UVU Latino Initiative Director Recognized With Pete Suazo Social Justice Award For Advocacy Efforts
April 16, 2013
For Immediate Release
University Marketing & Communications: Mike Rigert
Written by: Heather Wrigley
Yudi Lewis, program director of the Latino Initiative in Utah Valley University’s Multicultural Student Services, was one of six individuals and organizations presented with a Pete Suazo Social Justice Award on April 10 in Salt Lake City.
The award, now in its 12th year, recognizes the work of those who continue the late senator’s legacy through dedication to the goal of social and economic justice. The award is presented by the University of Utah’s College of Social Work.
Lewis was recognized for her individual leadership and advocacy. Originally from the Dominican Republic, she has spent the last 16 years assisting and advocating for students at UVU — first as a career counselor for 12 years, and now as program director of the university’s Latino Initiative.
“I love this work because it fulfills my desire to help people and it allows me to provide students with the opportunity to access higher education in order to reach their educational dreams,” said Lewis, acknowledging that she is more used to giving than receiving. “I am passionate about seeing students succeed, regardless of their background.”
As program director, Lewis has worked to increase educational and career opportunities for Latino students and their families in Utah, Wasatch and Summit counties. She also networks with community partners and works with parents and students in the K-16 educational system to provide culturally sensitive and relevant educational information. Under her leadership, the University has experienced a 154 percent increase in Latino student enrollment.
“I admire her tenacity and the never-ending energy she gives to improve access and retention for all students, especially those who have been historically under-represented,” said Shad Sorenson, associate vice president of UVU’s Wasatch Campus. “She has a commitment to the crucial engagement of diversity and addresses issues of privilege and oppression as a university and community leader.”
In addition to helping students and communities connect to the school, Lewis has taught research and student success courses for UVU. During the university’s Summer Bridge program, high school students have benefitted from her help and support.
Three individuals and three organizations were recognized during Wednesday’s ceremony: the National Alliance for Mental Illness Latino de Utah Taskforce; the Salt Lake City Office of Diversity and Human Rights; the Adelante Partnership; Dean Curtis, who has funded scholarships for Weber State University students and works to help increase the enrollment of underrepresented groups in college; and Christine Leishman Nelson, who helped create after-school and summer programs in St. George, Utah, for children with mental illness.