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Abrego Future Scholars Overcome the Odds to Earn a College Degree

Hispanic Golf Tournament Supports First-Generation College Students
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Cal State Fullerton graduating senior Roxana Ordoñez wanted to continue her education after high school, but was not encouraged by her family. She became the first person in her family to attend college, and this month, will be the first to earn a college degree.

Ordoñez credits the university’s Abrego Future Scholars Program for giving her the financial, academic and emotional support to attend and finish college. She will earn a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies and plans to pursue a teaching credential to become an elementary teacher.

“College wasn’t easy,” she admitted. “It was a roller coaster filled with laughs, cries, frustration — and new memories. The Abrego Future Scholars Program helped me to grow as a professional and as an individual. I love this program because it gave me an opportunity to further my education and have a career.”

Ordoñez, who is Mexican, delivered remarks at the May 8 inaugural Abrego Future Scholars Program reception for graduating seniors and their families, and community supporters. She is among the program’s 44 students graduating this year. Each received an orange Abrego Scholar sash to wear on graduation day.

“Don’t let people define your future,” she told her graduating peers. “It only takes one person to be part of your team to defeat all odds, and like the poem says, be the flower that blooms from the concrete.”

The Abrego Future Scholars Program supports underrepresented, first-generation college students — freshmen and community college transfer students — with scholarships, as well as a range of services, including academic resources and mentoring, to help them in reaching their educational goals. Currently, 196 students, including the graduates, participate in the program, with 38 students supported by scholarships.

“All of our scholars have faced many personal and academic challenges, but these challenges have helped them develop into strong and resilient individuals,” said Yajayra Tovar, interim director for the Center for Scholars.

At the event, Tovar also acknowledged the students’ parents for their sacrifices in helping their children obtain a college education. “Their successes are your successes,” she told them.

Hispanic Golf Tournament Supports Scholarship Program

The Cal State Fullerton Hispanic Scholarship Golf Tournament supports the program. This spring’s sold-out 32nd annual tournament, presented by American Honda Motor Co., raised $100,000 and attracted 144 golfers. Silas H. Abrego, CSUF vice president emeritus for student affairs and a member of the California State University Board of Trustees, is a founder of the golf tournament, launched more than three decades ago to support first-generation college students with scholarships.

Student Jaylene Mendoza, who spoke at the golf tournament and thanked supporters, relayed how the program has benefited her. Raised by her mother, Mendoza grew up in a low-income community rampant with drugs and violence. Her family didn’t have the financial support to send her to college, and she had no idea how to navigate the higher education system.

As an Abrego Future Scholar, she found the support and resources she needed to further her higher education goals.

“I know I can always count on the Abrego Future Scholars Program. The program has not only shaped me into the confident person I am now, but also has helped to shape my future,” said Mendoza, a human services major in the substance abuse treatment and prevention track. She plans to graduate next year and pursue a graduate degree in social work.

“This program is my family and I am so thankful for all the people involved. They have always believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself.”

Visit the program’s website for more information and to donate.