On September 9, CSULB student Lita Melissa Cahuana of Whittier received the prestigious Cal State University (CSU) Trustees Award at the Board of Trustees meeting. 

TrusteeAwardOne student from each of the 23 CSU campuses annually receive a CSU Trustees’ Awards that, according to CSULB, is one of the highest student distinctions within the CSU. Recipients have demonstrated superior academic performance, personal accomplishments, community service and financial need. Each Trustees Award is accompanied by a $6,000 to $12,000 scholarship.

“The compelling life stories of these extraordinary student scholars are a testament to the transformative power of public higher education,” said CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White in a statement. “Through the generous support of our donors, many of whom are first-time contributors to the Trustees’ Award program, we are able to help these scholars create a bright and successful future.”

Cahuana migrated with her family from Peru to the United States in the “pursuit of the American Dream,” while the struggle her family endured due to their low socio-economic status inspired her to pursue higher education with the hopes of being able to provide a better future.

Cahuana is the first of her family to attend college and, as a CSULB senior, is currently majoring in chemical engineering with minors in environmental engineering and chemistry. She serves as vice president for Society of Women Engineers and has conducted their annual outreach program, Women Engineers at the Beach, which encourages young girls from varying backgrounds to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM).

As a CSULB President’s Scholar and Hispanic Serving Institution STEM Peer Mentor, she has led campus tours, volunteered for the Long Beach Homeless Drop-In Center and tutored students in subjects ranging from calculus to organic chemistry. Having worked as a process engineering intern for Tesoro Corporation, Cahuana plans to pursue a career in the same field with a focus in energy research and obtain an MBA.

Through donor support, this scholarship program gives students who have faced educational barriers a chance to pursue a college degree, and use their life experience and classroom knowledge to affect social change. The Trustees’ Award program was founded nearly three decades ago with scholarships endowed by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation. More than 250 scholarships have been awarded since the William Randolph Hearst Foundation initiated its endowment in 1984 to help high achieving students who have overcome adversity.

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Asia Morris is a Long Beach native covering arts and culture for the Long Beach Post. You can reach her @hugelandmass on Twitter and Instagram and at [email protected].