We Are UNCW Telling our story, one Seahawk at a time.

Rachel LeCates

May 16, 2016

Growing up in York, PA, Rachel LeCates experienced the familiar insecurities and self-doubt that come with adolescence. In particular, she often felt pressured to hide or downplay her Hispanic heritage, which set her apart from her classmates at an age when fitting in is vital. All that changed after she arrived at UNCW.

LeCates, who was born in Honduras, credits UNCW’s Centro Hispano for helping her embrace her heritage and gain the confidence that led her to become active in numerous organizations.

“Centro Hispano and the people I met there taught me how to love myself and celebrate my background,” she explained. “I would not have gotten all the leadership positions I’ve held without them.”

Those positions include director of diversity and inclusion with the Student Government Association and former president of the Centro Hispano Embajadores. She also participates in the Plastic Ocean Project, which raises awareness about the effects of plastic waste on marine life.

At the May 6 Senior Excellence Awards luncheon, LeCates was announced as this year’s recipient of the Rachel Freeman Service Leadership Award, which is given to a senior who will graduate in 2016 and who has demonstrated selflessness, a passion for service and commitment to bettering the lives of others. She also received a Senior Medallion and, in April, was a featured speaker at the Cornerstone Awards Banquet.

Before graduating in December, the marine biology major will study in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands in the fall. Her chosen major led her to UNCW, but it was the personal touch that convinced her to enroll.

“A week before my campus visit, I got calls from Centro Hispano and Dr. (Alina) Szmant from marine biology,” Le Cates said. “I was very impressed that a school with 14,000-plus students was calling me to talk.”

--Tricia Vance