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CSU Trustees’ Award Winner

First-generation student dedicated to helping underrepresented youth

Published May 29, 2020

By: Eric Barajas and Holly Unruh

Photo: Selena Velasquez
Selena Velasquez hopes to inspire underrepresented students to pursue doctoral studies.

Selena Velasquez has an impressive resume, even though the psychology major and statistics minor just graduated from CSUMB with a bachelor’s degree in May.

She is the recipient of a 2019 CSU Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement — the CSU’s highest recognition of student achievement — as well as a CSU Sally Casanova Pre-Doctoral Scholarship.

She has conducted research in the psychology lab at CSUMB, the Minority Health Disparities lab at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), and with the Student Success Equity Research Center (SSERC) at UC Santa Cruz.

These are spectacular accomplishments for any student, but especially so for Velasquez. She was born the daughter of a teen mom and is the first in her family to attend college.

“My mother had me when she was 16 and raised me without a partner,” Velasquez said. “She was unemployed by the time I was 9, and for years I watched her struggle with substance abuse while my grandma worked countless overtime hours to accommodate my mom and me into her home of five.”

Growing up in an unstable household propelled Velasquez to dedicate herself to education as the key to one day being able to provide a better life for herself and her family.

Still, leaving her home in Visalia, California, for college wasn’t easy. It became even more challenging when she left the state for the first time for her sophomore summer research experience.

Read more about Selena Velasquez's experience in the CSUMB Magazine.

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