Grad student receives prestigious scholarship
Graduate student Bryan Rojas-Arauz, who immigrated to the U.S. from Costa Rica at age thirteen, will receive the CSU Trustees’ AT&T Scholarship for Outstanding Achievement at a meeting of the Board of Trustees in Long Beach on Sept. 24.
Awarded to students who have demonstrated exemplary scholarship despite personal hardship, the CSU Trustees’ scholarship will help Rojas-Arauz complete his master’s degree in marriage and family counseling and college counseling.
Rojas-Arauz grew up in the small city of Limón, Costa Rica where he lived with his younger brother and single mother. At age thirteen Rojas-Arauz moved to the United States to live with relatives in the Bay Area. The move relieved financial pressure on his family in Costa Rica, but left Rojas-Arauz, who didn’t speak English, to adjust to a completely new life.
“I first started learning English at school in Berkeley. I went there knowing very little English and feeling very vulnerable. I had an accent. I was different than everybody else,” said Rojas-Arauz. “Once I moved to Concord I had a cousin who was my age. That felt a little better, but we had eight people living in a three bedroom house, and my aunt was always working so there wasn’t a lot of supervision.”
Organized sports became Rojas-Arauz’s “lifeline” once he reached high school. Wrestling and football provided a sense of belonging, says Rojas-Arauz, who was still hiding his status as an undocumented immigrant. “Sports forced me to keep my grades up. I couldn’t hang out with the boys after school because I had practice,” said Rojas-Arauz. “It would have been really easy to go down a different path.”
Rojas-Arauz was the only one of his five best friends from high school to pursue a college degree. He earned his associate degree at Diablo Valley College, where his passion for counseling others was first inspired by his own college counselor. Rojas-Arauz would later earn dual bachelor’s degrees in psychology and child development at San Jose State University.
Rojas-Arauz received U.S. residency status the summer before starting graduate school at SF State and expects to earn his M.S. in marriage, family, and child therapy and college counseling in 2015. He currently interns in the same college counseling office that first motivated him to pursue the study of social sciences. He intends to earn a Ph.D. in counseling psychology to become a clinician but wants to keep volunteering his time to counsel at-risk youth.
“Counselors see the potential that the student can’t see themselves,” said Rojas-Arauz “Growing up there were a lot of inner city kids who could have used that help but didn’t get it. After talking to my college counselor for the first time I started to think, maybe I am college material after all.”