Jose Alvarez remembers his mom sitting on their maroon couch, tears streaming down her face. That was the day when his dad told Jose that he, just 8 years old, was now the man of the house, when he left the family behind, slamming the door on his way out.

The years that followed weren’t easy for Alvarez’s mother or the five children. But strength can arise from adversity. For Alvarez, the hard years became his call to action. He stepped up, caring for his younger siblings, helping his mom at the family business.

Alvarez attributes his success in the years since his father left — in honors courses in high school and now at Fresno State — to the inspiration from his mother as she led and took care of their family. Watching her made him want to help others.

Alvarez, in his third semester with Fresno State’s School of Nursing, is one of 23 students chosen by the California State University (one from each campus) to receive the 2020 CSU Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement, the CSU system’s highest recognition of student achievement. He is the Trustee Emeritus Peter Mehas Scholar.

“These diverse and distinguished students wonderfully exemplify the CSU’s core values of academic achievement and service to the community, “ said CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White. “All of these scholars have overcome unique challenges on their educational journeys, and their stories have left an indelible positive impact on their families, communities and the state of California.”

Alvarez was able to manage everything he did by learning to organize his responsibilities through his personal calendar. He successfully juggled challenging AP classes, helping his mom, taking care of his younger siblings and doing his homework.

At Madera South High School, Alvarez was a founding member of the mock trial team. The first year, the team finished in last place, but by Alvarez’s senior year they came in second in the Valley. He graduated high school magna cum laude, with a 4.0 GPA.

Alvarez kept his momentum going, working to earn a 4.0 GPA at Reedley Community College, building a solid base for continuing his education at Fresno State.

“The day I received my acceptance letter from the Fresno State Nursing program I was ecstatic,” Alvarez said. “The smile on my mother’s face was everything to me and continues to fuel my every move. I have learned compassion, love, and care through my mother and these are also traits and characteristics of a nurse.”

At Fresno State, Alvarez often volunteers with Fresno State’s Community Mobile Health Unit, which takes much-needed health services into underserved communities.

After his graduation, anticipated in fall 2021, Alvarez hopes to work as a registered nurse at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, where he can continue to help others.

Students honored with the Trustees’ Award will be recognized during a ceremony as part of the CSU Board of Trustees’ virtual meeting on Sept. 22, which will feature a compilation of self-made videos from each scholar.

“We are incredibly proud of Jose for his resilience and accomplishments, despite significant roadblocks,” said Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro. “Jose exemplifies the incredible talent and tremendous potential of Fresno State students — the next generation of leaders in the Valley and beyond.”

More than 380 students have been honored with the Trustees’ Award since the scholarship program was established in 1984 by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation.