Each year, Scripps College recognizes the contributions of our graduates in communities across the country with three alumnae awards: Distinguished Alumna Award, Outstanding Recent Alumna, and Volunteer of the Year. Recipients are honored during Reunion Weekend.
(From left to right: Michelle Cleveland ’00, Jess Heaney ’08, and Brooke Tomblin ’92)
First presented in 1978, the Scripps College Distinguished Alumna award was established to celebrate the notable achievements of Scripps alums and to focus attention on Scripps’s role in women’s education and leadership. This year’s recipient of the Distinguished Alumna award is Michelle Cleveland ’00.
Michelle is a middle school principal for San Bernardino City Unified School District, located 25 miles east of Claremont, CA, and has been working in public education since 2001. Michelle earned her BA in Biology from Scripps College in 2000 and her MA in Educational Leadership from Chapman University in 2007.
Michelle has dedicated her life to transforming public education in one of the most underserved regions of the country. She has experience in designing, implementing, and leading school improvement movements as a teacher and administrator. Michelle is currently the proud principal of Serrano Middle School.
When she took on this role in 2011, Serrano Middle School was considered a low-achieving school under President Obama’s Race to the Top program. Within 4 years, Michelle transformed Serrano into an exemplary middle school, earning commendations such as the California Gold Ribbon School Award in 2015 and National School to Watch in 2016 through technology- and intervention-based programming.
The Outstanding Recent Alumna award was established in 1992 to honor a recent alum who is using their Scripps education to take risks and impact their community. Jess Heaney ’08 is this year’s recipient.
Jess is an organizer with Critical Resistance, a national organization dedicated to abolishing the prison industrial complex. The organization hopes to end society’s reliance on imprisonment, policing, and surveillance by investing in life-affirming resources and practices. Jess designed her own major at Scripps, focusing her studies and thesis on Post-colonialism and the Black Panther Party, respectively.
In her work with Critical Resistance as the national development director, Jess has organized grassroots initiatives such as the successful Stop the Injunctions Coalition campaign and The Oakland Power Projects. Additionally, Jess has trained over 40 healthcare workers to serve as anti-policing organizers and community health educators. In a short time, Jess has made a significant impact across the country. In 2015, she halted jail expansion in San Francisco. And in 2017, Jess successfully fought to maintain family visiting hours for individuals within New York maximum security prisons.
This past fall, Jess collaborated with a group of students and professors at the Claremont Colleges to create a week of workshops focused on the prison industrial complex, policing, and abolition work. In March, she co-produced “Inside Out: Dancing through Prison Walls,” an interactive performance choreographed by Scripps students and imprisoned men in Norco, CA.
The Volunteer of the Year award honors an alum for their commitment, dedication, leadership, and exceptional service to Scripps College and their respective community. This year, we recognize Brooke Tomblin ’92 as the Volunteer of the Year recipient.
Brooke has served Scripps College as a volunteer for the last twenty years. As a student, she majored in European studies and spent a semester abroad in Florence, Italy. Following graduation, Brooke earned her Master’s in Public Health from Boston University before returning to Southern California in 1996.
She began her volunteer career as a regional associate and GOLD (Graduates of the Last Decade) co-chair. This involvement enhanced her love for the College, and Brooke continued to give back. She went on to serve as Alumnae Association vice president and The Scripps Fund chair.
Currently, Brooke sits on the Alumnae Leadership Council and steering committee for the Laspa Center for Leadership. In her role as representative to Laspa, Brooke is working to develop future generations of women leaders by harnessing the experiences and knowledge from our community to mentor and support Scripps students. Brooke is also a long-time Scripps “Camper,” returning to campus frequently and maintaining friendships with her classmates. Outside of her volunteer roles, Brooke has over twenty-five years of experience in healthcare and leads the development and implementation of an enterprise-wide strategy to promote equitable health for over thirteen million Cigna customers.
With Reunion only a few weeks away, we celebrate the accomplishments of these alums and many others. If you are returning to campus, there is still time to make your Reunion gift! We look forward to having you back on campus at the end of April. For additional information on Reunion and our award recipients, visit our Alumnae Engagement page.