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Club President Wins Tuffy Award for Putting Smiles on Faces of Children

Student Organization Raises Money for Cleft Lip and Palate Repairs
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As president of the Cal State Fullerton student organization, Students for Smiles, graduating senior Makayla Herrera led a fundraising effort that raised $5,000 to pay for 20 surgeries for children across the globe in need of cleft lip and palate repairs.

“With the help of a ‘paint night’ and many other fundraisers, we were able to achieve that goal in one semester,” Herrera said. “All of our members helped to make a difference in children’s lives.”

For Herrera’s leadership, civic engagement and advocacy on behalf of the student organization, she is the recipient of the 2020 Tuffy Award for President of the Year, sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs and the Student Success Initiative. She was among 16 student club presidents nominated for the recognition.

“It’s an honor to receive this award not just on a personal level, but I think it’s a true reflection of the dedication, commitment and passion that my board has put into every event throughout the year,” said Herrera.

After Herrera graduates this month with a bachelor’s degree in communicative disorders, she plans to enter a master’s degree program in speech-language pathology this fall.

What is the organization’s mission?
Students for Smiles is a subchapter of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association, which is part of the nonprofit organization, Smile Train. This children’s charity focuses on providing free cleft lip and palate repairs to children across the globe by empowering local medical professionals. The goal is to continue the mission through fundraising efforts, as well as heighten awareness about children with cleft lip and palate conditions.

Why did you get involved?
My goal is to become a speech-language pathologist. Because the cleft community is a population that speech therapists serve, I look forward to being a part of a person’s journey in the rehabilitative process. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet with people in need of cleft treatment and learn about their remarkable stories of perseverance and strength.

How has being involved helped you in your college journey?
Before serving on the board, I didn’t put myself in a position to develop leadership skills. By being involved in something that I am so passionate about has helped me to push myself, as well as others, toward achieving our goals.

What have you enjoyed most as a member of the student organization?
An ongoing highlight of being a member of this club has been the friendships I’ve created, especially with the board members. I think that we have all impacted each other’s lives in different ways and we have formed friendships that will continue beyond graduation.

What do you look forward to in your future career?
A speech-language pathologist has the ability to help someone feel connected and a part of the conversation. People with communication disorders face obstacles every day, and I want to be a part of helping them improve or find alternative methods of connecting.

Contact: Debra Cano Ramos,