Endowed scholarship empowers CSULB first-gen students to reach their dreams
Earning her associate of arts degree was difficult enough while juggling school, work and raising a rambunctious son, and the idea of pursuing an advanced degree was overwhelming. Hamidna (Amy) Figueroa-Orozco figured she had neither the time, money nor energy, so she didn’t apply.
It would be years before she gave college another try, that day arriving when Figueroa-Orozco looked at her son, who had grown into a curious 10-year-old. Figueroa-Orozco knew then she had to do better. For him. For herself. And for their future.
Two years ago, Figueroa-Orozco, a first-generation student, decided to enroll at Cal State Long Beach and pursue a B.A. degree in political science with a concentration in law, policy and politics, and a minor in Chicano and Latino Studies.
“Obtaining my A.A. was a long journey and I thought I was done with school after that,” said Figueroa-Orozco, a fourth-year student. “However, I wanted to show my son that even when there are some bumps on the road it does not mean that it cannot be done.
“I have now planted the seed that higher education is possible regardless of any setbacks.”
Still, Figueroa-Orozco, 28, could not achieve her goals without the aid of a scholarship, which allowed her to do an unpaid internship within the Political Science Department, handling the department's social media. The scholarship covered unforeseen expenses and allowed her to concentrate on her studies and son.
Figueroa-Orozco is the type of student Ron and Rosemary Schmidt had in mind when they set up an endowed scholarship for first-generation political science students who can work an internship without worrying about getting a job. The scholarship will initially be awarded in the fall.
The Schmidts’ investment underscores the value of eliminating achievement gaps by building and strengthening programs that lead to a more equitable future for all Beach students, one of the priorities of CSULB’s comprehensive No Barriers fundraising campaign.
Both the Schmidts were first-generation students who didn’t have a lot of resources during their college years. Rosemary Schmidt ‘64 not only graduated from The Beach but received her B.A. in social science from CSULB.
“I always believed that since I was so fortunate in receiving public policy support for my higher education, I should work to pay it forward,” Professor Emeritus Ron Schmidt said. “That’s what we’re trying to do with this scholarship.”
Additionally, Rosemary Schmidt said she wants the scholarship to enable political science students to engage with the public through an internship.
“We want to help our students connect to the public world and to provide them motivation and opportunities to find their way into the public world so that they can make a difference in their communities,” Rosemary Schmidt said.
The Schmidts’ soft spot for first-gen students was enlarged when they both worked on campus, where they met. Ron is a professor emeritus of political science, and Rosemary is an assistant vice president of student services emeritus.
“First, they (students) had to work,” Ron Schmidt said. “Almost all of them came from poor families and they had to work to help their family. But in many cases, they also had to work in the home to bring up their siblings ...or help their parents navigate all sorts of bureaucratic roadblocks.”
He said he witnessed students sleeping in their cars or taking showers in the gym. It all led to the Schmidts to find a way to help students with their scholarship.
Figueroa-Orozco said she could never have gotten through school without the scholarship-backed internship in the political science department. She now works as a production planner for an aerospace manufacturing company.
“I often had to re-organize my mom/home responsibilities to assure all due dates and schoolwork were met. This meant early mornings and very late nights,” she said. “Being awarded a scholarship did give me a bit more flexibility and stability.”