After coming to the U.S. 12 years ago from South Korea, senior SangHyun Lee, a CSUN accounting student, has done everything possible to provide a brighter future for himself.
“After graduating [from high school] I started working 80 hours a week at a produce distribution company lifting boxes weighing anywhere from 40 to 70 pounds from 4 a.m in the morning to 7 p.m.,” Lee told a virtual audience on Sept. 26. “I remember coming back home every day with my entire body covered in black dust.”
The reason he worked so hard was to earn money to help pay for college. And now he has others helping him.
Lee was one of 15 CSUN students who shared moving stories at the 2020 virtual CSUN Alumni Scholarship Celebration, which shifted from its normal in-person banquet to a Zoom celebration this year. The 15 students each received $2,000 scholarships, with funding coming from CSUN alumni. Each student gave a speech about their journey and how a scholarship impacts them.
“Now you can understand why your scholarship is like a breath of fresh air,” said Lee, who hopes to work as a certified public accountant and help support and send his three younger siblings to college. “I will continue to work hard, and I hope to be in your position in the future so that I’m able to support other students in tough situations.”
The Alumni Association annually presents 15 scholarships to students in three categories: legacy, first-generation, and graduate.
Legacy recipients are children or grandchildren of CSUN alumni; first-generation awards go to the first person in a family to attend a four-year university; and the graduate scholarship is given to an individual returning to their alma mater (CSUN) in pursuit of their master’s degree.
During the Zoom celebration, graduate scholarship winner Monica Montoya, who is in the Master of Social Work program, expressed her gratitude for the award.
“This scholarship gave me more confidence and that I am in the right space in the right path,” she said. “Being a recipient of the graduate scholarship has not only supplemented my finances but also validated my personal and educational experiences.”
As a first-generation student, Montoya said the cost of college has been difficult for her family. However, she credited her parents for supporting her ambitions.
“I appreciate them making me feel confident that as a woman of color I deserve to be in higher education,” Montoya said.
A CSUN Alumni scholarship not only provides monetary value but an opportunity for students to do more and excel in areas outside of the classroom.
Legacy scholarship awardee Devan Prince, a sophomore in Criminology and Justice Studies, said earning the scholarship has helped her financially with books, tuition and other supplies but also with the opportunity to be more involved on campus in ways that make a lasting impact.
Prince is a mentor through the CSUN Mentor Collective program, event coordinator for the Black Student Union, and was previously a part of the Women’s Soccer Club and The National Society of Collegiate Scholars.
“The generosity of the Alumni Association makes me want to achieve greater heights and to give back to future CSUN students once I graduate,” said Prince. “Once a Matador, always a Matador.”