One University of New Mexico student is being recognized as the blueprint for the future of health and physical education.

Junior Physical Education student Aliyah Gonzalez has been named a Major of the Year by the Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE). 

The award celebrates outstanding undergraduate students in the health, physical education, recreation, and dance professions who are nominated by a faculty advisor or professor. Gonzalez was recognized recently during the 137th National Convention & Expo, Major of the Year Ceremony, in Seattle, Wash.

“The outstanding achievements of future professionals like Aliyah Gonzalez are integral to the future of SHAPE America and our profession,” SHAPE America President Kymm Ballard said.

She was nominated by Depart​ment of Health, Exercise, and Sport Sciences Assistant Professor Victoria Shiver, which also gave the College of Education & Human Sciences (COEHS) the opportunity to fund her travel to the conference.

“Aliyah has stood out as a driven future professional, a leader within her cohort, and an advocate for physical education to be of the highest quality for all,” Shiver said. “It was a collective decision to select Aliyah across all of the faculty in the physical education teacher education program.”

Aliyah receives award

It’s no small feat for Gonzalez to earn this award, or to attend this conference. SHAPE is the nation’s largest membership organization of health and physical education professionals, and has guided national standards and physical education since its founding in 1885.

“Aliyah was able to be fully absorbed into learning for the whole week, receive her award during an award ceremony with other esteemed majors from universities around the country, and network with future collaborators all working towards the same vision: quality physical education,” Shiver said.

Gonzalez was thrilled to attend and take everything in.

“SHAPE was such an amazing experience filled with lots of information I was able to absorb. I had the opportunity to network and meet so many new people across the country,” Gonzalez said. “One of my favorite moments from that week was working collaboratively with other peers to provide and improve high quality physical education.”

Aside from standing out to COEHS faculty, Gonzalez already has made large-scale changes within SHAPE. She spoke out in Shiver’s course, saying one component of SHAPE’s policy document was not inclusive, which led to its change.  

“Being recognized with the Major of The Year Award was an unbelievable moment. There are no words to describe how honored I am to be able to receive this award from SHAPE America,” Gonzalez said. “By receiving this award, it motivates me to continue my hard work and dedication to provide high-quality physical education.”

Gonzalez says she could not have achieved this without the support of her past, and the future.

“Being a Navajo woman, this goes to show the resilience we have in my community. To the youth just like me, continue your education because it will lead you to outstanding achievements that will take you to bigger places,” she said. “Huge thank you to Tori Shiver for nominating me alongside the rest of the PETE faculty. You all push me to strive for greatness. Most importantly thank you to my parents and family for supporting me along this journey."