Asia Wilson and Sandra Saldivar each hit a low point in their respective academic careers, but rather than let that put them on a path to dropping out of college, they took on the challenge to not only stay in school, but succeed in a big way.
For their efforts during the 2014 winter quarter, the two Cal State San Bernardino students were named recipients of the Dianna J. Pelletier Resiliency Scholarship, which provides a financial incentive to encourage students on academic probation, or were dismissed from the university, to stay in school.
The scholarship, which was created by the university’s Office of Advising and Academic Services, gives students the opportunity to apply for a scholarship after they have reached a minimum 3.2 grade-point average for a specific quarter. Qualifying students receive a $500 scholarship award after the quarter.
Wilson, a sociology major from Long Beach who will be participating in Commencement exercises in June, was laid off from her job before the fall 2013 quarter. “I was very down and depressed during this time,” she wrote in her essay as part of her application for the scholarship. “I didn’t know what I was going to do about money and what I would do to pay my bills.”
On top of that, Wilson commuted twice a week from Long Beach to San Bernardino for classes. “School was still my main priority,” Wilson said in an interview. “But I had so many other issues that I was focusing on. I wasn’t putting all my attention on school.”
Her grades slipped to the point that she was put on academic probation at the end of the fall quarter. Still, Wilson said she saw that coming, and had begun to turn her focus toward her academics at the end of that quarter after figuring out her finances. Because that happened late in the term, the effort wasn’t reflected in her grades.
“When I got the email (notifying her about being placed on probation), I said, ‘Oh gosh, I’m not going to even let that bother me because I will do better,’” Wilson said.
Saldivar, a sophomore liberal studies major from Ontario, said the new-found freedom of college life led to her grades slipping. “Coming into the dorms (on campus), not having my parents telling me, ‘No, you can’t go out until you finish this’ — all the freedom got to me,” she said.
For someone who graduated from Ontario High School with honors and a 4.0 grade-point average, it was a bit of a shock. In high school, Saldivar said, she could study at the last minute and still get a good grade on a test. “I figured out that it doesn’t work like that here,” she said.
As her grades dropped, things began to snowball. When she was notified that she was going on academic probation, Saldivar said, “Going from a 4.0 student in high school to academic probation, I was really disappointed in myself.”
The biggest wake-up call, however, was when she learned that she was in danger of losing her financial aid, which would have meant dropping out of school. That, and a talk with one of her sisters about priorities, put Saldivar back on the right path.
Now that they have worked hard to bring their grades back to where they want them to be, Saldivar and Wilson say they have learned valuable lessons, not just for themselves, but that they can share with other students facing similar circumstances.
Saldivar said keeping one’s priorities was important, especially for fellow students who are making the transition from high school to college life. “I would tell them college isn’t a game,” she said. “It might seem like it’s freedom and having fun. But when you get to the point where I was, when you get a note that you might not get your financial aid, that’s scary.”
For Wilson, it was learning not to give up, no matter how bad the situation may be. “You have to keep going,” she said. “I could have just lost my job and dropped out of school. (But instead) it made me just focus more on everything – finances, school. Just keep going and don’t let one bad time in your life get you down.”
The Academic Resiliency Scholarship Fund was established in 2007 and co-founded by Dianna J. Pelletier, a CSUSB alumna who was an academic adviser in the university’s Office of Advising and Academic Services. Pelletier came to the university as a student in 1969, earning bachelor’s degrees in French and English and a master combination degree in education and writing. She also earned teaching credentials for French and English.
She served as a full-time staff member of the university from the early 1970s, coordinating the study skills PEP (Preparatory Enrichment Program) in the Learning Center. She also served as an academic adviser for the next 30 years in Advising and Academic Services. She taught the study skills course for undergraduate studies and French for the department of world languages and literature. In 1995-1996, Pelletier received the university’s Special Achievement Award as the Outstanding Employee. She died in October 2012 after years of battling cancer. In December 2012, in her honor, the name of the fund was officially changed to the Dianna J. Pelletier Resiliency Scholarship Fund.
Individuals or organizations interested in assisting The Dianna J. Pelletier Resiliency Scholarship Fund to financially encourage more Cal State San Bernardino students can contribute to the CSUSB Philanthropic Foundation and designate the Dianna J. Pelletier Resiliency Scholarship P308540, as the program. Contact the CSUSB Philanthropic Foundation at (909) 537-7769, by fax at (909) 537-7017 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
For more information about the program, visit The Dianna Pelletier Resiliency Scholarship Fund website, or contact Ray Navarro, director of CSUSB Advising and Academic Services, at (909) 537-3022 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on Cal State San Bernardino, contact the university’s Office of Public Affairs at (909) 537-5007 and visit news.csusb.edu.