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Nine Bruins Named Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholars

May 12, 2021

FAIRFAX, Va. -- Male finalist Shea Pitts and eight other UCLA student-athletes were named 2021 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholars, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education announced in its annual special report edition.

Joining Pitts (football) as honorees are Abbey Forbes (women's tennis), Lia Foster (swimming and diving), Jackie Gilday (women's soccer), Chase Griffin (football), Samantha Sakti (gymnastics), Cassidy Tshimbalanga (women's soccer), Kaleb Tuliau (football) and Lilia Waller (gymnastics).

Since 1992, Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar awards have been presented to undergraduate students of color who have excelled in the classroom as well as on the athletic field.

Inspired by tennis legend Arthur Ashe, Jr.'s commitment to education as well as his love for the game of tennis, U.S. colleges and universities are invited to participate in this annual awards program by nominating their outstanding sports scholars. In addition to their athletic ability and academic performance (3.5 cumulative GPA or higher), Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholars demonstrate a commitment to community service and student leadership.

Sophomore Forbes, who holds a 42-5 singles record and a 24-5 doubles mark as a Bruin, recently achieved All-America status for the second time from the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. Off the court, she has raised more than $4,000 for childhood cancer research in conjunction with the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation's Vs. Cancer campaign and helped establish the UCLA Black Student-Athlete Alliance and the Black Tennis Student Athlete Alliance. Forbes was named an ITA Scholar-Athlete in 2020 for her work in the classroom.

Foster, a senior geography/environmental studies major, helped institute the Bruin Environmental Leadership Team with the goal of making UCLA Athletics more sustainable. She possessed a 4.0 GPA during the Fall 2020 quarter and has made the Athletic Director's Honor Roll (GPA of at least 3.0 while passing at least 12 quarter units) on nine occasions. In the pool, she has competed at the Pac-12 Championships during each completed season and registered a 2019-2020 team-best 200 fly time of 1:59.78 versus USC on Feb. 14, 2020.

Sophomore Gilday has suited up for the Nicaragua U-20 team in addition to her role in UCLA's midfield. A neuroscience major with a 3.91 cumulative GPA, she currently works as a volunteer children's advocate assistant in the Volusia County (Fla.) Guardian Ad Litem program, where she represents children who have come into the court system primarily because of neglect or abuse and advocates for their best interests. Gilday was her team's representative on the 2019-2020 UCLA All-Academic Team after holding the team-high cumulative GPA.

Griffin, a redshirt-freshman public affairs major with a 3.76 cumulative GPA, served as his team's volunteer representative for the Voting Matters Initiative, which focused on voter education and voter registration within the Bruin student-athlete population. He formulated a spreadsheet detailing team-by-team voter registration and early voting numbers. Griffin, a quarterback, saw extensive playing time in 2020, completing 40 of 62 passes for 451 yards and six touchdowns in four games played.

Redshirt junior Pitts played in five games during the shortened 2020 campaign and 23 of 24 over the previous two seasons. In the classroom, he is an 11-time Athletic Director's Honor Roll member and was named to the Pac-12 Academic Honor Roll (3.3 GPA or better and at least one year in residence) for Fall 2019. Pitts has frequently served as a mentor to children from the Los Angeles Unified School District. He recently encouraged students from 186th Street Elementary School to stay in school and attend college as part of its annual "Super Bowl Spirit Day," which he has participated in each year since enrolling at UCLA.

Junior Sakti turned in a personal-best score of 9.950 on balance beam with the Bruins in 2020. She took part in a bone marrow donor registry drive in conjunction with Be The Match at UCLA, continuing a tradition of service started during her time at William & Mary in 2019. As a member of the Tribe, she was active in the Mayflower Marathon and the Patriot Spring Triathlon, among other events. As a Bruin, Sakti has been named an Athletic Director's Honor Roll member five times.

Tshimbalanga is founder and director of A Sisters Project, which is devoted to women and children living in poverty and violence globally. As part of this program, she led a youth voter registration program ahead of the 2020 election, built a school in Africa, served as project organizer for a Flint, Mich. clean water project and worked in a Lima, Peru orphanage. Tshimbalanga's work has earned recognition through the US President's Volunteer Service Award and the Jefferson Award. The redshirt sophomore posted a 3.91 GPA for Fall 2020 and was named to the Pac-12 Academic Honor Roll for Fall 2019.

Tuliau, a redshirt freshman, carved out a role on the scout team during the 2020 campaign. Like Pitts, he participated in "Super Bowl Spirit Day" and also distributed free backpacks and school supplies to children at a drive-through event hosted by the Weingart YMCA Wellness & Aquatic Center in Inglewood, Calif. Tuliau has also volunteered at UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital. He has earned a spot on the Athletic Director's Honor Roll at the conclusion of four quarters.

Senior Waller, a psychology major, held a 3.69 GPA for Fall 2020 and has found her name on the Athletic Director's Honor Roll five times. She was part of the 2018 UCLA team that collected the seventh NCAA championship in program history. In the community, she worked 260 hours as a nursing volunteer at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center from Feb. 2019-Feb. 2020.