CSU Top Scholar Juggles Family, School, Volunteering

A portrait of Irma Gonzalez

Irma Gonzalez, the ​California State University, Northridge Chancellor Emeritus Charles B. and Catherine Reed Scholar.

Life has thrown Irma Gonzalez, the 2018 Chancellor Emeritus Charles B. and Catherine Reed Scholar, many obstacles. Despite these hardships, she hasn’t lost her ambition to continue her education and serve communities through volunteering.

Gonzalez was one of 23 students — one from each California State University (CSU) campus — to receive the 2018 Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement. The award is the university’s highest recognition of achievement based on students’ exceptional academic performance, personal accomplishments, community service efforts and financial needs. The scholars were honored at a ceremony during the CSU Board of Trustees meeting Sept. 11. in Long Beach.

Gonzalez is a first-generation university student. She emigrated from Mexico to the United States as a teenage newlywed. She is now pursuing a master’s degree in social work at CSUN. She has maintained a 4.0 GPA while working full time for Tri-Counties Regional Center, supporting adults with developmental disabilities. She attributes her drive to her humble beginnings and her children.

“It is such an honor because I know there are a lot of other students, and we all have a story,” said Gonzalez. “I am not a traditional student, I have children, I have a family and even with that, I haven’t given up. I still find the time to do community service and it’s very rewarding. I felt grateful to have met every single student that was selected from every CSU and they are all amazing people.”

Gonzalez participates in field work for her master’s program. She works with the local homeless population, and she said she enjoys talking to them, learning who they were and about their goals. She also takes trips to San Diego to provide food and donations to immigrant children at the border.

“People tell me, ‘Maybe you should reconsider [this career]’ or ‘Now may not be the best time.’ When I hear that, it pushes me even more because I grew up hearing that,” Gonzalez said. “Being in this country without my [parents and siblings] and having my children, they’re the ones that I look at every day. I want to do this for them.”

She said she hopes to inspire future generations of Matadors to continue their education, follow their dreams and listen to their inner voice.

“My advice is just to never give up. You have no idea how many people, even professionals, have told me to quit and to take some time to deal with my family first,” said Gonzalez, who cares for her son with health issues. If we listen to those voices, then we’re never going to do anything. I would tell students, always find support. We don’t have to do this alone. I couldn’t do this without my friends being there for me when I need to talk. I value the people around me.”