Pitzer College Names Social Justice Advocates Angela Sanbrano ’75 and Mere Abrams ’10 its 2019 Alumni Award Winners

Claremont, Calif. (March 13, 2019)—Pitzer College has selected two graduates who are dedicated to creating a more just world as its 2019 Alumni Award recipients. Angela Sanbrano ’75, a champion of immigrant and refugee rights, is Pitzer’s Distinguished Alumni Award recipient. Mere Abrams ’10, a gender specialist and consultant, is the College’s Young Alumni Achievement Award winner.

“Angela Sanbrano and Mere Abrams exemplify the ethos of Pitzer College values through their passionate work that connects and engages members from their communities,” said Pitzer College Alumni Board President Tim Campos ’10.  

Each year, the Pitzer College Alumni Board selects the Distinguished Alumni Award (DAA) and the Young Alumni Achievement Award (YAAA) recipients after reviewing numerous nominations of exceptional alumni. Sanbrano and Abrams will be honored on Saturday, May 4, during Pitzer College’s Alumni Weekend.

Angela Sanbrano ’75: 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award Honoree

Pitzer’s Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes a graduate who boldly puts the spirit of a Pitzer education into action and demonstrates a commitment to making meaningful changes in their community.

Angela Sambrano '75
Angela Sambrano ’75, 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award Honoree

Angela Sanbrano is an acclaimed activist and community organizer who has led some of the nation’s most prominent immigrant- and refugee-rights groups, including the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) and the Central American Resource Center-LA (CARECEN). Sanbrano now serves as co-executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.

“Pitzer’s Alumni Board selected Angela for her unwavering support of the Latinx community throughout her career and for advancing immigrant rights while leading the next generation of social justice trailblazers,” Campos said.

Born in Juarez, Mexico, and raised in El Paso, TX, Sanbrano majored in psychology at Pitzer. She began community organizing in the ’70s, advocating bilingual education and housing rights in Los Angeles. In 1983, Sanbrano earned a law degree at the Peoples College of Law in LA, where she met Salvadoran refugees fleeing their country’s civil war. Two years later, she became executive director of CISPES, a national grassroots organization that supports social and economic justice in El Salvador and opposes US intervention in the Central American country. She served as an official witness of the signing of the Chapultepec Peace Accords in Mexico City, which ended the 12-year civil war in El Salvador in 1992.

Sanbrano took the helm of CARECEN, the largest Central American immigrant rights organization in the US, in the mid-1990s, leading the organization as its executive director until 2007. During that time, she helped organize the massive 2006 immigrant rights march in LA that drew more than one million people to the streets, according to organizers’ estimates.

In addition to her work with CISPES and CARECEN, Sanbrano was president of the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities, now called Alianza Americas, when it won a 2010 MacArthur “Genius” Award for Creative & Effective Institutions. Last fall, Sanbrano witnessed the canonization of the late Archbishop Oscar Romero at the Vatican in Rome, where she spoke to Pope Francis about the plight of Salvadorans and children who are facing deportation from the US.

She is also the co-chair of the Latino and Latina Roundtable of the Pomona and San Gabriel Valley and chair of CARECEN’s Board of Directors. Now president emerita of Alianza Americas, Sanbrano has also sat on the boards of many other organizations, including the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, National Council of La Raza, now called UNIDOSUS, and the National Immigration Forum.

Reflecting on her many accomplishments, Sanbrano calls her Pitzer education “a turning point in my life.”

“As a first-generation immigrant and the first member of my family to go to college, it was important to find a supportive educational environment,” Sanbrano said. “I found that and more at Pitzer. The educational environment, interdisciplinary academic program, community engagement approach and a culturally diverse student body broadened my understanding of my own identity and deepened my commitment to building a more just and humane world with racial and economic equity.”

Mere Abrams ’10: 2019 Young Alumni Achievement Award Honoree

Pitzer’s Young Alumni Achievement Award recognizes graduates of the last 10 years who apply Pitzer’s unique educational experience to their professional life and find creative and innovative ways to make impactful changes in the community.

Mere Abrams '10
Mere Abrams ’10, 2019 Young Alumni Achievement Award Honoree

Mere Abrams is a gender specialist and consultant who is helping the world understand that “the idea that there is male and female isn’t incorrect, it is just incomplete.” Abrams, whose pronouns are they/them/theirs, is a writer, speaker, educator, researcher and licensed clinical social worker. They reach a worldwide audience through public speaking, publications, social media—@meretheir has 17,000 Instagram followers and counting—and their gender support services practice, https://onlinegendercare.com.

“Mere captured the Alumni Board’s attention for their courageous approach in providing an inclusive vision and deeper understanding of gender through their work,” Campos said. “Mere is laying the groundwork for transforming how we discuss and understand gender identity while simultaneously living their truth.” 

Abrams’ writings and work have been featured in numerous publications and media outlets, including The Transgender Teen: A Handbook for Professionals and Parents Supporting Trans and Non-Binary Youth; Who Are You?: A Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity; Healthline Media; and CBS News. They are currently working on a pair of books for teens, parents and professionals on gender health and gender development.

They also have served as the associate director of clinical research and the director of community engagement at the University of California, San Francisco’s Child and Adolescent Gender Center (CAGC), where they developed city- and county-wide programs for transgender, nonbinary and gender-expansive youth. They continue to collaborate with CAGC on a longitudinal National Institutes of Health-funded study—the first of its kind—that measures the impact of puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones on children and adolescents. 

At Pitzer, Abrams designed their own major, community-based research, and founded Girl Talk, an ongoing program for underserved teens at Garey High School in Pomona, CA. They worked closely with the College’s Community Engagement Center (then known as CCCSI) as a student and as an urban fellow after graduation. They served as CCCSI’s liaison for the Pitzer in Ontario (now CASA Pitzer) program and Prototypes Women’s Center. Abrams went on to earn their MSW degree from Smith College’s School for Social Work.

“My Pitzer education supported personal and professional growth and exploration at a time when I needed it most,” Abrams says. “At Pitzer, I developed a deeper understanding of my individual identity and personal values that would later shape my chosen career and life path.”

Each year, the Pitzer College Alumni Board honors outstanding Pitzer alumni after reviewing numerous nominations from members of the Pitzer community. For more information about Pitzer College’s Alumni Awards, please visit https://www.pitzer.edu/alumni/alumni-award-nomination-information/.

About Pitzer College

Pitzer College is a nationally top-ranked undergraduate liberal arts and sciences institution. A member of The Claremont Colleges, Pitzer offers a distinctive approach to a liberal arts education by linking intellectual inquiry with interdisciplinary studies, cultural immersion, social responsibility, and community involvement. For more information, please visit www.pitzer.edu.

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