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Sept. 19, 2007


Dominguez Hills Hearst/CSU Trustees’ Award Recipient
Succeeds As Student, Single Parent

Carson, CA California State University, Dominguez Hills alumnus and current multi-subject credential program student John Shaffer has been selected as a 2007-08 William R. Hearst/CSU Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement recipient. Shaffer and his fellow Hearst/CSU Trustees’ Award scholars, each representing one of the 23 CSU campuses, were recognized for their achievements during a special presentation at the California State University Board of Trustee meeting Tuesday, Sept. 18

The Hearst/CSU Trustees’ Award, endowed by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation and donations from CSU Trustees and private donors, is a $3,000 scholarship given annually to students in the CSU system who demonstrate not only financial need but also academic success in the face of personal hardships.

Shaffer, a 48-year-old single father of twins, said that the $3,000 scholarship was definitely a plus and something that will allow him to concentrate on his studies more, but that the recognition of all his hard work was the real reward.

“It’s really awesome because I’ve worked really hard, and to get acknowledgement from an outside source means so much,” Shaffer said. “I guess all that time I stayed home to study instead of going out has paid off in a way.”

For Shaffer, the choice between going out and studying was never a difficult one to make: Doing well in school has meant he can continue to receive state aid through the CalWORKS welfare program, and the ultimate outcome will mean a better life for him and his children. He also does it to set a good example for his 8-year-old son and daughter.

“They see the work ethic and it helps them form good habits,” he said. “I wish I had gone to school when I was younger, but honestly, this has turned out to be the right time; my kids have the opportunity to go through this with me. I feel blessed.”

Shaffer’s return to school came during a relatively low point in his life. He had just gone through a divorce from his children’s mother and although he had been granted full custody of the twins, he was not in the best financial position to care for them.

He knew that if he could pursue his dream of becoming a teacher he could provide for his family, but that career path seemed remote given his circumstances. As it turns out, it was just such circumstances—needing assistance for CalWORKs— that would provide the impetus for him to turn his dream into reality: CalWORKs provides welfare assistance for those in need who also seek to improve their situation through education. Here was his chance.

Once accepted into CalWORKs, Shaffer immediately enrolled in Golden West Community College and within two years had his A.A. degree. Shaffer said the CalWORKs program initially allowed only two years of schooling, but as he was graduating from Golden West they extended the program to five years. Knowing he would have the financial support, Shaffer sought his bachelor’s degree, applying to Dominguez Hills because of its strong liberal studies and teacher credential programs. He enrolled in fall 2005.

Between caring for his children full time, volunteering at their school and working part time, Shaffer managed to maintain a 3.9 GPA in the two years it took to complete his bachelor’s degree Dominguez Hills. This past May he became the first in his family to graduate from college, and he did so with honors. Shaffer is back in school this semester, in the multi-subject credential program. He anticipates completing his credential in May 2008 and hopes to be in front of a classroom as a teacher by this time next year.

Shaffer said despite the hardships, or possibly because of them, he believes these last few years have molded him into a better man and, hopefully soon, into a caring and motivational teacher.

“ I come from a middle-class white background. I had never experienced being down and out,” Shaffer admitted. “It was really humbling to say ‘I need help.’ I think that will benefit me when I get into the classroom. I can better understand the lives of my students and the concerns of parents. I needed to experience this.”

For more information about the William R. Hearst/CSU Trustees' Award, visit http://www.calstate.edu/foundation/hearst/

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About CSU Dominguez Hills -- California State University, Dominguez Hills is a highly diverse, urban university located in the South Bay, primarily serving the Los Angeles metropolitan area. The university prides itself on its outstanding faculty and friendly, student-centered environment. Known for excellence in teacher education, nursing, psychology, business administration, and digital media arts, new degree programs include computer science, criminal justice, recreation and leisure studies, social work, and communication disorders. On campus is the Home Depot Center, a multi-purpose sports complex that hosts world-class soccer, tennis, track and field, lacrosse, and cycling.




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