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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

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From left to right: Kelly Lillis, Kayla Cleven and Lorise Diamond From left to right: Kelly Lillis, Kayla Cleven and Lorise Diamond

Alumni Supporting Future Alumni

Three SDSU students were selected to receive $5,000 scholarships from SDSU Alumni.
By Tobin Vaughn

“It means a lot to me because everyone on the scholarship committee and the alumni believe in me, and they believe that I can do this.”

Alone in her room when she learned she would receive a scholarship from SDSU Alumni, Lorise Diamond launched a solo celebration.

“I threw up my hands, stood up with a smile, and I just danced,” said the communication major. “It was a wonderful moment.”

Diamond is one of three San Diego State University students selected to receive $5,000 scholarships from SDSU Alumni. A 51-year-old nurse who has raised a son and is now a grandmother, she is on track to graduate in 2019 with the intent of attending graduate school and starting a nonprofit organization to assist sexual assault survivors.

“I had some incidents when I was vulnerable to sexual assault, and I felt like I didn’t have anyone to turn to,” she explained. “Helping sexual assault survivors became important to me.”

For Diamond, a scholarship means she will be able to get through another semester focusing on her studies without financial worry.

“I know that my tuition now will be paid, I will have the books I need and, as a plus, I will be able to attend professional conferences I want to attend,” she said.

Her message to alumni donors is heartfelt.

“The support you have provided means so much to me,” said Diamond. “I am so appreciative and grateful. Thank you.”

Following in father’s footsteps

Kayla Cleven owes partial thanks for her scholarship to her dad, Brian (’96), who is also an Aztec. Hers is the Legacy Scholarship for a student with at least one immediate family member who attended SDSU.

When she found out she would receive the $5,000 award, Cleven first contacted her father, who lives in New Jersey.

“He was like, ‘Wow, I’m so proud of you. Congratulations!’” she said.

Cleven had not planned to apply to SDSU, but her father had spoken so passionately about his alma mater that he convinced her to visit.

Now, the second-year biology major can’t imagine being anywhere else. She joined a sorority, is an SDSU Ambassador, a student in the Weber Honors College, a Phi Eta Sigma national honor society member and a member of SDSU’s Flying Samaritans, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free medical services to medically underserved residents of Tijuana, Mexico.

“My experience has been amazing; I have really found my niche,” said Cleven, who maintains a 3.57 GPA. She plans to attend medical school and become a surgeon.

Expecting to take on debt for her medical studies, Cleven appreciates the financial boost from SDSU Alumni. She is even more grateful, however, for the message she sees behind the award.

“It means a lot to me because everyone on the scholarship committee and the alumni believe in me, and they believe that I can do this,” she said. “Because of that, it makes me want to succeed even more. I just want to thank the alumni who donated for continuing to love SDSU as much as they did when they were here, and I hope to be like them one day.”

An unexpected dream

Kelly Lillis received the SDSU Alumni scholarship for first-year students. The 29-year-old transfer student expects to graduate in 2019 and hopes to earn a Ph.D. in order to become a professor in the classics and humanities.

It’s an unexpected dream for someone who grew up in a small community in Northern California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains with parents who were pastors in a strict Christian church.

“I wasn’t allowed to listen to secular music or watch secular movies, but I know the Bible front to back,” Lillis said.

“My religious background probably got me curious about the sources of ancient texts, but as far as education in my family, most women become missionaries or wives. I didn’t fit into those two boxes.”

Balancing her studies while working as a bartender 25-30 hours a week, Lillis tries to maintain the 4.0 GPA she achieved throughout junior college. Her financial award helps her to “breathe a little,” she said.

“The scholarship allows me to avoid taking out any loans this year. I can’t tell you what a huge weight this scholarship has lifted. It represents wonderful people who believe in my dream that I now get the honor to pursue.”

Please support the SDSU Alumni Student Scholarship Fund by making a donation.