Sabrina Lemmon can shift easily from working with a socket wrench at Temple City Powersports to taking lecture notes for her classes at Cal Poly Pomona.
Making those kinds of abrupt adjustments have been part of Lemmon’s detour-filled path to a higher education. Her father’s death when she was 15 and her mother’s chronic health issues would force Lemmon to fend for herself.
She worked during high school to support herself. After graduation, she studied at St. Francis University in Pennsylvania for three semesters but had to withdraw because she couldn’t afford tuition. She wouldn’t have the chance to kick-start her college education until she was 23.
In 2009, a friend’s family in El Monte offered to let her stay rent-free for three months. Lemmon decided to pack her bags and moved from Pennsylvania with $300 in her pocket, which she says was all the money she had saved from her jobs. “I knew one person when I moved to California,” Lemmon recalls.
Before Lemmon could renew her college quest, she had to work and make money. She got an overnight job at a Sam’s Club stocking merchandise and shelves, sometimes working until 8 a.m. Lemmon says she would go home and rest before taking the bus to get to her job at a company in Chino/Corona area. Lemmon said she would work sometimes until 7 p.m. then take the bus back home so she could put in a few hours at her internship at Temple City Powersports. Lemmon says this job cycle went on for nearly two years.
“I used to take the bus so I could sleep on the way to Chino/Corona and sleep on the bus coming back home,” she says. “I’d do my internship, sleep for a couple hours then go to work.”
She later enrolled at Citrus College and earned two associate of arts degrees (history, English literature), one associate of science degree (automotive technology) and completed all of her technical certificates (under car, under hood and master technician) along with a skill award in engine machining before transferring to Cal Poly Pomona.
Lemmon’s sacrifices and hard work have been rewarded: She is the recipient of a 2016 CSU Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement. Lemmon, a double major in anthropology and history in the College of Letters, Arts & Social Sciences, earned a $6,000 William Randolph Heart Scholar award to support her studies at Cal Poly Pomona.
The CSU Trustees’ Award is the highest recognition of student achievement. One student from each of the 23 CSU campuses along with the top-scoring system-wide scholar are awarded scholarships of $6,000 to $12,000 for demonstrating superior academic performance, personal accomplishments, community service and financial need.
“The accomplishments of these determined, bright and compassionate students are remarkable,” says CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White. “These scholarships will help them go on to accomplish even greater things in their campuses, communities and California’s future.”
The CSU Board of Trustees, CSU Foundation Board of Governors, faculty, students and staff recognized Lemmon and 23 other scholars during the CSU Board of Trustees meeting on Sept. 20.
“Sabrina is a wonderful young woman. She is one of our best anthropology students and a real role model for our students,” says Claudia Garcia-Des Lauriers, assistant professor and anthropology coordinator. “She is mature, responsible, hard-working, and very sharp. We are very happy to have her in our department.”
Lemmon will be carrying a full course load in the fall while also working full time as an assistant parts manager and master technician for motorcycles at Temple City Powersports. Along her winding path to higher education, Lemmon is grateful for the helping hand she has received at Cal Poly Pomona.
“I’ve had teachers go above and beyond. I’ve had people in financial aid go above and beyond. I’ve had my advisors go above and beyond. I’ve had every person on this campus tell me that all I need to do is open my mouth and ask for help and it will be there,” Lemmon says. “I’ve never had so many people who don’t know me take the effort to help me. Above and beyond doesn’t begin to describe the type of people here on this campus.”
Lemmon also gives back, tutoring fellow classmates, helping people with resume building and writing techniques, participating in charity rides and training new motorcycle riders.
After completing her bachelor’s degrees, Lemmon aims to enroll in a double master’s program and potentially a doctoral program. She hopes to become a tenured professor and teach anthropology. Ultimately, Lemmon would like to mentor struggling students to help them achieve their educational goals.
“Sabrina represents well the transfer students that the College of Letters, Arts & Social Sciences attracts,” says Daniel K. Lewis, interim associate vice president for Academic Quality and Assessment. “She arrived well-prepared from Citrus College and chose to work in two departments in which the faculty work hard to mentor and develop students so that they are ready to take advantage of a range of opportunities.”
The $155,000 in scholarships awarded this academic year is the highest amount in the history of the program. Since the inception of the program in 1984, more than 340 CSU students have been honored with this award.
“I’m lucky to be enrolled in a four-year university,” Lemmon says. “I’m lucky to be given the chance to complete my education, so I do my best to keep my GPA high, do well in classes and learn as much as possible.”