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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

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Graduating student Monique Ornelas with her commencement gown and Legacy Cord during Grad Night at SDSU-Imperial Valley. Graduating student Monique Ornelas with her commencement gown and Legacy Cord during Grad Night at SDSU-Imperial Valley.
 


Giving More

Graduates at SDSU-Imperial Valley donate to fund scholarships.
By Tobin Vaughn
 

“These student donors understand the impact of their gifts and we hope their generous contributions will continue as they become alumni.”

From a migrant family to a master’s degree candidate. That’s Virginia Sanchez.

Her experience is emblematic of the stories shared by many students graduating this month from San Diego State University-Imperial Valley. As a child from a household of modest means, Sanchez (’13) worked hard, studied harder, and created her own success from a background unfamiliar with higher education.

“My father worked in the fields most of his life,” explained Sanchez, who will attend the May 10 commencement ceremony in Calexico; then in July will wrap up the requirements for her master’s degree in educational leadership administration. “He was the one who went away and then would come back, but it still classified us as migrants.”

The first in her family to attend college, the El Centro resident now teaches second grade at an elementary school just a few blocks from the university where she is about to receive her second degree. Sanchez was among a group of more than 100 students that attended a Grad Night celebration on campus in triple-digit heat on April 11.

While at checkout to purchase commencement caps and gowns, many graduates donated to the Class of 2018 Leave Your Legacy campaign.

Sanchez, who worked multiple jobs to finance her education, was among those who contributed. “Giving to other people is important,” she said of her donation to help fund student scholarships.

“Scholarships can help”

Many students share Sanchez’s point of view. By the end of April, more than 40 percent of graduating students at SDSU-Imperial Valley had contributed at least $10 to the SDSU Alumni initiative that funds permanent scholarship endowments for future students.

The figure on the main campus in San Diego during the same period was nearly 35 percent. Sanchez credits the high participation rate in Imperial Valley to a close-knit campus where students often witness, first-hand, the difference their donations can make.

“It’s very expensive to go to school, especially if you don’t have any help from financial aid and even if you do,” she said. “I’ve seen how scholarships can help.”

Leave Your Legacy is part of the Aztec Proud program that has generated more than $235,000 for student scholarships over the past four years. Graduating students who donate receive a red and white braided cord to wear at commencement where they are asked to stand and be recognized for their philanthropic commitment.

The Class Legacy Scholarship Fund began with the Class of 2015 as a way to help boost student success. Last year, the program awarded scholarships to seven students. Tammy Blackburn (’94, ’01), SDSU director of development technology, said student giving has become an integral part of the university’s culture of philanthropy.

“In just four years we have raised almost a quarter of a million dollars—mostly through $10 donations—to fund an endowment that is already producing significant assistance for our students,” Blackburn said. “These student donors understand the impact of their gifts and we hope their generous contributions will continue as they become alumni.”

“My footprint on the world”

Monique Ornelas definitely understands. A liberal studies major from Brawley who completed her degree requirements last December, she intends to teach elementary school and is working on a special education credential at the Imperial Valley campus.

When she heard about the Class Legacy Scholarship Fund and the cord to wear at graduation, she decided to make her donation to “just do a little something, like a little memento.” It might just help make that world a slightly better place, she said.

“Even if it’s just $10, it’s something,” Ornelas reasoned. “I think the world needs tons of giving right now. That has been my outlook on life lately: more love, less heat. That’s my little footprint on the world.”

SDSU graduating students who missed an opportunity to give—or anyone wanting to contribute to the Leave Your Legacy student scholarship fund—may contribute on-line at sdsu.edu/strive.