When Derek Carr and Davante Adams were Fresno State student-athletes, they spent three hours one day signing autographs and talking to students at the Diamond Learning Center in Clovis. 

At the end of the visit, the football stars, who are now teammates for the Las Vegas Raiders, posed for a group photo that still hangs in the center. When the Diamond Learning Center students see Carr or Adams on television today, they remember what it felt like to have the athletes spend time with them, said owner and founder Jami Hamel-De La Cerda. 

The center serves adult learners with intellectual disabilities who range in age from 18 to 67 and is an internship site for Fresno State students. The partnership over the years has grown into special visits from the various athletics teams for memorable signings and picture-taking. 

“Fresno State doesn’t forget our students,” said Hamel-De La Cerda, a Fresno State alumna and adjunct professor in special education. “They give back … the win-win is just fantastic.”

Hamel-De La Cerda is a longtime supporter of Fresno State, from the internships she offers to gifts that she has given to support the bowling team that brought her from Vancouver, British Columbia to the university where she earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology. She later earned a master’s degree in special education from National University.

Hamel-De La Cerda’s generosity has also been transformative for Fresno State athletics and the Bulldog student-athletes. In 2013, she joined the Green V Society, a dedicated group of Fresno State fans who provide $10,000 or more in annual scholarship support for student-athletes. This past year, she gave a $100,000 gift to start four endowments for student-athlete scholarships through the Bulldog Foundation,, each in honor of someone or something close to Hamel-De La Cerda’s heart. 

“I like that it’s truly going to help another person be all they can be and maybe more than they thought they can be,” Hamel-De La Cerda said. “In the same way it allows me the opportunity to embrace the important people in my life.”

Through thoughtful donors like Hamel-De La Cerda, gifts to the University during the 2021-22 academic year totaled about $28.2 million — $21.7 million for academics and $6.5 million for athletics. 

With her recent gift, Hamel-De La Cerda joins the new Marvin and Tish Meyers Champions Circle, a philanthropic giving society designed to maximize the resources for Bulldogs student-athletes and improve the landscape of Fresno State athletics. 

“Jami Hamel-De La Cerda’s steadfast support of our student-athletes will position them for success both on and off the field,” said Terry Tumey, Fresno State director of athletics. “Her gifts create a legacy of philanthropy. Additionally, she enhances and elevates the opportunities for our deserving student-athletes who go on to become impactful leaders in our community.”

The scholarships will be made in honor of Hamel-De La Cerda’s mother, whom she lost to suicide at a young age; her three sons, one of whom has down syndrome; the Diamond Learning Center; and in honor of Jeffery Roberson, a past Fresno State track athlete who showed kindness to her when she came to Fresno State.

“I admire the deep Bulldog legacy that Jami Hamel-De La Cerda manifests with her Diamond Learning Center. With the Diamond Learning Center, Jami helps form connections and memories that last a lifetime,” said Fresno State President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval. “I am so grateful to Jami —  she supports our students and encourages them to be the very best versions of themselves. And this journey of becoming leaders impacts our community in truly transformative ways.”  

Gifts were made to all areas of the University this past year, helping to enhance student internship experiences; science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, scholarships and other student success programs. 

Here’s a look at some of the noteworthy gifts from the past year: 

  • $1 million from the late Dr. Virginia Stammer Eaton to establish the Dr. Virginia Stammer Eaton Chair in Genetics and Molecular Biology in the College of Science and Mathematics.
  • $50,000 from James Parker, III to the Institute for Family Business and Micro-Internship Program in the Craig School of Business.
  • $25,000 from Edison International to the Lyles College of Engineering for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.
  • $50,000 from The James Irvine Foundation to the President’s Circle for Excellence, an annual leadership giving program that recognizes dedicated donors who support the mission and vision of the university through unrestricted annual gifts of $1,000 or more. 
  • $35,000 from the James McClatchy Foundation to the Institute for Media and Public Trust

“We are truly grateful for the support of our Fresno State alumni and friends who provide opportunities for our campus effectiveness to soar,” said Paula Castadio, vice president for University Advancement. “Our students will be better prepared to work and to lead our community thanks to your generosity.”