September 1, 2010
Written by Cory Chandler
Texas Tech's Back to School Fiesta Committee named Eric Strong, volunteer director of the Roots Historical Arts Council, as its 2010 Robert Duncan Community Champion for Education.
It also created a new award in honor of longtime Back to School Fiesta organizer and champion Janie Ramirez.
The Robert Duncan Community Champion for Education award honors individuals or entities for championing the cause for education in and around Lubbock.
Strong joined Texas Tech's Upward Bound Program as a counselor in 1981 and eventually served as director from 1997 to 2007, securing more than $7 million in grant funding.
He established nationally recognized initiatives such as the CLEAR Scholars Visions Class in which Upward Bound students taught blind adults how to build computers, and the Documenting Yesterday project in which Upward Bound students in collaboration with the College of Architecture documented historic structures belonging to Black Seminole Indians and Buffalo Soldiers along the Texas border.
Under Strong's direction, Texas Tech was selected by General Electric as a national best practices model for math and sciences programs for first generation students.
Strong is a professional storyteller with appearances on the Discovery Channel and NPR, and has served on boards for organizations including the Underwood Center for the Arts, National Cowboy Symposium and Celebration, Lubbock Arts Alliance, Roots Historical Arts Council, Salvation Army, City of Lubbock Millennium Committee and the National Ranching Heritage Center.
As a volunteer, Strong helped organize art and photography exhibits and storytelling festivals in Lubbock.
Janie Ramirez accepts the award created in her name.
"When I think of someone who truly stands head and shoulders above everyone else as a champion for education, I think of Eric Strong," said Dianne Crowley, senior director of K-12 International Education Outreach for the Office of International Affairs, who nominated Strong. "His life is totally dedicated to helping others achieve their goals in life through education."
Ramirez was the first recipient of the award created in her name. Each year a volunteer from one of the Back to School Fiesta committees will be chosen for their outstanding work in helping to organize the event.
Ramirez serves as programs administrator for the College of Education and organized the Back to School Fiesta beginning with the event's inception in 2001. Under her guidance, the event grew from a gathering of a few hundred people into a celebration providing free school supplies, education counseling and family activities for thousands of South Plains residents.
Ramirez still remains active in Back to School Fiesta, now organized by the Office of Community Engagement.
The Back to School Fiesta is an annual outreach event to help K-12 students prepare for fall classes.
The Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion is dedicated to create and support an environment that allows all members of the university community to be academically and professionally successful.