Students and Families Show Emotion and Gratitude at CSUN’s Annual Scholarship Brunch

  • Scholarship recipients show their awards.

    The CSUN Alumni Association recognized its 2019 scholarship recipients at its annual brunch on Oct. 5 at the Grand Salon. (Photo by David J. Hawkins)

Miguel Romero, an immigrant from Mexico, is a roofer. He thought his son, David, would follow in his footsteps and work the same job.

David chose otherwise.

He is a senior biochemistry major at CSUN. David’s goal is to become an astrobiologist — a scientist who looks for life outside of Earth.

“All of my family have kids the age of my kid. And instead of going to school, they’re working on the roof. I [expected] to see my kid on the roof, but he’s doing so good, and that makes me even more proud,” Miguel Romero said.

This fall, David gave his family another reason to be proud: He is a recipient of a 2019 CSUN Alumni Association First-Generation Scholarship. He was one of 15 students recognized Oct. 5 at CSUN during the CSUN Alumni Scholarship Recognition Brunch.

“I’m able to spend all of my time doing research in the lab and focusing on my studies because of a scholarship like this,” David said to a crowd of fellow scholarship recipients, their families, donors and Alumni Association board members.

Many of the students who spoke at the event detailed how their new scholarship will lift them in their pursuit of a degree. Some of the students’ parents shared privately the impact of the scholarships, and their gratitude toward donors for making it possible.

“I hope [the donors] are aware — I’m going to get emotional now — just how much they’ve changed people’s lives,” said David’s mother, Cynthia Romero. “There are a lot of people out there who are smart and have talents. And they’re not lucky enough to find someone to give them a hand to hold them up.”

The Alumni Association annually awards scholarships of $2,000 each in three categories. First-Generation Scholarships are awarded to students who are the first in their families to attend a university. Legacy Scholarships are given to the children or grandchildren of CSUN alumni. The Graduate Scholarship is awarded to a student who earned their bachelor’s degree from CSUN and is pursuing their master’s degree at CSUN.

Mumtaz Damji, whose son, Karim, was awarded the 2019 Graduate Scholarship, said the scholarship is extremely beneficial to her son. Karim is studying human nutrition and he said his dietetic internship is time consuming and takes him across Southern California, with clinical rotations in Orange County and San Bernardino.

“I remember his expression when he told me he received the scholarship,” Mumtaz Damji said. “[He said], ‘Mom, you don’t need to worry [now].”

During their speeches at the brunch, many of the students thanked donors and talked about the impact of the scholarships in their lives.

“I feel very blessed this year because due to scholarships such as this, I actually have my full tuition paid for,” said graduate student Olivya Reyes. “I work two jobs. I do a lot of things on campus. I’m usually here almost all day. Knowing that thanks to people like you, I have a little bit less of a worry on my shoulders, I feel very grateful.”

Reyes, whose goal is to become a university professor or licensed clinical psychologist, told the audience that she also plans to be the first in her family to earn a doctorate.

Melissa Snell, who earned her bachelor’s degree in finance from CSUN in 2005, returned to the university for a nursing degree to pursue a new direction. The scholarship, she said, means the world to her. It also has given her hope that she can pay it forward down the line.

“It’s made an impact on my family tremendously,” she said. “I cannot work due to the intensity of the program if [I] want to succeed. I look forward to sharing the rest of this story in the years to come and [sharing] where I end up, and hopefully, giving back to another recipient one day as you all have done for all of us. It’s truly remarkable. Thank you.”

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