California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) undergraduate Juan Venegas knows the value of hard work and isn’t afraid to give everything his all.
For Venegas’ perseverance and dedication to his future and to helping others, the California State University (CSU) is honoring him as CSUDH recipient of the 2019 CSU Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement. The Award is the CSU’s highest recognition of student achievement, providing annual scholarships to one student on each CSU campus who demonstrates superior academic performance, personal accomplishments, community service, and financial need.
Growing up with his single mother in a low-income neighborhood in San Jose, California, Venegas started working at the age of fourteen to help make ends meet. While still in high school, he took on a second job to further support his family.
Venegas’ academic career has also often been a struggle. Learning disabilities made reading difficult, and his school didn’t have the resources to adequately address his needs. He and his fellow students in special education classes were stigmatized as “not being good enough.” As Venegas put it, “It was up to me to fight for my education.”
He devoted himself to his studies, confronting his learning difficulties head-on. Language barriers made it hard for family or friends to help him with his work, so Venegas took it upon himself to become a better student.
“I challenged myself to read books above my reading level, take courses outside my special ed classes, and enrolled in community college while still in high school,” he said.
As if he wasn’t busy enough, Venegas’ commitment to his community manifested itself in volunteer work. When devastating flooding hit San Jose in 2017, he started a toiletry drive to help those affected and gave classroom presentations on flood preparation. He also mobilized his community to raise funds for victims of the 2017 Mexico earthquake.
Organizing efforts such as those, coupled with his own history of challenges, helped Venegas discover what he considers his purpose in life: “giving back to others in need.” He won his high school’s Humanitarian Award due to his inspirational work.
All his hard work paid off—Venegas graduated in the top 25 of his class and became the first member of his family to attend a four-year university when he was accepted into CSUDH. Venegas is currently pursuing a degree in journalism while exploring his educational options.
After graduating, Venegas plans to continue his education, with the ultimate goal of teaching future generations to embrace who they are and where they come from.
“I want to leave a legacy of community involvement and show the importance of helping those in need,” he said. “I will show the next generation what it takes to succeed in college and in life.”