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ASU event a celebration of Sun Devil achievement

Inaugural SPARKs Student Success event brought together staff, donors and students

People gathered for an event.

The inaugural SPARKs Student Success event brought together staff, donors and students to celebrate Sun Devil Achievement. Photo by JR De Chavez

March 26, 2024

Inclusivity and ensuring student success are hallmarks of Arizona State University — in fact, it’s the key message of the university’s charter.

On March 19, ASU’s Educational Outreach and Student Services (EOSS) celebrated student accomplishment by bringing together staff, donors and the students that they support at the first-ever ASU SPARKs Student Success event, held at the Legends’ Club in Mountain America Stadium.

EOSS champions the success of students from kindergarten through college by providing support services, skill-building and involvement opportunities, and a rich Sun Devil experience.

Cordero Holmes, a Sun Devil in his final year of study with Barrett, The Honors College and Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, welcomed attendees and opened the event with an Indigenous land acknowledgement.

“As a young boy growing up in a lower socioeconomic environment, I never viewed myself as a college student,” Holmes said. “Because of certain things that have happened in my life and certain information that I took in, I realized that, you know what, I can do this.”

Holmes began his journey into higher education with the Maricopa Community College District, and his involvement there led him to several opportunities and honors, including the Dr. Martin Luther King Living the Dream Award, giving him a path forward to ASU.

“This is an intimidating space as an individual who knows nothing about college, and when you're in a four-year university as big as Arizona State University, EOSS makes it feel comfortable,” Holmes said. “EOSS for me at the Downtown campus, I want to give a shoutout to everybody there. They have brought me in, they've shown me everything that's available to me, different resources that I wouldn't have known were available that have helped me during my educational journey.

“And not just my educational journey, but as a nontraditional student who has children, they've offered me some other resources that I've definitely utilized. So without EOSS, I'd be lost. EOSS is that compass here to make sure you find out where you want to go.”

There are many different branches of EOSS that support a student’s journey — the ASU SPARKs Student Success event kicked off with opportunities for attendees to learn about some of the hallmark EOSS initiatives, like Changemaker Central, and experience new innovative technology available through ASU Prep, Luminosity Lab and Student Accessibility and Inclusive Learning Services.

“You had a chance to sample a little of the work that we do on a student's behalf. Tonight is not about the work or about the organization — it is about our students,” James Rund, senior vice president of EOSS and interim athletic director, said. “We take fundamental responsibility for the economic, cultural and social outcomes and health of the communities that we serve as a driving purpose for the institution. And that drives our decision-making, our strategic thinking, as well as our performance each and every day.”

The success of each student is the result of a collaborative effort between ASU faculty, staff and the larger community.

“As you think about the array of activities and programs and services that we represent, they're intended fundamentally to reach deep into our community, to engage families, parents, their children, to ensure that every community — the full demographic of the state of Arizona, specifically — has an opportunity to fully participate in the 21st-century economy,” Rund said.

Thanks to partnerships with employers across career sectors, EOSS not only helps students get to college and succeed there, it helps them find employment after graduation day.

“We have brilliance in every household in Arizona,” Rund added. “It is our daily striving to ensure we find that talent, that we encourage it, that we support it, and we create an opportunity to advance it within the institution.”

One of those established partnerships includes TC Foundation, a nonprofit organization with a mission to help raise awareness about the effects of substance abuse. Founders of the nonprofit, Bob and Lorraine Chillemi, created the organization after their son, a former ASU student, was the victim of a tragic overdose. 

“We decided to give back to student services and help kids that possibly have addictions like our son had,” Lorraine Chillemi said. “And we decided that ASU was the best place to give our money and the work that we do year-round.”

Matt McClellan, a third-year W. P. Carey School of Business student and TC Chillemi Memorial Scholarship recipient, presented an award in the Chillemis’ honor. 

Two other organizations, American Family Insurance and Getting Smart, were also honored with awards that celebrate their connections to ASU. American Family Insurance’s award was presented by ASU alum Stephanie Padilla, who participated in Access ASU’s Hispanic Mother-Daughter Program and is now chief of staff for Intel Data Center and AI Group.

“Thank you for recognizing American Family Insurance and our commitment to this partnership to drive positive community impact here at Arizona State University,” Theresa Nelson, associate community and social impact partner for American Family Insurance, said. “We fundamentally believe that business only thrives when our community is also thriving.”

The CEO of Getting Smart, Tom Vander Ark, was honored with the final award of the night, presented by Patrick Alegro, a first-year ASU student who recently graduated from ASU Preparatory Academy.

“Our goal is to give the gift of great education to every kid on the planet,” Vander Ark said. “And that's why I am an ASU Prep super fan. There’s not a better example on the planet of a university and set of schools living up to that dream of creating access to quality education.”

Other partners who supported the ASU SPARKs Student Success event included Arizona Community Foundation, Ameriprise Financial, BMO Wealth Management, Arizona Coyotes, True Story Films, Fairytale Brownies, Donald and Florence Franklin, Timothy and Linda Shields Burns, Dana Messina, Brad Bersh, Barbara Ann and Mark Dickerson, and Sylvia and Adam Symonds.

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