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UFC Honors Outstanding Students and Organizations

May 2, 2019

UC Merced’s University Friends Circle (UFC) continues to be a generous supporter of the campus, and at this week’s culminating program for the academic year, UFC members will honor student scholarship and organization award recipients.

Five UC Merced students will each receive $3,000 scholarships for their work in the community and for their demonstrated leadership qualities: Valerie Moss, Cruzangel Nava, Maria Ocegueda, Brenda Castaneda-Castaneda and Nataly Rios Martinez. The UC Merced Microfinance Project and RadioBio will receive organization awards, too.

Moss is a Student Success intern with the Office of the Associate Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students, and chief justice of the Judicial Branch of UC Merced’s student government. As a research assistant with the Consortium for Research on Atypical Development and Learning Lab, the psychology major worked with at-risk youth, providing a safe space where students could discuss their feelings and struggles while receiving encouragement to advance in school.

Nava demonstrated leadership qualities in his role as external social chair for Hermanos Unidos de UC Merced. The political science major takes part in weekly community service as he and other undergraduates provide afterschool activities and tutoring services to Merced County kids in need.

Ocegueda is a member of Hermanas Unidas de UC Merced as well as a learning assistant for the campus’s Peer Assisted Learning Support (PALS) team. As part of International Women’s Month in March, the public health major helped Hermanas Unidas provide care packages to more than 200 homeless women in Merced County. With PALS, Ocegueda provides one-on-one tutoring to students who need writing assistance.

Castaneda-Castaneda is an inpatient volunteer at Dignity Health Mercy Medical Center and a member of UC Merced’s Medical Spanish Learning Project. The project began as a class assignment before Castaneda-Castaneda continued it, and the public health major has hosted two local health events to help inform Merced County residents about diseases in ways that are easy to understand.

Rios Martinez helped restore the Paws and Claws club on campus, which provides community service opportunities based on helping animals in need. As club president, the history major helped establish connections with the Animal Humane Society, New Beginnings and PetSmart. As a member of Hermanos Unidos de UC Merced, Rios Martinez helped prepare brown bag lunches for the homeless in Merced County.

The UC Merced Microfinance Project provides field experience for nine management and business economics students. The students help local small businesses grow by providing micro-loans of between $1,000-$5,000. Established in 2014, the project links with Kiva Zip, a globally recognized nonprofit organization, to crowd-fund 0-percent-interest small-business micro-loans. These loans are granted online for entrepreneurs interested in growing their businesses.

RadioBio is a podcast created by graduate students to increase access to research in the sciences, with topics ranging from molecules to ecosystems. One of the organization’s missions is to provide opportunities to link UC Merced's undergraduate student population and the outlying community with research relevant to San Joaquin Valley needs. RadioBio hosted an event called Valley Bio during Homecoming Weekend in October 2018 to discuss biology in Merced and the Valley with Merced residents.

“These students and organizations embody qualities that make them special for not only UC Merced, but the Merced community as a whole,” UFC president Mindy Broadley said. “UFC is honored to support them as they continue their service and look forward to following their continued success.”