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Thursday, December 7, 2023

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SDSU's Latina Network ERG created a first-of-its-kind scholarship to help students struggling to make ends meet. Above,  Melina Andrei Jimenez Celaya, a 2019 Chavez scholarship recipient. SDSU's Latina Network ERG created a first-of-its-kind scholarship to help students struggling to make ends meet. Above, Melina Andrei Jimenez Celaya, a 2019 Chavez scholarship recipient.

Employee Resource Group Sets Sights on a Broader Reach

The Latina Network, SDSU’s oldest ERG, created a first-of-its-kind scholarship.
By SDSU News Team

A newly endowed scholarship established by San Diego State University’s Latina Network employee resource group (ERG) promises to make a big difference for students struggling to make ends meet, and nobody knows that better than one of its founding donors.

Maybelline Arevalo Lopez (‘13, Spanish language and literature) was homeless in her sophomore year at SDSU following a decision to remove herself from some conflict at home. Lopez got by through a $19 gym membership, a part-time job at the library, the kindness of some of the administrators there, and $1,000 in financial support from The San Diego Foundation.

“Receiving a scholarship at that point really impacted my life,” said Lopez, an executive assistant in the International Affairs office whose previous jobs at SDSU included a position in the development office. “It really helped me stay on track with school.”

Lopez is a member of The Latina Network, SDSU’s oldest ERG, which after years of fundraising for the university’s Cesar E. Chavez Scholarship decided to see if they could launch one of their own that would also benefit SDSU students and their community.

The answer was yes, coming as something of a surprise to the organization which, not to put too fine a point on it, is made up of faculty and staff employees on the state payroll and not affluent philanthropists who wouldn’t think twice about the $50,000 minimum required to start an endowment.

The scholarship launched last year. A primary goal was to ensure that the scholarship assistance wouldn’t evaporate from future turnover in the ERG’s membership.

“The Latina Network is like a family,” said Thelma Chavez, coordinator of the SDSU MARC (Maximizing Access to Research Careers) Program, recalling silent auctions for the Chavez scholarship that typically raised amounts under $1,000. “We wanted to help more and we wanted it to continue after we’re gone or even ERGs are gone. It was important to continue this.”

And that’s precisely the goal of the Latina Network Endowed Scholarship, kickstarted with gifts and commitments from the group’s own members. The scholarship supports students who are involved in one or more SDSU Cultural Resource Centers in the Division of Student Affairs and Campus Diversity.

Latina Network Chair Karla Ramirez, an assistant student ombudsman who earned undergraduate and master’s degrees at SDSU, said that as faculty and staff, the group’s members are constantly aware of students facing hardships.

“What kept us going I think … is ganas, the determination, and most importantly just having somebody at the institution to (provide) support,” Ramirez said. “The scholarship to us is an extension of our love and commitment to our students. We hope it served as one less worry of having to come up with money for books or other school expenses. Little things can add up pretty quickly.”

Additional founding donors of The Latina Network include M. Rosalia Arellano, doctor of physical therapy program lecturer; Melissa Gonzalez, assistant director of the Office of HSI and Regional Affairs; Stacy Ochoa, director of advising and biology lecturer; and Mayra Villalta, director of audit & continuous improvement.

Establishing an endowment through planned giving can be a straightforward and fulfilling process. SDSU faculty and staff, including the founding donors of The Latina Network, have successfully done so. To learn more about the process and how it can be achieved, contact Amy Walling,