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Top Scholars Dedicated to Service

Outstanding Graduate and Senior Focus on Helping Others

May 20, 2013

Young man in a gray suit

Alejandro Gonzales is this year's Alumni Association Outstanding Graduate Award recipient.

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Honored by the Cal State Fullerton Alumni Association as 2012-13 Outstanding Senior and Outstanding Graduate, James Wu and Alejandro Gonzalez share one common characteristic: a dedication to serving others.

Wu is the recipient of the Outstanding Senior Award. A first-generation college student, he is graduating with his bachelor of science degree in kinesiology. Gonzalez, recipient of the Outstanding Graduate Award, is graduating with a doctorate in education with a concentration in pre K-12 leadership. Each will receive a $1,000 cash award and plaque in recognition for their achievements during the University's annual Honors Convocation May 24.

Struggling Through Family Hardship

Gonzalez '96 (B.A. Spanish), the son of migrant workers, has long been interested in the education of migrant children. He has made it his life's work, as well as his area of study, researching Latino migrant families who have successfully overcome barriers to ensure their children attain higher education.

Gonzalez, who was selected to speak at the February inauguration of CSUF President Mildred García, is a program specialist for the federally funded Migrant Education Program, San Diego County Office of Education, which serves Orange County.During his graduate work, he developed a partnership with Enhancing Post Baccalaureate Opportunities at Cal State Fullerton for Hispanic Students. His dissertation focused on providing high-quality educational support and services for migrant children, as well as identifying ways migrant families have overcome barriers to ensure their children attain higher education.

"I want to continue my research into the migrant community and help provide better educational services to migrant families," said Gonzalez, a father of three who lives in La Puente.

During his third year of graduate studies, Gonzalez's oldest daughter, Camila, was diagnosed with leukemia. She underwent a successful bone marrow transplant last year. Gonzalez recognizes that the sacrifices his entire family made during his studies helped propel him to graduation and the Outstanding Graduate Award. "My family came along the journey with me," he said. "It brings balance to all the difficult times we faced with Camila's condition."

Janette Hyder, coordinator of the Scholarships/Links Mentoring Program and an EOP counselor who nominated Gonzalez for the award, said she was inspired by his dedication and perseverance. "He never gave up despite what was happening," she wrote in the nomination papers. "He showed courage and commitment to continue and move forward with his education and his family."

Dedicated to Serving Students

Wu, a Rowland Heights resident, has served as founding president of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity colony and vice president of the Order of Omega Greek Life Honor Society. He was vice chair for planning on the Titan Student Centers Governing Board and chair of the Interclub Council for the College of Health and Human Development. He was a New Student Orientation leader and as a Titan Ambassador, conducted campus tours.

Serena Cline, senior coordinator of new student and parent programs who nominated Wu for the award, noted that between his volunteer and paid positions (he also works off campus as a lead at the Disneyland Resort), he works seven days a week and still maintained a 3.44 GPA.

"James has always prioritized his education," she wrote in the nomination papers. "I trust that he will make Cal State Fullerton proud and that as an alumnus, he will represent this campus with professionalism and integrity."

Wu said winning the award was "pretty unbelievable. To hear that you are being recognized for your work is always a good feeling."

After some time off to recharge, Wu plans to attend graduate school to study for a career in student affairs in higher education. "My original goal was athletic training, but after my junior year as an orientation leader, working in student affairs and student services, the gears started turning in my head. This is what I enjoy doing — working with college students at a formative time in their lives."

By: Cathi Douglas, 657-278-4850

Tags:  Titan Pride