Late student leader, other notable women receive honor for their influence
March 16, 2021
Kaitlin St. Croix was on a mission to help a fellow student last year when her Hyundai sedan collided with a tractor-trailer, killing her instantly.
The Sacramento State junior was driving to the Modesto area Jan. 9, 2020, to offer support and encouragement to a friend who was struggling in college and considering dropping out, her mother, Annette Partida, said.
“That was Kaitlin,” Partida said. “She was always willing to help anyone who needed her.”
St. Croix brought those qualities to her job as a resident advisor at Sac State, helping students at Desmond Hall navigate their college lives in exchange for room and board. She served on the hall’s council and as Desmond’s Residence Hall Association director.
“(Kaitlin) really connected with people. She engaged with everyone, and she never was judgmental. She genuinely wanted to know how you were doing and how she could help.”
Her death at age 20 shook the Sac State community. Students and staff set up an elaborate memorial for St. Croix in the residence hall and prepared a “memory book” of photos and other remembrances for her family. A close friend was tattooed with an image of Croix’s face intertwined with a sunflower.
On Tuesday, March 16, St. Croix was among 10 people honored in the University’s 10th annual Women of Influence Awards. The awards recognize women faculty, staff, and students who have made an impact on campus and in their communities.
“Honoring the work that women are doing on the campus of Sac State is so important,” said Aja Holmes, the University’s senior associate director of Residential Life. “It's important for people to see women doing amazing things, and for young women to forge their paths because of the examples they have seen."
The event’s keynote speaker was Viridiana Diaz, associate vice president for Strategic Student Support Programs. Diaz, who rose from humble roots to earn four degrees from the University, spoke about her journey and the importance of being resilient.
In addition to St. Croix, who was posthumously given the Residential Student Leader Award, the ceremony honored the following members of the Sac State community:
- University Student Leader Award: Denisse Garcia, a recent Sac State graduate who stepped in to lead Associated Students Inc. after her predecessor resigned the ASI presidency; Lilia Contreras Ramirez, a University graduate who has served as an ambassador for Sac State’s Serna Center and now works full time for the College Assistance Migrant Program; and Tranh Pham, a graduate student who serves in multiple roles at the University Library, in the Centers for Diversity and Inclusion, and for ASI.
- Unsung Hero Award: Antonia Peigahi, director of Policy and Records Management at Sac State. Peigahi has served as the University’s education librarian and has chaired the Faculty Senate.
- Faculty Award: Kimberly Mulligan, professor of Biological Sciences; Elvia Ramirez, professor of Ethnic Studies; and Elizabeth D’Angelo, professor of Communication Science and Disorders.
- Staff Award: Gladys Glaude, director of University Events; and Melanie Saeck, Administrative Support Coordinator in the College of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies.
St. Croix, who grew up in Southern California, was a focused student from her elementary school days, Partida said. She “loved literature and always had a book in her hand.”
“She never missed a day of school, elementary through high school,” she said. “She was determined to take herself to college and to do well.”
St. Croix took courses in Child Development and Women’s Studies at Sac State, but at the time of her death was still considering her career path, Partida said. She had a warm personality and was dedicated to her friends, her professors and the students whose activities she supervised at Desmond Hall.
“She loved life, loved being in the moment,” Partida said.
When one of her friends or family members were hurting, Partida said, St. Croix seemed to sense their pain. “She really connected with people. She engaged with everyone, and she never was judgmental. She genuinely wanted to know how you were doing and how she could help.”
Being recognized for her contributions to the campus community would have touched her daughter’s heart, Partida said. “It probably would have brought tears to her eyes.”
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story included incomplete information about Elizabeth D’Angelo. She is a professor of Communication Science and Disorders.
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