2012 Hearst/CSU scholar overcomes poverty, health issues

Alcoholism, domestic violence, divorce and the struggles of living in a single-parent household seemed to foretell a dim future for Fresno State graduate student Oscar Perez. Instead, his hard-life experiences inspired him to earn degrees in two majors and dedicated himself to helping others and is Fresno State’s 2012 William R. Hearst/California State University (CSU) Trustees Award recipient for outstanding achievement.

The CSU’s highest recognition of student accomplishment is awarded to 23 students – one at each of the CSU campuses – who have demonstrated financial need, experienced personal hardship and model exemplary academic performance, community service and personal accomplishments.

They will be honored at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18, at a ceremony at the Dumke Auditorium (401 Golden Shore Ave.) in Long Beach as part of the CSU trustees’ next meeting.

The William Randolph Hearst Foundation endowed the scholarship fund in 1984, and it was supplemented, beginning in 1999, with trustee contributions and private donations. Each year, the Hearst/CSU Trustees program awards $3,000 to each student. There are four other scholarship awards ranging from $5,000 to $10,000.

Perez, 25, said he never saw himself attending a university, much less becoming successful in his lifetime because his childhood was full of adversities growing grew up in the small town of Toppenish, in central Washington. He credits his mother for persevering and inspiring him to succeed.

“I feel that I am proof that no matter how hard life is, one can become someone with the right inspiration in their life,” Perez said. “I owe all my achievements and success to her. She believed education was the key.”

In 2011, Perez graduated from Fresno State with degrees in social work and broadcast journalism and then entered the master’s program in social work. Currently serving a term as a senator-at-large in the Associated Students Inc. Senate, he plans to complete his graduate work in spring 2013.

His passion for human justice and equality led Perez to volunteer countless hours at the Center for Women and Culture and the Social Work Student Association. He also served numerous populations within the community, including homeless people, battered and abused women, abused children and underprivileged families.

Perez has been president of Students Providing Empowerment, Advocacy & Knowledge (SPEAK), which educates the public about domestic violence and sexual abuse.

“Oscar is committed to giving a voice to the voiceless and a helping hand to those in need,” Fresno State President John D. Welty said in nominating him.

After receiving his master’s degree, Perez plans a career as a social worker and an international correspondent on child and social welfare issues.

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Tom Uribes

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Public Affairs Specialist, University Communications
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