By Steve Nakata, Administrative Services
PULLMAN, Wash. – As a first-generation college student, Celia Balderas lacked confidence when she arrived as a freshman at Washington State University. For Clayton Simundson, a first-season football injury meant an entirely new direction for his college career.
Each was recognized by WSU’s Office of Student Involvement as Student Leader of the Month, for which they give much credit to living in WSU’s fraternity and sorority community. It has taught them skills and provided opportunities that will benefit them for the rest of their lives, they said.
Leadership and community service
Balderas’ shyness around new people could have prevented her from building a support network in her WSU surroundings, but she joined Kappa Delta Chi Sorority, Inc., a multicultural organization often referred to as KDChi.
“I joined because I liked what the sorority stands for – unity, honesty, integrity and leadership,” she said. “Becoming part of this organization really opened doors for me.”
She quickly became the social chair and participated on committees. A year later she was elected chapter president and served as vice president of scholarship and administration for the United Greek Council. Last spring, she organized WSU’s first Multicultural Greek Graduation Ceremony.
Balderas’ leadership has grown beyond WSU and Pullman. While most students headed home for spring break, she helped lead a group of 12 students to Los Angeles to perform community service.
Recently, she received the nationwide Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) Region V Undergraduate Rising Star Award for demonstrating outstanding leadership skills, providing service to others and making her campus culture a positive one for all students.
New direction and opportunities
A Sigma Nu fraternity brother encouraged Simundson to try out for the Cougar football team in 2013. As an offensive lineman, he played in the New Mexico Bowl before a back injury eventually forced him to hang up his cleats.
While one door closed, involvement in his fraternity opened many more. He has served as Sigma Nu alumni officer, chapter president and the collegiate grand councilman – where he was one of four voting representatives serving on the national Sigma Nu Board of Directors.
As a science communication major, Simundson took his talents beyond campus as a hazard communication program intern at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
“When you invest yourself in something you are truly passionate about, the opportunities that present themselves are endless,” he said. “I am truly thankful for all that the fraternity has taught me and the opportunities it has provided.”