Sonoma State University senior biochemistry major Elizabeth Valverde Campos was only 10 when her family fled to California from violence in Mexico City. After overcoming the challenges coupled with documentation, learning a new country and a new language, Valverde Campos’ hard work is being recognized with the California State University Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement.
This award is presented once a year to 24 students who exhibit personal achievements, participate in community service and demonstrate academic excellence.
“She is an amazing student who cares about helping undocumented and first generation students like herself, especially in STEM education,” said Sonoma State President Judy K. Sakaki.
Valverde Campos said it was not easy to begin a new life. She learned English in the fourth grade and explained how difficult it was not understanding her teachers and to experience a communication gap with her peers. When it came time to apply for college, she said she was grateful to have help from her older sister, who had already gone through the process.
“I think it was actually a lot harder for her, because she really had no help. I had her, but the hardest part was financial aid. The DREAM Act was not approved yet, so things were different,” said Valverde Campos.
Many of the obstacles that Valverde Campos can prove challenging, and this award recognizes her academic excellence in the face of adversity.
“Her story about overcoming hardships as an undocumented and first generation student is inspiring to all of us,” said Bill Kidder, associate vice president at Sonoma State,
Valverde Campos works in the tutoring center on campus, assisting fellow students with the hardships of chemistry. When she was in high school, she tutored as well, helping students from elementary to high school and with SAT preparation. Her achievements and hard work have additionally led her to her be recognized with Presidential Scholar and the 2015-2016 McNair Scholar honors.
Valverde Campos said she loves working at the tutoring center as she wants to be a teacher and believes tutoring has set her in the right direction.
Valverde Campos was the top applicant chosen at Sonoma State to be recommended to the California State University as an award recipient.
“When I got the call from scholarship services that my application would be the one sent in from Sonoma State, I was thrilled,” said Valverde Campos. “I was having a very stressful week, then I immediately felt better.”
Actually receiving the award came as a surprise, she said.
Valverde Campos shared she would not have applied if she had not been encouraged by Mariana Martinez, McNair Scholars program research coordinator at Sonoma State.
Since having received the award, Valverde Campos says she feels as though much of her hard work in college has, in a way, paid off.
“When they flew us all out to Long Beach for the ceremony on Sept. 20, I was given the opportunity to meet so many important people like President Judy Sakaki, and it was really exciting to meet the other award winners from the other CSUs. I was happy for them, as well as myself,” said Valverde Campos.
Valverde Campos believes the award could possibly open up doors for other opportunities. It’s more important to her right now to focus on the continuation of her studies, graduating and applying to graduate school.
“The CSU Trustee Award is a huge honor. I’m sure I will be able to go even further having been given that recognition,” said Valverde Campos.