a future career in data analysis, he wishes to continue teaching, assisting, and mentoring high school students interested in his field of study. Branden has also gained experience in leadership and research while working in national parks and environmental institutes. Braden served in the US Forest Service as a crew leader who instructed crew members on safety guidelines for backpacking and hiking, and led weeklong backpacking trips to maintain and construct trails. He also worked for the Great Basin Institute as an assistant crew leader and visitor services information assistant. His nominator, Lori Holcombe, wrote: “Branden is a role model for our students. He is always looking for ways to improve or willing to take on new challenges . . . I believe Branden will go far, because he has the determination to do so.”

Alejandro Orozco-Lopez

Nominated by Kasey DeAtley

Portrait of Alejandro Orozco-Lopez

Alejandro is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in animal science alongside a minor in agricultural business. In addition to having been a longstanding member of the Future Farmers of America’s Galt chapter, he is the current secretary of the Society of Range Management and an active member of Chico State’s Young Cattlemen’s Association. Alejandro also serves as the current president of the College of Agriculture’s Rangeland Management Club, where he has led three Rangeland Cup teams in competitions since 2016. Most recently, Alejandro led a poster presentation on the controversial and complex issues surrounding recent wildfires, highlighting the effects these disasters have on rangeland, rural, and urban communities. The team also designed a website for scientists in the community to pool together information—a project that placed his team in second place at the national Rangeland Cup competition at the 2018 SRM Annual Meeting. Alejandro also held an internship in summer 2017 at High Plains Grasslands Research Station in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where he was involved in researching several projects, such as plant identification and rangeland animal management. Wrote Kasey DeAtley, his nominator: “It has been a privilege to serve as a mentor, instructor, and advisor to this young man . . . He is constantly going above and beyond minimal expectations, and works to understand concepts and form meaningful relationships and networks.”

Juan Vega Ramirez

Nominated by Stephen Lewis

Portrait of Juan Vega Ramirez

Juan, a 2017 Chico State graduate with a bachelor’s degree in history and a bachelor’s degree in Latin American studies as well as a minor in global development studies, is currently pursuing a master’s degree in history. Juan’s goal is to teach at the community college level, then pursue a PhD in history—ultimately to inspire students as his professors have inspired him. In 2017, Juan published a research paper in Chico State’s history journal, The Chico Historian, and presented another paper about the United States and Argentina’s “Dirty War” at Phi Alpha Theta’s Northern California Regional Conference, where he placed second. Additionally, Juan currently serves as Phi Alpha Theta: History Honors Society’s vice president, as well as an information specialist on Box migration for the Chico State’s Information Resources. Juan is also dedicated to giving his time to the community by volunteering with the Butte Environmental Council and the Butte Humane Society, where he has been involved in fundraising events and as a cleanup volunteer. His nominator, Stephen Lewis, wrote: “Juan has become one of the best and most promising students that I’ve encountered in my 20 years of full-time teaching.”

Veronica Zaragoza-Ventura

Nominated by Jamie Cinquini, Rena Mario, and Paula Selvester

Portrait of Veronica Zaragoza

Veronica is working toward a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies with an option in the bilingual and cross-cultural pattern. As a bilingual speaker of Spanish and English, Veronica says her ultimate career goal is to teach in a bilingual elementary school. She has been a volunteer for Community Action Volunteers in Education since 2015, where she presently works as a classroom aide in Chico schools. Veronica is also involved in the campus community by organizing and assisting with events through the Movimiento Estuduantil Chicano(a) de Azatlan, an organization that is focused on supporting the civil advancement of Chicanx students. In addition to her campus-based volunteering, Veronica also works as student assistant in the liberal studies department, where she works with new and continuing students with major-related assistance. Through these experiences in the field of education, Veronica’s passion for teaching and the Chico community has grown. As stated by her nominators Jamie Cinquini, Rena Marino, and Paula Selvester, “We feel that Veronica’s passion for education, volunteering, strong work ethic, dedication to her studies, and desire to working with children make her a very deserving recipient.”