Lilliana Toste, a senior from Lemoore majoring in Communicative Disorders (Speech-Language Pathology), will be honored as the 2016 University Volunteer of the Year by the Jan and Bud Richter Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning at Fresno State.

Toste, whose minor is urban civic education, will be recognized at the University’s annual Spirit of Service Awards ceremony hosted by President Joseph I. Castro and his wife Wednesday, April 27, along with several others.

She will receive a $1,500 scholarship from the Marc and Marjorie Radin Community Service Scholarship fund.

Toste, 22, graduates this spring and will begin work on a Master of Arts degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Fresno State in the fall.

Described as a dedicated volunteer throughout her career at Fresno State, she has provided in excess of 550 hours of service to the community since 2013 with 150 of those hours completed since the start of the fall 2015 semester.

“Lilliana exemplifies the spirit of academic excellence and community service that makes the Fresno State experience meaningful and impactful,” Castro said. “We are grateful for the generous spirit that she shares with others.”

Toste was selected because her service has made an impact on a variety of issues including food security, poverty, literacy and education, community health, civic engagement among youth and access to services for those with developmental disabilities, said Mellissa Jessen-Hiser, assistant director for the Richter Center.

She has done so by volunteering with such agencies as the Bulldog Pantry, Exceptional Parents Unlimited, Lowell Elementary, Reading and Beyond, the Sierra Foothill Conservancy and STARS Autism Preschool.

Last winter, her volunteer service took her to the village of Naboutini in Fiji with Madventurer on an international service-learning trip focused on community development, including working on a community center and flood drainage system for the village and providing educational services for the children.

Additionally, Toste has provided service to her peers through the Richter Center Ambassadors and Reflection Facilitator programs.

“Lilliana’s approach to community service demonstrates a deep understanding of the reciprocal nature of impactful volunteer work,” Jessen-Hiser wrote in her nomination letter. “She does not enter the community looking to fix the broken. Rather, Lilliana approaches service as an opportunity to empower others and learn from them as she serves.”

The awards that will be presented by the president at the annual Spirit of Service Reception on Wednesday include four students who will be recognized for their outstanding commitment to service:

  • Lilliana Toste – Fresno State Volunteer of the Year
  • Whitney Ferdinandsen – John D. Welty Award for Excellence in Community Service
  • Navmit Dhesi – 2016 Campus Compact Newman Civic Fellow
  • Andrea Wilson – Humanics at Fresno State Spirit of Service Honoree

Professor Bryan Berrett, Communicative Disorders and Deaf Studies, will be recognized with the Faculty Spirit of Service award.

Fresno State’s Division of Administrative Services will be recognized with a Special Recognition Spirit of Service Award for its support of service initiatives across the university.

Community Food Bank will be recognized with the Don Romsa Community Partner Award.

For more information, contact Chris Fiorentino, Richter Center director, at 559.278.7079.

(University Communications news assistant Erika Denise Castañon and Mellissa Jessen-Hiser of the Richter Center contributed to this report)

Related links:

lillianasinging-adj (640)

Lilliana Toste in Fiji last year. (Photo by Chris Fiorentino).

sawMP-adj crp (640)

Lilliana Toste working in Fiji last year. (Photo by Michael Price).