Cassandra Otero Wins Governor’s Award

Kate Grumbles, Staff Reporter

Whitman Junior Cassandra Otero was recently honored with the Students Serving Washington Award as well as the Governor’s Award through the Campus Compact Washington organization.

Campus Compact, specifically Students Serving Washington, is a branch of a national organization that recognizes students for their civil engagement and service work. Whitman became a member of this organization last year, and this year President Murray was able to nominate two students for their exceptional service. Kaitie Dong and Cassandra Otero were both nominated and won the Students Serving Washington award, and Otero was also selected by Governor Inslee for the Governor’s Award. This award goes to three students performing service beyond what is expected of them. One winner is selected from a public, private and community college each year.

Whitman President Kathy Murray mentioned the importance of leaving Whitman campus to participate in service work in a nomination letter she wrote for Otero.

“Cassandra understands that being an engaged student, and by extension, an engaged citizen and community member, begins with learning about the issues she feels strongly about before determining the actions necessary to address the situation,” Murray wrote. “This year, Cassandra has done an amazing job networking her way into several community immigrant rights coalitions, which has allowed her to attend meetings, meet local leaders and develop a much deeper understanding than if she had just remained on campus.”

Otero is involved in numerous service projects and clubs in the Whitman community as well as in the Walla Walla community. Otero is a co-founder of the Borders as Movements (BAM) club on campus, that recently hosted Immigration Week on campus. She is also involved in Club Latinx, the Walla Walla Immigration Rights Coalition, the Rapid Response Network and volunteer work at Green Park Elementary School.

Sociology Professor Gilbert Mireles, also Cassandra’s faculty advisor, said that “from very early on, it’s [been] obvious that she’s extremely intelligent and extremely committed, and cares deeply about these issues that are important not only on the Whitman campus, but in society at large. I think that she’s a terrific asset to this community and I think she’s done great things, and I think that it’s people like Cassandra that make Whitman the wonderful community that it is.”

Otero, for her part, intends to continue her work, specifically in immigration-related social justice.

“We have to keep fostering community and creating community and mobilizing ourselves to create the change that we want to see,” Otero said, “because who else will?”