2017 Presidential Scholars Benefit

2017 Presidential Scholars


Each year, California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) President Willie J. Hagan hosts the Presidential Scholars Benefit, an elegant gathering of scholars and their families, university officials, college deans, and supporters that celebrates the academic achievements of those awarded the university’s most prestigious distinction, that of Presidential Scholar.

Hosted on campus in the StubHub Center’s Stadium Club, the benefit also provides university partners and sponsors the opportunity to meet the Presidential Scholars, hear them speak, and learn about the goals and aspirations of these accomplished student leaders and ambassadors of Cal State Dominguez Hills.

Corporate sponsors recognized during the 2017 Presidential Scholars Benefit included “President” level sponsor” the Shell Oil Company, “Diamond” level sponsor the StubHub Center, and “Platinum” level sponsor the Watson Land Company.

Since its inception in 1990, the Presidential Scholars program has awarded more than 165 scholarships to freshmen and transfer students. The scholars are selected for the program through a juried application process. Those selected receive full payment of in-state fees, an allowance of books and supplies, a lap-top computer, complimentary parking permits, as well as support and guidance while they are students at CSUDH.

In return, Presidential Scholars must show evidence of high academic achievement, leadership skills, and community involvement.

2017 Presidential Scholars Benefit

This year, nine graduating Presidential Scholars sat down for candid video interviews to share how the program has helped them overcome personal obstacles, excel academically, and prepare for successful careers. The videos were played April 28 during the 2017 Presidential Scholars Benefit.

Nancy Santos, business administration – cum laude

“After graduation I plan to work as an accountant for the Long Beach Unified School District. Growing up I always enjoyed both working with children and helping them with their education. But I also have a love for math, accounting, and business, which is why I pursued a degree in accounting. So for me [the accountant job] would be the best of both worlds—using my degree in accounting while remaining involved with children’s education.”








Lafleche-Marie Bourgeault, art/studio art – magna cum laude

“Once a Toro, always a Toro! I am so happy and proud to be part of this family. Besides being a Cal State Dominguez Hills graduate, my greatest achievement here is being a Presidential Scholar. It is an honor that I will carry with me the rest of my life.”










Sarah Wheeler, history – summa cum laude

“My greatest achievement as a presidential scholar was receiving the scholarship itself. It has played such a pivotal force in my life, and it has helped me build the foundation for all the things that will come to me during the rest of my life.”









Irvin Sotelo, business administration – magna cum laude

“A significant impact that the presidential scholarship has had for me was enabling me to continue to provide services to the community while attending Cal State Dominguez Hills, as well as the knowledge that I have gained and being able to use it at work and in the community. [After I graduate] I’m planning a one-year vacation from college. Then I will return to college and pursue my MBA, and finally obtain my Ph.D.”









Matthew Yu, chemistry – summa cum laude

“The most important thing about the Presidential Scholarship is that it relieves you of the financial burden typically placed on students. It has also allowed me to focus on finding a career. I have been able to meet a lot of people and contacts, most of whom I wouldn’t have met without the scholarship. But my greatest achievement as the Presidential Scholar was getting into medical school.”









Viridiana Siordia, English – magna cum laude

“Once I started my major courses I realized it was going to be harder to keep up with my classes because I was taking a heavy course load that required many textbooks. So if it wasn’t for the scholarship I wouldn’t have been able to afford them all. After graduation I will continue with my education. I will be in the credential program, and hopefully I will be teaching by August 2017.”









Jose Ibarra, human services – cum laude

When I first got accepted to the university, I was excited, but at the same time I had no idea how I was going to pay for college, or if I even would have the time being that I was working full-time and raising my son. But since the scholarship freed up so much of my time, I was able to intern at various locations, such as with youth in the City of Watts at Locke High School (Alain LeRoy Locke College Preparatory Academy), as well as with individuals at the Disabled Resource Center of Long Beach. During my time there, I met a lot of individuals who became mentors for me and began helping me out in the social services field.”







Deion Paysinger, theatre arts

“There were a few bus rides on Saturdays and Sundays which would take two hours to get to campus, two hours to get back home, and there was a five-hour window in the library in between. So I had doubts, I had major doubts, but receiving the free laptop [as a scholar] opened up so much time, opened up so much mental space, and sort of changed me as a person. If you change the mental aspect, you can change a person. So I [became] much livelier, in a much better place, and I was able to apply myself much more effectively.”








Presidential Scholar Wendy OrtegaWendy Ortega, child development

“The impact that the scholarship has had on my life is additional motivation for me to volunteer in the community. As a child development major, I really want to help children. I [currently] host dinners at a local Ronald McDonald House for families with children who have been diagnosed with cancer. I also volunteer at preschools that are located in my community.”