Jose Trejo, a 2022 Newman University graduate who earned his Bachelor of Science in Social Work, has been named recipient of the 2022 Light The Way Youth Award by HumanKind Ministries.
HumanKind Ministries began helping the Wichita community in 1885, then known as Wichita Ministerial Alliance. Its focus is to help individuals living in poverty or homelessness by providing services such as case management, emergency shelter, long-term housing and life skills training.
The Light The Way Youth Award recognizes a young person or persons whose dedication to helping the less fortunate inspires others to serve.
Inspiration, empowerment, community
Trejo is the impact specialist for Wichita nonprofit Empower, an organization whose goal is to provide educational resources to Wichita’s North End in order to increase the quality of life for the community.
Trejo said focusing on the community and ensuring those who come after him have the same or better opportunities is high on his priority list. He knows the task is a big one so he encourages his friends, family and generally anyone he meets to take part in making a difference.
“The best way to encourage others to participate and lend a hand is by showing them that there is a bigger picture than what they are able to see at first glance,” said Trejo. “I ask them, ‘If we are not the ones to do the work or start it, then how can we ever expect someone else to do it?’”
Inviting others to be involved in their community and making sure they understand their voice can make a difference in decisions is another way Trejo encourages his peers to stay involved.
“We cannot create change for the better if we are not welcoming everyone that could contribute their own amazing work to the great change we all want,” said Trejo.
Currently, his short-term goal is to help Empower lay the foundation for its cause, but Trejo is focusing on the future as well. His ultimate goal is to be well-known in the community and beyond so he can use that platform to help others in a variety of ways.
Trejo’s mother has served as his biggest influence in life. He said growing up with the example of her work ethic, and being guided to stay humble and always have a big heart, is something he will never forget.
Formed at Newman, ready to transform society
His time at Newman University also helped shape him into the person he is today.
“The ways that Newman helped me is by giving me the opportunity to meet a great mentor such as Joseph Shepard (former multicultural engagement and campus life director),” explained Trejo.
Shepard serves on the board of directors for Humankind Ministries and is on the committee for the Humanitarian Awards banquet. He also received the Light the Way Youth Humanitarian Award five years ago.
He said Trejo stood out from this year’s pool of candidates because of his work ethic and proven track record of success.
“He is a community-driven young professional who is passionate about serving others who have similar roots and upbringing as himself and his parents.”
During his time at Newman, Trejo said meeting professors such as Assistant Professor of Social Work Lindsey Stillwell and BSW Program Director Yelando Johnson was an amazing experience. He said they were “outstanding in their methods of teaching and helping their students believe in themselves,” resulting in confident graduates ready to accomplish great things in life.
“The biggest way that Newman helped shape me into the person I am today, though, is by helping me become a first-generation graduate and being able to inspire my relatives and others that look like me to see that it is possible for us to dream of more for ourselves and obtain everything we set our minds to.”
Trejo said he is humbled and appreciative to be presented with the 2022 Light The Way Youth Award.
“It reminds me that the work I help with is creating a difference that others are able to notice. Not only that, but it shows other young people that giving back to the community is very important as we must never forget to uplift others as we continue our climb up in life.”
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