News Release| CSULA; Cal State L.A.; Los Angeles; CSU; Hearst Award


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gang-member, future registered nurse

— Kimberely Suarez aims to help others

Los Angeles,
– By definition a hard
life is not easy; and turning one around can be downright painful.
Kimberely Suarez knows.

A 26-year-old
junior in Cal State L.A.’s nursing program, she is undergoing a series
of 11 laser-burning treatments to remove olde English tattoos from up
and down her arms. Despite a topical anesthetic, it hurts much more than
getting tattoos in the first place.  Indeed, she says, it hurts more
than a C-section—and she’s had two. But tattoo removal is just another
step forward along the path toward becoming an effective and respected

Suarez has been
on that path steadily for several years after spending most of her
adolescence as a gang member in East Los Angeles. She plans to graduate
with a bachelor of science in nursing in 2010.

Inspired by her
perseverance and academic excellence, the California State University
Board of Trustees on Tuesday, Sept. 16, will bestow upon Suarez its
2008-09 William R. Hearst/CSU Trustees’ Award for Outstanding

Accompanied by
her mother and two young sons, she will be one of 23 students from
throughout the 23-campus CSU system whom the board will honor at its
meeting in Long Beach.

Suarez’s tattoos
appeared in a life chapter that began with dropping out of school at age
13 and joining a gang in East Los Angeles. She did time in juvenile hall
and on probation while too many of her neighborhood friends were killed.
She went to a continuation school outside of her community because of
gang-rivalry issues.

“I wondered,” she
says, “‘What do you do when you turn 18 and you’re still alive?’”

She worked for
minimum wage at a car rental and for low pay taping drywall.  “It was
hard work, and I wasn’t making an impact on anybody’s lives,” she says.

Now a graduate of
East Los Angeles College and the 26-year-old mother of two toddler boys,
she is intensely focused on becoming a nurse, inspired by the care she
received when her first son was born three years ago (her youngest son
is 2).

She also once a
month provides guidance to at-risk youth emerging from a “last-chance”
high school program at the Estrada Courts Community Center – the
“projects” by her house.

“I let them know
if you want to be self-sufficient, you can do it. It takes education,”
she says. “It means more from someone who’s been in their situation. I
tell them, ‘I come from where you come from.’” And she plans to return
someday as a nurse at County/USC hospital. Meanwhile, she heads
resolutely forward–and tries to encourage and guide others in her
community to find their own brighter future.

In his letter
nominating Suarez for the Hearst/CSU Trustees Award, Cal State L.A.
President James M. Rosser wrote: “Based on her extensive volunteerism
helping at-risk youth in her old neighborhood steer clear of—or escape
from—the pitfalls she once encountered, I am confident that her
continuing academic success will lead her to help positively redirect
the lives of many others and, in so doing, help transform her community.

“Her instructors
consistently portray her as an individual whose exemplary academic
performance is marked by sincerity, initiative and
engagement—characteristics that will contribute greatly to her future
success as a nurse and community health advocate for youth.

“Through her
persistence and resilience,” Rosser wrote, “she has overcome great
challenges, achieved scholarly distinction, and advanced her clear and
abiding passion to make the world a better, safer and healthier place.”

# # #

general contacts and resources

William Randolph Hearst/CSU Trustees'
Award for Outstanding Achievement (CSU Chancellor’s Office introduction

William Randolph Hearst/CSU Trustees'
Award for Outstanding Achievement (Cal State L.A. Financial Aid Office
fact sheet):


Other recent
Hearst Scholars at Cal State L.A.

2007 - Lesley Anne Asistio


2006 – Ana Diaz



Working for California since 1947: The 175-acre hilltop campus of California State University, Los Angeles is at the heart of a major metropolitan city, just five miles from Los Angeles’ civic and cultural center. More than 20,000 students and 205,000 alumni—with a wide variety of interests, ages and backgrounds—reflect the city’s dynamic mix of populations. Six colleges offer nationally recognized science, arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education and humanities programs, among others, led by an award-winning faculty. Cal State L.A. is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Jazz Orchestra and to a unique university center for gifted students as young as 12.
Programs that provide exciting enrichment opportunities to students and community include an NEH- and Rockefeller-supported humanities center; a NASA-funded center for space research; and a growing forensic science program, housed in the Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center.


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