Office of Diversity Outreach and EHHS honors dedicated individuals

Toni Hunt

The Office of Diversity Outreach and Development held its first Social Responsibility and Diversity Award ceremony at the Kent State University Hotel & Conference Center Friday night.

 According to a press release on, the Social Responsibility and Diversity Awards is organized to recognize students, faculty and supporters that provide outreach support and focus on pushing underrepresented people to success. There are seven winners in total.

 James Yarbrough, a senior majoring in visual communication design, is one of the seven recipients of the award. He is one of the two students who received the Student Inclusive Influence Award.

 “I went to school for something that I didn’t like at first,” Yarbrough said. “I didn’t really have a direction. I like to let people know ‘you should find something you love to do even if it doesn’t come in a traditional sense, it usually happens when it is suppose to.’”

 Yarbrough said after taking some time off from school and finding his passion, he feels it is his duty to encourage students who are trying to find their purpose.

 Peter Jeffy, a graduate student majoring in cultural foundations, is the second winner of the Student Inclusive Influence Award. He helps first generation students find their path in life.

 “You take on other people’s lives.” Jeffy said. “You open your doors, you open your ears, you open your heart to other people and their struggles, their issues, their concerns [and] their anxieties and you say ‘I’m going to put this upon myself to help you through this.’ It’s not to say because I pity someone, it’s because I want to see people get through their darkness… to be successful and happy.”

 The award winners dedicate themselves to encouraging underserved students. Daniel Diaz Nilsson, the director of the Office of Diversity Outreach and Development, said they “lead with love.”

 “The committee looked at individuals who went above and beyond their normal roles or tasks to really make an impact,” Nilsson said. “They specifically take the initiative to make sure opportunities are provided for all. They really have a passion for this work.”

 The other award recipients included Dr. Phillip Rumrill, Dr. Geraldine Hayes-Nelson, Akron Public Schools, Della Marie Marshall and Vacca Office of Student Services.

 Nilsson said the winners invest themselves and make it their priority to lead underrepresented, underserved and first generation students into a bright future.

 “I think it is important that we realize nothing will be done, nothing will improve or nothing will change until we take the responsibility ourselves to make sure that [its success] goes beyond us,” Nilsson said. “We have to be socially responsible enough in order for more people to get the experience and have role models that look like [them].”

 All proceeds raised at the Social Responsibility and Diversity Awards will go to the Diversity Assistance Fund.

Toni Hunt is the education, health and human services reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].