Homeless student takes shelter at university

LONG BEACH - When Cal State Long Beach student Brian K. Smith found himself homeless, he didn't give up on his dream of a university education. He found refuge in it…literally.The senior Spanish translation and music major used the CSULB music rooms as impromptu shelters when he lost his financial aid and student loans because of the limit on unit accumulation. As a result of not having financial support, Smith became homeless and took refuge in the practice rooms, determined to be the first male in his family to get a college degree. "I didn't know what else to do," Smith said while looking back on those days. "Education is so important to me. I knew that I would eventually get over this hurdle." Smith's determination, perseverance and belief in himself has paid off in a big way this fall as he was named a recipient of the 2010-11 William R. Hearst/CSU Trustees' Award for Outstanding Achievement. The $3,000 award will allow him to complete his degrees at CSULB this year and more. "I was honored and grateful when I heard that I had received the award. Since I had exhausted all of financial resources including financial aid, two loans, and the Jenkins Vocal Scholarship, I was faced with possibly not being able to continue my education," Smith explained. "Now that I received the Hearst Award, I am able to finish here at CSULB with my B.A. and B.M. degrees and focus on the next step - preparing for grad school." Each year, the California State University (CSU) selects 23 students, one from each campus in the system, to receive the Hearst/CSU Trustees' Award, which is among the system's highest forms of recognition for student achievement. The award is given to students who have demonstrated financial need, experienced personal hardships, and have attributes such as superior academic performance, exemplary community service and significant personal achievements. "These extraordinary student scholars exemplify strength, perseverance through adversity, dedication to learning and commitment to others," noted Ali C. Razi, CSU trustee emeritus. "The leadership through service demonstrated by these scholars inspires deep respect on CSU campuses and within the community." In addition to their strength and perseverance, Smith and his fellow awardees also have demonstrated academic achievement and a passion for learning. All of the scholars are either currently completing or looking toward a graduate degree - with half of the students planning to pursue a doctorate. "I am a McNair Scholar and I am working on my research paper with my mentor Ray Briggs on 'African Influence in the Music of Mexico's Costa Chica Region.' The paper is due to be published in spring 2011 in the CSULB McNair Journal," Smith pointed out. "The McNair Scholars Program is a federally funded program under the U.S. Department of Education. It is designed to increase the number of students from underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds who have demonstrated strong, academic potential to go on to graduate study and, in particular, receive their Ph.D.s and later become faculty." Smith plans to attend graduate school and then pursue a Ph.D. to expand his translating abilities. Transferring from Los Angeles City College summa cum laude and from Los Angeles Valley College cum laude, Smith has maintained a 3.65 grade point average at CSULB while taking 18-20 units every semester. And despite his financial difficulties, he finds time to volunteer at Destiny House Ministries in Long Beach as a Spanish interpreter. He also helps other students with planning for their recitals as well as tutoring in Spanish, French and Italian. (He also speaks German, Portuguese and Japanese) Smith made special mention of Lily Salter with the CSULB McNair Program, who played a key role in finding Smith a place to live, and Erma Corona with the CSULB Educational Opportunity Program, who helped him become a candidate for the Hearst/Trustees' Award. Smith also singled out two friends - Rebecca Lynn and Raul Lopez - giving thanks for their continuous support as well as Destiny House Ministries. Those interested can learn more about Smith on his website at www.brianksmith.com. The William Randolph Hearst Foundation originally established the endowed scholarship fund in 1984. In 1999, the Hearst Foundation partnered with the CSU Board of Trustees to supplement the endowment with contributions from CSU Trustees and private donors. From this endowment, the trustees award $3,000 to students who exemplify the scholarship criteria.

********** Published: October 21, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 27