Laura P. Diaz, a junior studying sociology, will be Cal Poly Pomona’s recipient of a California State University 2019 Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement.
She will receive the award during the CSU Board of Trustees meeting on Sept. 24. The award includes a donor-funded scholarship that ranges between $6,000 and $15,000.
Her personal story of perseverance led her to choose sociology because, as she explained, she wants to work as a social worker to help others who have gone through what she has experienced.
Eleven years ago, Diaz and her three children left their home due to her husband’s domestic violence and found a sanctuary at Good Shepherd Shelter in Los Angeles.
“It was a place to heal,” she said, and it also offered classes, counseling and other opportunities to better her family’s life.
The shelter showed her how to find a home of their own, and soon she was taking English as a Second Language classes, which she said helped her “believe I could make a better life for me and my children.”
That belief led them to a home in La Verne in 2014, and she began taking classes at Citrus College in Glendora. Her daughter recently graduated from Citrus, her older son starts at Citrus in the fall, and her younger son is a student at Damien High School. All the while, Diaz, who now lives in Montclair, supported her family as a full-time caregiver to elderly patients while taking classes full-time.
She also volunteered at Union Rescue Mission in downtown Los Angeles, preparing and serving food for its clients. This experience and her own at Good Shelter reinforced her desire to become a social worker.
“From the very first day I met Laura it was evident to me that she possesses the drive and impulse to be a successful individual,” said Raul Sanchez, her academic counselor in Citrus’ Extended Opportunity Programs and Services program. “She took a step-by-step approach in setting her goals, which allowed her to complete the task at hand with great efficiency.”
Upon graduating with honors from Citrus with associate’s degrees in sociology and social and behavioral sciences, Diaz applied to five universities and was accepted by all. She chose Cal Poly Pomona because “I picked the one who would help me accomplish my goals and where I would feel comfortable.”
At Cal Poly Pomona, Diaz’s work ethic impressed Sociology Professor Caitlin V. Clarke, who recommended her for the Trustees’ Award.
“Laura engaged in our class discussions even when our topics stretched students’ academic limits,” Clarke said.
Diaz said the scholarship will allow her to buy a computer and focus on her education and grades. She is already making plans for her career and expects to complete her degree in June 2021.
“I like to help people so I would like to work as a social worker,” she said, “but one of my dreams would be going to law school for immigration.”