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Bernadine Cortina ’24 spoke at Chapman's Women of Distinction Awards Ceremony.
Bernadine Cortina ’24 — a Town & Gown scholar — was one of two students to receive Chapman's Women of Distinction Award.

Town & Gown Scholar Bernadine Cortina ’24 Named Chapman Woman of Distinction

At an awards ceremony on March 27 at the Fish Interfaith Center, Chapman University’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion hosted the second-annual Women of Distinction Awards. Graduating senior Bernadine Cortina ’24 — a Town & Gown scholar — was one of two students to receive the award.

“Thank you so much for the honor,” Cortina said while speaking at the event. “I am proud to say that I am here because of all of the love that has shaped me, and I hope to carry that forward.”

The Women of Distinction Awards recognizes faculty, staff, students and alumni who display outstanding leadership skills and a commitment to advancing women’s empowerment and their contributions to the university.

Assistant Director of the Promising Futures First-Generation Program, Athina Cuevas, said this about Cortina at the awards ceremony:

“Bernadine helped to create multiple places for ethnic studies and women’s and gender students to be showcased and promoted on campus. She is the living incarnation of student DEI at Chapman.”

Driven by the dream of a brighter future, Cortina and her family embarked on a life-changing journey from the Philippines to the United States in 2018. Cherishing the value of a quality higher education, she aspired to attend college in the U.S. and received a scholarship to Chapman.

“I was fortunate to earn a scholarship to Chapman that has allowed me to pursue my dreams,” Cortina said.

Cortina serves as a mentor with the Santa Ana Youth Media Project, guiding high school students in sharing their stories and envisioning a path to higher education. She has also volunteered with the Musicians of Color Association and the Pilipino Association of Workers and Immigrants, witnessing firsthand the transformative power of community engagement.

“I aim to use the incredible gift of my education to create a better world for our communities,” she stated.

For over half a century, the philanthropic support group Town & Gown has provided generous support to Chapman. Currently, there are over 230 members and 24 board members. The membership comprises alumni, parents and grandparents of students, business leaders, current and former Chapman faculty and staff and community members.

The most important mission for Town & Gown members is providing scholarship support to students. Students can apply to be a Town & Gown Scholar each academic year. After a lengthy process in which more than 60 rising juniors and seniors applied this year, the Town & Gown selection committee awarded scholarships to students with outstanding accomplishments and great plans for their future. Cortina was one of five Town & Gown Scholars for 2023-24. Each scholar was awarded $5,000 for a total of $25,000.

“Bernadine is the epitome of a Chapman student,” said Willy Hall ’64 (MA ’75), a Town & Gown member and director of scholarships and gifts. “Her application to be a Town & Gown Scholar distinguished itself, and I could not be more proud of her accomplishments and future goals.”

In the classroom, Cortina’s studies in Africana Studies, Ethnic Studies and Women’s Studies have ignited a passion for making a difference. After completing her undergraduate degree, she aspires to pursue graduate studies and a career in nonprofit work.

“My scholarship has profoundly impacted my life and the lives of those I’ve helped serve,” Cortina said. “I am deeply grateful for the support, which has propelled me closer to my dreams.”

To support scholarships for students like Cortina, join Town & Gown today or donate directly to scholarships.

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