SAP Students Receive President’s Scholar Award



The 53rd WVC commencement/transfer ceremony. (Photo shot by WVC photographer)

Every year West Valley College’s Office of the President honors outstanding students by presenting them, during the annual commencement/transfer ceremony, with the President’s Scholar Award. Students are nominated by faculty members. The nominations are then submitted to a selection committee who choose the five winners.

Winners and awards fall into several categories: Veteran Scholar, Athlete Scholar, Re-entry Scholar, Transfer Scholar, and Career Scholar. This year the competition was particularly tough, because there was a pool of exceptional nominees.

Winning students are characterized by having excelled academically, by having developed and exercised their leadership skills, and by having contributed to their campus and home communities.

The 2018 President’s Scholars Awardees were presented on 24 May 2018 during West Valley College’s 53rd Commencement and Transfer Ceremony at the City National Civic Theater in San José:

Aaron J. Minkoff—Veteran Scholar

Janelle McAfee—Athlete Scholar

Xavier Williams—Re-Entry

Jocelyn Ho—Transfer

Katrina Newman—Career

Two of these President’s Scholar Awardees are also winners of the Global Citizenship Study Abroad Program Scholarship.

Aaron J. Minkoff, a Veteran Scholar, completed a double major: AA degrees in Political Science and Sociology. He will finish his undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley majoring in Global Studies with a concentration in Global Peace and Conflict and a regional focus on the Middle East. Aaron was also awarded an SAP full scholarship to attend the Global Citizenship Alliance’s Global Citizenship one-week seminar for students in June 2018.  The seminar took place at Schloss Leopoldskron in Salzburg Austria, and they visited Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site in Germany. The Faculty Advisor, Dr. Tim Kelly, composed a terrific entry (about their experiences) for the Global Citizenship blog. Here is Aaron’s reflection on attending the GC Seminar:

For some people, being a Global Citizen is to be conscious of what goes on in the world, while for others it is learning about world problems, either through discussions or social media posts and hashtags.  My view of a Global Citizen is that of a person who acts on his/her beliefs through concrete, direct approaches such as through volunteerism.  I learned a lot about myself when debating the topic of education, empowerment, and action.  I found that I can be blunt, aggressive, and tone deaf as to how others “feel” with regards to being a Global Citizen.  Not everyone has the same level of time nor the same degree of passion that is necessary for school, work, family and friends, and volunteering.  I believe that the debate was necessary to bring about self-reflection and to challenge the opinions and perspectives not just of other people, but also of myself.

West Valley College Commencement 2018

WVC President Bradley Davis presenting the President’s Scholar Award to Xavier Williams during the commencement/transfer ceremony on 24 May. (Photo shot by WVC photographer)

Xavier Williams, a Re-Entry Scholar, completed a double major: AA degrees in Political Science and Economics with an emphasis in Social Justice. He will finish his undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley majoring in Economics and Data Science. Xavier was also awarded an SAP full scholarship to attend WVC Study Abroad Program’s study tour to France in January 2018.

The professors who nominated Xavier for the President’s Scholar Award said wonderful things about him:

“It is with greatest enthusiasm that I nominate Xavier Williams for the President’s Scholar Award/Re-Entry category. Xavier has proven  to be a distinctively brilliant student, global citizen, and campus community member who is invested in the well-being of his peers. I’m confident that his maturity (built from life experience), dedication, integrity, intellect, and spirit will continue to carry him into ongoing successes, both academically and professionally.” Leigh Burrill (Faculty member in English; Women, Gender and Queer Studies; Social Justice Studies)

Xavier is an excellent candidate for the President’s Scholar Award in the Re-Entry category. His GPA is high, but I believe that other indicators make Xavier the right candidate: he is focused; he has an academic and career plan; his plan will impact his community; he plows forth with his plan despite great obstacles; he gives of himself by being involved in our campus life, and in his own family and community; he cares for others and desires to use education to help him make a positive difference in the world. He is a leader. Such qualities are to be commended. Dr. Dulce María Gray ((Faculty member in English; Women, Gender and Queer Studies; Social Justice Studies)


Xavier Williams

Right after graduation, Ryan Flanigan, the Event Services Coordinator at WVC, sent everyone on campus the picture above and this note about Xavier, below:

It seems like after every graduation I come across a great success story from one of our students. With his permission, I am sharing a quick post from one of our recent graduates, Xavier Williams:

10 years ago, I left high school without a high school diploma and a 1.1 GPA. Two days ago I graduated with honors from West Valley College as one of the President’s Scholars for my graduating class.

Two months from now I’ll be transferring to and hopefully completing my bachelor’s degree at the top public university in the world, the University of California, Berkeley.

 I’m sharing this with y’all to let you know that it’s never too late to reach your goals or even to create new ones.

Whether that means going to school, starting your own business, getting a new job, or even a promotion, carve out your own path and don’t worry about what others are or aren’t accomplishing. Everyone is on their own life path and there isn’t a singular path to success or to achieving your goals whatever those goals may be.

Lastly, don’t get caught up in the hype of trying to be “self-made.”

 Many proclaim Arnold Schwarzenegger as a self-made American dream, but he shared the reality of his success at a commencement speech he made:

“It’s important to recognize that at every step of the way, I had help. It’s important to acknowledge that.” And then he added: “As soon as you understand that you are here because you had a lot of help, you realize you need to help others.”


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