Former Cadet Wing Commander takes flight after graduation

(Sacramento State/Jessica Vernone)
Evan Yanagihara passes along his duty as Cadet Wing Commander at Sac State’s Air Force ROTC Parade. (Sacramento State/Jessica Vernone)

Cadet Evan Yanagihara, who is graduating this spring, is leaving behind a legacy at Sacramento State’s Air Force ROTC program as Cadet Wing Commander of Detachment 088. He will be commissioned in June as an Air Force second lieutenant, joining Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training – an internationally manned, highly competitive training program in Texas.

Yanagihara’s impressive resume includes receiving the 2016 Cadet of the Year Award and the 2012 Civil Air Patrol Life Saving Award for saving a friend’s life, among several recognitions for leadership and academic excellence. He was honored May 13 at the Air Force ROTC Parade with Cadet Wing Change of Command, where he passed along his role as commander to Cadet Matthew Silpasornprasit.

Lt. Col. Kenneth Morse, commander of Sac State’s Air Force ROTC program, calls Yanagihara a clear standout achiever in the program.

“He is the top cadet in our detachment, and I will be proud to send him to be an active-duty officer this summer,” Morse says. “Cadet Yanagihara is the sort of young man I am comfortable giving the reins of our Air Force to. He is truly an exceptional leader, person, and airman.”

In addition to his success in the ROTC program, Yanagihara excelled as a Mass Communication Studies major.

“As a member in the Air Force, it is inevitable that you’re going to have to stand up and give briefings. Because of that, we practice them in ROTC,” Yanagihara says. “A particular class I had that helped me was Intro to Media Creation with Professor  (Diego) Bonilla, which helped me create an instructional poster for our cadets that will hopefully be used for years.”

The El Dorado Hills-born cadet knew he wanted to join the Air Force at age 12, when he joined the Civil Air Patrol. At 16, he knew he wanted to be a pilot after attending local air shows.

Our Made at Sac State graduate is to be honored this June at the Air Force ROTC Commissioning Ceremony at Mather Field.

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Top electrical engineering student Tony Rodriguez is making sparks fly

Tony Rodriguez
Tony Rodriguez heads off to his final undergraduate class. (Sacramento State/Jayla Lee)

Meet Juan Antonio Rodriguez Heredia, also known as Tony. He’s rocking our world in the Engineering Department after being named its 2016 Outstanding Electrical and Electronic Engineering (EEE) Student. And this spring, he is obtaining his dream-come-true degree from Sacramento State.

Born in Mexico but raised on California’s central coast just 20 minutes south of San Luis Obispo, Rodriguez has grown to appreciate cultural diversity in people and places. And he is not afraid to ask questions.

“If someone speaks another language, I’ll ask them to teach me a word or tell me more about how I can learn more,” Rodriguez says. Already proficient in Spanish and French, he hopes to pick up Mandarin and master Japanese after graduation.

His curiosity about people eventually led to a deeper interest in how things connect on a harder, scientific level.

“I’ve always had a fascination with learning how things work,” Rodriguez says.“I like to think I have a very logistical brain, and so I like the problem-solving aspect of engineering.”

Rodriguez has represented Sacramento State through his internships at Gallo Winery and Keysight Technologies, the former test and measurement division of Hewlett-Packard. He has been active on campus as a member of the power engineering society Tau Beta Pi and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). He is a positive source of encouragement and a study buddy to his classmates, according to the EEE Department Executive Committee. To top it all off, Rodriguez has maintained a stellar GPA.

He is currently working on microelectronics for the Defense Microelectronics Activity (DMEA), an internship he obtained through the help of his lab instructor Jeff Siddiqui.

According to DMEA Chief Ted Schantz, a majority of its degreed engineers come from Sacramento State.

“DMEA has 99 engineering positions that are occupied by multiple disciplines such as Electrical, Mechanical, Chemical, Material, and Industrial. Of those, 43 are CSUS graduates, some with two CSUS engineering degrees,” Schantz says, “So if you do the math, 43 percentof all DMEA engineers graduated with at least one engineering degree from CSUS.”

Rodriguez is graduating with highest honors, several full-time job offers, and bright eyes about where he’ll end up next. But first, he will embark on a summer backpacking trip in Europe.

Rodriguez is one of our outstanding students for 2016. Furthermore, he is an outstanding person who was proudly Made at Sac State.

 

 

Steffanie Kramer wants to make life better for foster kids

Steffanie Kramer
Steffanie Kramer before her appearance on NBC’s Today – and days before her loving foster family adopted her. (Courtesy of Steffanie Kramer)

Related video: Watch KCRA 3 report on Steffanie Kramer

Steffanie Kramer’s life has been a Cinderella story, complete with wicked foster parents (a foster mom forced her to clean floors on her hands and knees, and banished her to the garage, where she slept on sofa cushions for weeks, as punishment for having “an attitude”) – and a fairy tale ending.

She finally found her “forever family,” Ellen and Bob Kramer and their brood, in 2011. The couple adopted her four years later, just before she turned 23.

She will graduate from Sacramento State on May 21 with a bachelor’s degree in social work. Dean Fred Baldini chose her from among 1,268 eligible graduates from the College of Health and Human Services to deliver the Commencement address.

She was a finalist for this year’s Dean’s Awards for Outstanding Graduates, and her outstanding academic achievements have consistently landed her on the Dean’s Honor List.

“Steffanie is an exceptional student. Her courage and tenacity exhibit all that is good at Sac State,” says President Robert S. Nelsen.

Kramer plans to attend graduate school at Sac State and earn a master’s in social work (MSW). And then she wants to change the world for foster kids.

“I hope that other kids in the system can find one person in their life who can help them strip away the labels and find who they are,” she says. “The child who is being mistreated is going to grow up to be an adult, and I just hope they’re able to know that they are loved, wanted, chosen, and that they’re good people.”

Kramer, who grew up as Steffanie Eisenga, went into the foster care system at age 9, along with her older brother and three younger siblings. Their mother was a drug addict who lost her children when Child Protective Services learned that she was using drugs while pregnant.

Separated from her brothers and sisters, Kramer was shuffled from foster home to foster home and lived a nightmare with one family for five years before being placed with the Kramers, she says.

“I’ve gone from being alone and separated from my siblings to going through sexual abuse, emotional abuse, mental abuse, financial abuse, to joining a family of 12,” she says. “The love is what changed my life. I will never be the same. I know I am loved, and I have a family now.”

She has reconnected with her birth mother, who is clean and working, and she has a relationship with her younger siblings. She was the sixth foster child adopted by the Kramers, who also have four biological children. The Kramer offspring range in age from 4 to 29, along with a growing number of nieces and nephews.

While at Sac State, Kramer has been active in Guardian Scholars, a support group for students who are former foster youth or homeless, and in the New Student Orientation program.

“She worked for me for four summers and was the student coordinator, the highest position you can have. She was wonderful,” says Mary Shepherd, assistant director of Academic Advising and coordinator of New Student Orientation. “I know that she’ll go out and do amazing things when she’s done with her education.”

Last December, shortly before her adoption was finalized, Kramer and other former foster youth were invited by Today host Natalie Morales to talk on national television about their experiences growing up in the foster care system. They also made a public service announcement for Children’s Rights, a national organization that advocates for abused and neglected kids.

“I hope every foster kid gets the opportunity to finally see their real selves in the mirror and say, ‘I’m good. I’m loved. I’m able.’ That’s my hope,” Kramer says. “When I get to the place that I get married and have a family of my own, I will be adopting and fostering children, and doing the hard work so many people don’t want to do and that these children deserve.”