Work study student of the year is a true colleague, supervisor says
Posted: 04/15/2011
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When Abegail Chavarrilla started her first day working for The University of Texas-Pan American's Office of Marketing and Creative Services (Studio Twelve01), Elisa Flores knew she had a hardworking colleague.

Abegail Chavarrilla, pictured center, was named the 2011 UTPA Work Study Employee of the Year. Pictured with Chavarrilla are (left)Dr. Martha Cantu, acting vice president of the Division of Student Affairs,and Janette Garcia, recruitment and staffing manager of the Office of Human Resources. Garcia was the 2011 Success Profile. Each year the University recognizes a UTPA full-time employee who had worked under the federal work study program as a college student and has gone on to a successful career.

Chavarrilla, who was hired last October as a work study student, accompanied Flores to a meeting with representatives from UTPA Ballet Folklorico to discuss an advertising project.

"Abby was very attentive in listening to the client's request and making suggestions based on the client's feedback. The client was receptive and took her ideas into consideration immediately. It was at that moment, when I realized Abby was a fast learner and I was going to have no trouble in delegating responsibilities to her," said Flores, a marketing research analyst for Studio Twelve01.

Chavarrilla then became entrusted with her own group of clients to oversee and was put in charge of buying media space and time for advertisements and other promotional items.

Her continued hard work also landed her UTPA's 2011 Work Study Employee of the Year Award. As first place winner, Chavarrilla received a $150 scholarship from the University. Codie Cobb, a senior majoring in electrical engineering who works in Human Resources, garnered second place and a $100 scholarship. Nancy Amaro, a junior majoring in theater design who works in the Department of Communication, won third place and a $50 scholarship.

The three were chosen among 23 nominees from all areas of the University. Judges reviewed the candidates' responsibility, reliability and uniqueness and read essays the students' supervisors wrote that described those qualities in their employees, said Nicole Palacios, UTPA's work study program coordinator.

Chavarrilla, who returned to school last fall after working for more than 30 years in radio and public relations and is a sophomore majoring in communications, said she is humbled by receiving the award.

"I didn't expect it first when I was nominated, (but) to actually have won is very surprising probably because I'm older and these kids they work so hard," she said. "This whole journey to be here and what I've had to persevere to get to this point, it just boggles the mind actually."

Chavarrilla, who had taken some college courses at San Antonio College and the University of the Incarnate Word, decided to complete her undergraduate studies at UTPA after she was laid off from her job with Univision Radio. She was accepted into the Rafael A. "Felo" and Carmen Guerra Honors Program this year.

Chavarrilla said she feels blessed having a work study job in a related field to what she was working in before and feels her supervisors and coworkers value her expertise.

"I don't do the work that I do for accolades or to be recognized; I do it because I'm passionate about the work that I do," she said. "To able to be working in this department is a plus."

Flores said having Chavarrilla work for Studio Twelve01 is a godsend.

"The word 'work study' does not exist in my vocabulary," Flores said. "Abby is a colleague; she is part of our team. She is one of us; she makes things happen."

For more information about the work study program, visit the University's Student Employment Services' website or call (956) 665-2501.