California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) President Willie J. Hagan was presented the Leadership & Community Commitment Award at the Torrance Chamber of Commerce’s and the Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce’s 20th Annual Black History Month Celebration on Feb. 24 at the Torrance Marriott.
The celebration honors the contributions of the many African Americans who “span our nation’s past, present, and future,” have “made a difference on the world stage,” and have changed lives in South Bay communities.
“Anytime that you get an award like this you know it wasn’t achieved by you as an individual. These awards represent the work of a lot of people, and in the case of our university, a lot of hard-working faculty, dedicated and persevering students, and a very engaged community,” said Hagan during his remarks.
He accepted the award on behalf of “your university, working for our community,” noting several of the university’s academic programs that strengthen the workforce and help local communities thrive, such as the Entrepreneurial Institute @ CSUDH, the Orthotics and Prosthetics program, and the Center for Innovation and STEM Education, as well as CSUDH student mentor-based programs that help young people excel in life and better prepare for college, such as the Male Success Alliance.
“We have numerous promise programs in the community that engage young kids to let them know that if they do certain things, they have a guaranteed place in college,” Hagan said. “We also have programs that work directly with school districts by engaging teachers and students face-to-face, which is critical to their overall success.”
CSUDH human services major Asia Watkins was also honored at the event with the Inspirational Spirit Award. The award was created to recognize individuals who inspire and motivate mentally and emotionally challlenged individuals.
Watkins, who carries a 4.0 GPA, will graduate this spring with the bachelor’s degree in human services and holds a certification in mental health recovery, has been actively involved on campus throughout her college career, and currently works in both CSUDH’s Multicultural Affairs program and the recently opened Black Resource Center (The Rose) as a student program coordinator. Inspired by her mother, who served time in prison, she started a support group on campus called Shattering My Silence, which helps African-American women engage in safe dialogue about mental health, intersectionality, self-care, and sisterhood.
“An amazing career lady at my local high school, named Anne, pushed me and told me that once I get into a college and find that one person to pour into me, that I would be all right,” said Watkins. “Now at Cal State Dominguez Hills, being involved is the most important thing I can do… It has continued to encourage me to be who I am, and to remind me that I am good enough. So now I’m off to apply to graduate school for social work—fingers crossed and prayers going up that I get in.”