The Power of One Gesture

  • CSUN graduate student Kelly Ibañez was the recipient of the 2015 Ruth Rothman Scholarship, named after John Rothman's (right) aunt. Photo by Lee Choo

Kelly Ibañez, a graduate student in CSUN’s Department of Communication Disorders and Sciences and 2015 recipient of the Ruth Rothman Scholarship, was working full time.

The key word is was.

“It’s been challenging because going to graduate school in and of itself is a full-time job,” Kelly said. “It’s so rigorous with having clinical coursework while at the same time having clients at school and then working as a child development specialist for a vendor of the North Los Angles Country Regional Center with my own case load of young children with disabilities and simultaneously being married to someone who is also in school.

“When I found out I was a recipient of this award, it was mindblowing,” she added.

The scholarship allowed Kelly to focus earning her master’s degree while lessening her off-campus workload. The children she works with are between of ages of 15-36 months old, many with developmental delays and disabilities like autism and Down syndrome.

Aside from focusing her work in and out of the classroom, there was an even more personal benefit for Kelly. The reason that she chose this field of study was her husband Renato Ibañez.

Ten years ago, Renato suffered a traumatic brain injury in an automobile accident. The injury still affects his memory to this day. Kelly met her husband after the accident and has been an instrumental figure in his progress by using techniques that she learned from her speech therapy education to help him overcome post-accident hurdles.

“Being awarded a scholarship that allows me a little more time with him — on mentoring him, on how he can problem solve, on how he should approach talking to a professor or asking for more time for tests — really makes a world of difference for us,” Kelly said. “Because in addition to being married, we’re also partners in school and trying to improve our own lives. And it wouldn’t be possible if I couldn’t spend more time with him, helping to guide him to move on with his career as well.”

The Ruth Rothman Scholarship was originally established in 2010. Rothman’s connection to CSUN is long, as she earned a master’s degree in Speech and Communication Disorders (now Communication Disorders and Sciences) in 1977 and worked as a speech pathologist in the Los Angeles Unified School District for two and a half decades.

“This little money she had she wanted to give back,” said her nephew and estate trustee John Rothman. “Years ago, she said, ‘I went to Cal State Northridge. Is there anything we can do to help students? I’d like to show my thanks for the benefit of receiving an education.’”

Thus, the scholarship was established, and Rothman was able to see it awarded until she passed away in 2013. The scholarship continued, though, as it was set up as a planned gift.

“All she had to do was incorporate a provision in her will,” John said. “There were a few papers to sign, and that was it. When she passed away, the money just came over here to continue the scholarship. It was a very simple process.”

In July, Kelly met John for the first time. The first words Kelly said to him were “Thank you.”

“I’ve always felt, and I know that Ruth always felt, education was the No. 1 thing,” John said. “She believed that dedicating her life to that, and teaching and working with children who had those disabilities was really important. To be able to give to CSUN now and help students who will engage in the same practice, I feel very comfortable about the future with people out there like Kelly working with kids.”

Like Ruth, Kelly plans to improve the lives of many children with her work. She also plans on returning the favor down the line.

“If there were more people like Ruth who offered more scholarships, more of us would be able to take time to study and focus on finishing the program sooner,” Kelly said. “So I for sure will be donating to CSUN once I’m a licensed professional. I’m so inspired by Ruth’s story, and it’s inspired for me to give back to the CSUN community as well.”

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