The fourth annual Celebration for a Day of Appreciation and Recognition of Women Students’ Celebration event was held last Thursday as one of the many ways in which the UC Riverside community is commemorating March’s National Women’s History Month. The celebration honored six undergraduate and graduate female students in the areas of leadership and civic engagement, social justice and overcoming adversity.

Josephine Turner, former president of the American Association of University Women’s Riverside branch, addressed the need for change and a call for action among women.

“If you believe that women earning 77 cents for every dollar a man earns, is not right, you must fight for change,” Turner implored. “We (women) need to be better represented.” The American Association of University Women is an organization that provides scholarships to women and supports legal advocacy and research in gender issues. The association is partnered with the university so UCR students are able to obtain a membership at no cost.

The first honoree of the evening was Katherine Tsai, a third-year undergraduate student majoring in biology. Richard Hooley, an assistant professor of chemistry, presented Tsai the Leadership and Civic Engagement Award, naming her an “exemplary supplementary instruction leader.”

The graduate student honoree for leadership and civic engagement was Vickie Vertiz, a creative writing major. Kenji Liu, creative manager at UCR’s Extension Center, identified Vertiz as the first in her family to finish school above the fourth grade and indicated that she is currently working on her second master’s degree. Afterwards, Vertiz read a short poem she had composed about experiencing poverty as a college student.

Afterward, associate professor of women’s studies Chikako Takeshita presented second-year undergraduate student Gabriella Bobadilla with an award for social justice. Bobadilla is a Spanish and theater double major who is involved in many social justice-related community service endeavors such as Operation SafeHouse — a program that provides emergency shelter for youths at risk in the Inland Empire.

Steve Whitestone, a representative from UCR’s Student Affairs Communication, presented education major Remie Rahman with the graduate student award for social justice. Whitestone praised Rahman’s “tireless work ethic” and commended her efforts as a full-time special education math teacher and peer mentor at the Well.

The undergraduate student honoree for the Overcoming Adversity Award was presented to psychology major Jacklyn Kozich by David Glidden, a professor emeritus of philosophy. U.S. Navy veteran Kozich was involved in a motorcycle accident during a commute to school from Temecula and consequently placed in a wheelchair for several months. Glidden cited an incident in which Kozich pulled herself and her wheelchair up three flights of stairs after falling to attend class; Glidden applauded her “determination to succeed” and her efforts in advocating for improved accommodations for disabled students.

Lastly, professor of plant pathology and microbiology Hailing Jin presented doctoral student in genomics and bioinformatics Divya Sain as the graduate student honoree. Sain was diagnosed with a disorder that destroyed the cartilage in her leg and was bedridden for many months. Jin recounted her resilience in enduring the disorder alone, as an international student from India, and continuing her studies even while ill.

After the award presentation, UCR’s acapella group, Not So Sharp, entered onstage and sang a short rendition of Florence and the Machine’s “Shake It Out.” The evening then came to a close with a speech by congressional candidate and attorney Eloise Gomez Reyes. Reyes was raised in Colton, Calif. and worked in the onion fields at the age of 12. She went on to become the first Latina to open her own law firm in the Inland Empire. She is also currently running for Congress and emphasized the need for more women in Congress than the current 18 percent. “In my run for Congress, I want to do what I can do to change that 18 percent. You be the leader and others will follow,” Reyes concluded.