Organization honors alumni, students for work in youth development

Child and Adolescent Development Alumni Chapter President Marta Gonzalez opens up Saturday's recognition ceremony. Eunice Eugenio/Photographer

Students and alumni were honored Saturday by the CSUN Child and Adolescent Development Alumni Chapter (CADAC) for achievements and dedication to serving at-risk children on May 2.

“[This] celebrating excellence event,” said Marta Gonzalez, President of the CADAC board, “…was created six years ago with the goal to recognize outstanding community agencies that are making a significant and positive impact on the lives of children, adolescents and family. We also wanted to recognize outstanding alumni making a positive and significant contributions and also to award [our] students scholarships.”

This year, five CSUN students, Child and Adolescent Development majors Suzanne Diaz, Gregory Gomberg, Mario Gutierrez, Ana Lidia Jimenez and Social Work Graduate Student Felicita Penas, were awarded CADAC scholarships.

For Gomberg, a current CSUN senior, both the scholarship and the CADAC network are helpful resources that will help him pursue meaningful work in the special education sector.

“I do want to make a huge impact in the special education field,” said Gomberg. “A lot of children need that one-on-one attention and at the same time you don’t see a lot of males in the field, so I do want to bring awareness and make a difference on a consistent basis in the special education field.”

Amongst the organizations recognized today was the CHIME Institute, a non-profit organization that began with an early childhood program based out of CSUN and has since expanded into research programs and a special K-8 charter school that promotes inclusive education for children with disabilities.

“We like to think that students who come to us get a little bit of the ‘Kool-Aid,’ that all children should be taught and learn together,” said Annie Cox, Executive Director of CHIME who accepted the Exemplary Program Award on the Institute’s behalf.

CSUN alum and Moorpark Community College Professor Kathleen Van Antwerp was also awarded with the 2015 Outstanding Alumni Award for her work with at-risk youth from impoverished and abusive backgrounds.

Antwerp is most known for her book “I Can’t Come To School Today, My Mom’s In Prison And I Don’t Have A Ride,” which chronicles her work with abused children.

In the span of CADAC’s nine year lifespan, the chapter has done much to provide CSUN students with professional experience, including internship opportunities and network connections with local education professionals. Gonzalez said CADAC also encourage students and alumni to actively engage with the local community and address hot-button topics like autism and childhood obesity.

“Children are in crisis in multiple settings; it’s not only in the justice system [or] the education system [or] mental health…it’s also in school settings in regards to the social development,” said Gonzalez.

“We look at what’s important out there in the community and what’s in the media,” she added.