By Staff Reports
(Victor Valley)– On Nov. 5, the Undocumented Student Success Center celebrated its third anniversary of helping students. One of the highlights was the presentation by members of the Carvajal/Hale family, founders of Optima Family Services, who gave a $10,000 scholarship to CSUSB student Sam Martinez.
For CSUSB alumna Natalia Hale and her family, creating The Optima Family Services Scholarship this past academic year was their way of helping future CSUSB DREAMers in the same way the university helped Hale and her sister when they were undergraduates.
“My family and I started the scholarship through our company, Optima Family Services, in order to pay it forward — to be part of this community that has helped our family so much, to give back to this community, and to be able to allow another student the same opportunities that my sister and I were granted,” Hale said.
Both Hale and her sister, Isabel Carvajal, were recipients of CSUSB’s President’s Academic Excellence Scholarship (PAES), with Hale graduating with a political science degree in 2009 and Carvajal graduating in 2007 with a degree in biology. PAES is awarded to San Bernardino County high school students who rank in the top one percent of their graduating class.
“The President’s Academic Excellence Scholarship that I was awarded was the reason I was able to pursue my career goal of becoming an attorney,” said Hale, who is an associate attorney at Ford Walker Haggerty & Behar.
According to Hale, PAES was a financial “saving grace” as her parents could not afford to send her nor her sister to college.
“It was also helpful because due to our immigration status, there was no financial aid available to me,” she said. “There was no other avenue for loans or grants, and the scholarship was the only reason we were able to attend college at all.”
Due to her and her sister’s experience, Hale and her family decided to create the Optima Family Services Scholarship to provide support to graduating high school seniors with a declared major in the College of Social & Behavioral Sciences or College of Natural Sciences with a minimum high school GPA of 3.5, with preference given to DREAMers.
“It is specifically geared toward students that are DACA recipients that are involved or participating in the Undocumented Student Success Center,” said Hale. “It is meant to give those students an opportunity to be able to afford college and attend Cal State San Bernardino; otherwise, they may not be afforded the opportunity because financial aid is not often given to students who don’t have permanent resident status in the United States.”
Hale and her family created their scholarship through their family-owned and -operated company, which provides services to the community and helps families of children with special needs reach their highest potential.
“Knowing that we are helping other students afford an education has been so significant and it makes us feel that we are paying it forward in a community that has helped us so much, and being an ally, being a part of that successful process for a student is a humbling experience,” said Hale. “And doing so fills us with so much pride in Cal State San Bernardino.”
To learn more about the Undocumented Student Success Center, visit its website at csusb.edu/undocumented-student-success-center.