Student Spotlights

Student excellence at Long Beach State isn’t confined to a single college, classroom or building. Accomplishments reside on the university’s theater stage and  athletic fields, in laboratories, learning centers and art studios. Some successes have extended into the community, far beyond campus boundaries.

While all Long Beach State students are worth celebrating, here are a few graduating seniors who will leave an indelible impression on the school. Their stories reveal how they discovered their passions and followed their dreams.

crystal altamirano working in a lab.

Crystal Altamirano, Senior

From an early age, Crystal Altamirano’s parents impressed upon her the importance of an education. Both parents toiled as factory workers with little acknowledgement for their long hours, and hoped for better for their youngest daughter.

Altamirano knew she didn’t want a 9-to-5 desk job. She studies forensic science and interns at the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s Department where her work is making an impact on the community.

“I wanted to be out there and I like thinking outside the box,” Altamirano said. “You have to be very observant. I feel I have a lot of those attributes.”

Altamirano is part of the forensic studies program at Long Beach State University – one of the few such certificate programs in the state. When she graduates this spring, she will be the first in her family to earn a college degree.

David McGill

David McGill, Senior

Before he arrived at Long Beach State University, David McGill struggled as a student. At times, he and his two sisters slept on couches, in motels and a garage.

Now 21, the graduating criminology, criminal justice and emergency management major is described by his professors as an “impressive and distinctive” student with an exceptional work ethic. Outside the classroom, McGill believes passionately in affordable housing and healthcare, and currently interns with the American Civil Liberties Union in their educational equity department.

He became devoted to his studies while a sophomore in high school when he made the connection between educational attainment and financial security.

“I think getting evicted with my dad – it reminded me this is still a threat to me and my family, being out on the streets,” McGill said. “I wanted to make sure this wouldn’t be a threat in the long term."

Tomison  Oluwole

Tomisin Oluwole, Senior

At 17, Tomisin Oluwole moved to Long Beach from Nigeria with aspirations of one day becoming a lawyer.

But shortly thereafter Oluwole discovered fashion merchandising. She’s since become involved in Students in Fashion and Campus Couture, organizing one of the largest student-run fashion productions on the West Coast.

“I’ve always had an individual sense of style and a good eye,” said Oluwole. “I like expressing myself in lots of ways and fashion was one thing I could make a career.”

Now 20, Oluwole will walk at graduation this spring and over the summer will continue her education studying at New York fashion houses.

“I was already pretty open-minded,” Oluwole said. “But meeting new people and the new experiences here made me more multifaceted and helped me grow.”

Group of Special Olympics athletes sitting for portrait.

Veronica Jaramillo, Senior

Working at Camp Snoopy at Knott’s Berry Farm was simply a summer job, helping toddlers and young children on and off rides, maybe even stopping to tie a shoelace.

What Veronica Jaramillo didn’t know was that summer after graduating from high school planted an idea, one that germinated until grew into a full-blown passion. She loves working with children and will graduate next fall with her Bachelor of Arts degree in Child Development & Family Studies.

Yet, her focus after high school was on a long-term relationship and not school. Jaramillo took a class here and there at Cerritos College, but dropped out.

After six years, she decided she needed more and got a job tutoring kindergarten-aged children, setting her on a career path that she hopes will earn her a Master’s of Social Work and a job helping others.

“My number one consistency is helping anyone who needed help. If I can make a connection, that’s what I want,” she said.

Jaramillo currently works for City of Norwalk’s parks and recreation department, where she helps special needs children, adaptive learners and at-risk youth.

zara raheem

Zara Raheem, Senior

Zara Raheem, on track to earn her Masters of Fine Art in English this spring, can look forward to seeing her first novel in bookstores shortly after she completes her studies at Long Beach State.

HarperCollins Publishers has set July 23 as the release date for Raheem’s debut novel, “The Marriage Clock,” described by the publisher as the story of a young Muslim-American woman with parents who throw down a three-month deadline for her to choose a husband before they make a choice for her.

Raheem grew up in communities outside of Chicago and in Orange County. By writing “The Marriage Clock,” she tells the story of South Asian culture from the perspective of a woman who came of age from within her community.

“I feel inspired to write this story because I feel like there are not enough of these stories out there,” she said. “I feel like I almost have a responsibility to tell these stories.”

Raheem sent the manuscript to literary agents shortly before she joined Long Beach State as a graduate student. She also hopes to publish her master’s thesis, a collection of short stories presently entitled “The Intersection.”

Audience applause for Theater Arts Student's performance

Camryn Hohneker, Senior

Camryn Hohneker, who first caught the acting bug when she was four or five years old, continued to respond to the call of the stage throughout her life. Today, she is on the verge of graduating with degree in Theater Arts.

“I think most actors and performers are adrenaline junkies, once you get on the stage you can’t stop,” she said.

That said, Long Beach State is where Hohneker said she truly learned about the craft and artistry of acting. She credits Hugh O’Gorman, the Theatre Arts Department’s head of acting, with helping her understand what it means to be accountable as an actor.

Hohneker’s roles have included Marnie, a lead role in the comic “The Drunken City” as well as that of the heroine in “Alice in Wonderland.” Besides her stage work, she said she has performed in student films and is also a former member of the Associated Students, Inc. Senate.

kyle ensing

Kyle Ensing, Senior

Kyle Ensing’s list of volleyball accomplishments is overwhelmingly impressive. All-this and all-that. First team here, most valuable there.

What you don’t see among player’s accolades, though, are those achievements that reflect the other side of Ensing, the numbers that make a mother proud. The student part of student-athlete.

The senior opposite/outside hitter is not only an All-American on the court, he is an All-American in the classroom and will graduate this spring with his Bachelor of Arts in Consumer Sciences.

“When people give you credit for being a good athlete, a lot of times there’s not a lot of good academics to go with it because athletes don’t put as much effort into their academics,” said Ensing, who has earned Academic All-American status the past two years.

“But excelling in academics has always been in my family ... it's always nice to make them proud.”

Student tells professor he is wrong.

Anna Sasaki, Senior

Don’t ask Anna Sasaki whether pineapple belongs on a pizza because you’ll get an argument, one you are not apt to win.

See Sasaki loves to pick a verbal fight, especially if the subject is the law or her favorite topping, and one reason she is planning to attend law school after graduation this May. She said she wants to be a criminal prosecutor.

“I love law,” she said. “I think it’s fascinating. I love trial work, I love presenting and speaking.”

Sasaki received much of her training for her future career by participating in Long Beach State’s Moot Court, a simulation of appellate arguments. Two-person legal teams argue a hypothetical legal case in front of a panel of judges in what’s called “the competition case.” Students move on in local, regional and national tournaments.

Sasaki is one of  90 Long Beach State students who have advanced to the national American Collegiate Moot Court Association (ACMA) tournament. She has qualified all three years she has competed.