One of the highlights of COE’s annual conference occurred Friday, when an inspiring family received the TRIO Family Achievement Award, and three equally admirable individuals received the Walter O. Mason Jr. Award.
Recognizing that TRIO is often a family affair, the TRIO Family Achievement Award honors those families who have changed the direction of their members by enrolling in the TRIO programs. This year, a California broadcasting powerhouse, three members of the Padilla family won the award: Jose Luis, Efren, and Elizabeth Padilla. They are three of eight family members in broadcasting, and all went through Upward Bound.
Jose Luis Padilla was the first of his family of 11 to graduate from high school and college, attending California Lutheran University. “Upward Bound created the educational and social environment for me to succeed in my academic career. Because of Upward Bound, we were, as a family, able to change our trajectory from field workers to broadcast executives,” he said, recalling the days when his father picked cotton in Mexico for 25 cents a bushel.
His nephew, Efron, credits four years of high school at Upward Bound for helping him enter UCLA and graduate with a degree in economics. Another relative, Elizabeth Padilla, was the first woman in her clan to graduate from college. “Being the first woman in the family to want to pursue a college education rather than to accept becoming a ‘strawberry picker’ and a housewife was not easy,” Elizabeth said, citing the importance of the Upward Bound program director talking to her parents about the importance of her participation in the program. Elizabeth works at NBCUniversal as an accounts manager. Efren is Bay Area regional sales manager for TelevisaUnivision, and Jose Luis is now CEO of his business, Media Management Consultant Corp.
The Mason Awards this year went to Trent Ball, senior director, postsecondary equity and attainment, Missouri College and Career Attainment Network; Karen Keim, director, Educational Opportunity Center and Talent Search, the University of Maine system; and our own Angelica “Jeli” Vialpando, COE’s senior vice president for program and professional development.
Ball, a past COE Board Chair, started as a reading specialist at Southeastern Missouri University and started a McNair program there. He retired as associate provost. “TRIO opened my mind to the true understanding of the opportunity,” he said, stating that he is humbled and grateful to receive the award.
Karen Keim spoke about the bang for the buck the nation gets through the EOC program, the cost of which, Keim said, is a mere $293 a student. “What can someone do for $300 a year? Around 183 programs can tell you all about it; 27 percent of TRIO programs are EOC,” she said. “More important than stats are the lives we touch … It costs the nation $122,000 to keep someone in prison. EOC helps people achieve their dreams,” she said.
Then Jeli came to the podium and spoke about her 20-plus year tenure at COE, which she began as Maureen Hoyler’s assistant and moved up through the ranks. She is known nationwide for her unflagging energy and wealth of knowledge on all things TRIO. Jeli said she was surprised when COE Board Chair T. Chris George notified her of the award. When George introduced Jeli, he called her “my first friend at COE.”
“I am humbled because my work doesn’t compare with your work,” Jeli said, nodding toward the audience. Mentioning that she is a Mexican-American who grew up in Wyoming, Jeli said, “I am a proud first-generation college graduate with two parents who were without degrees, but who knew how important it was for their kids to go to school. My father always told us he worked physically hard so their kids could work with their minds. My mom worked for the University of Wyoming and got my cousins and me through college.”
Praising her husband, who always encouraged her, and their children, Jeli concluded, “My family are my angels.”