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.
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.
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
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.
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,”
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 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 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
“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
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/.