SDSI Alumnus Awarded $50K Scholarship

Fullerton College and Student Diversity Success Initiative (SDSI) alumnus Clarissa Leyva had no idea what was in store for her when she graduated this past May. As she prepared to transfer to Cal State University, Fullerton, the thought of how she would pay for the rest of her education began to loom. On one end, she was thrilled to have received her Associate of Arts Degree, and credits much of her success to the SDSI program, which helped her identify her strengths through life skills coaching, counseling, and tutoring, but on the other end she was concerned how the next chapter of her educational journey would unfold.

Over the summer, Leyva received the exciting news she’d been waiting for – she’d been accepted into CSUF’s BOLD Women’s Leadership Network program, an intergenerational initiative across four institutions of higher education led by women presidents that have demonstrated their commitment to collaboration, innovation, diversity and inclusion. Under the program Leyva would receive a $50,000 scholarship, which would include funds for tuition and housing to complete her undergraduate degree in the next two years.

As an SDSI participant, ambassador and tutor, Leyva acknowledges she couldn’t have done it without the support she received while involved with the SDSI program. “My biggest involvement stemmed from this program,” she said. “This program provided me with life skills coaching, which I was in desperate need of.”

When Leyva arrived at Fullerton College two years ago she juggled a two hour commute, full-time job and taking full-time classes. As a first-generation college student, she admits that life was not easy.

“I come from a family of addiction, incarceration and poverty,” she said. “But I was lucky enough to have great mentors and co-workers within SDSI, such as Michelle Garcia, director and manager of SDSI, and the student athletic program, Incite.”

Her mentors at SDSI encouraged her to apply for the BOLD Women’s Leadership Scholarship citing that a reflection of Leyva’s work ethic and dedication is how quickly she moves into leadership roles within her work spaces. While at FC, Leyva was chosen for a summer research internship with the Center for Research on Educational Access and Leadership (CREAL), and assisted with creating a presentation for the California Community College Latina Leadership Network Conference in 2017.

Leyva is excited to continue her education at CSUF and continues to encourage all students to seek opportunities and programs like SDSI. “My biggest goal in life is to advocate to others that despite where they come from or their surroundings, they can truly make something of themselves if they are willing to take the steps to do so,” Leyva said.

For more information on how to participate in SDSI, visit

Author: Fullerton College

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