Anthony Robles never imagined that he would attend a university. As a youth, he was arrested and faced a seemingly bleak future.
But Tuesday, Robles was one of 23 students to receive the 2017 California State University (CSU) Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement—the CSU’s highest recognition of student achievement and scholarship.
A sociology major and Chicano studies minor at California State University, Los Angeles (Cal State LA), Robles was honored during the September 19 CSU Board of Trustees meeting in Long Beach. He was presented with an $8,000 award and named a Trustee Emeritus Murray L. Galinson Scholar.
“I am deeply humbled and appreciative to receive this award,” said Robles, 24, who lives in La Puente. “This scholarship, besides being an awesome and a very needed financial reward, represents transformation and possibility. It is a testament that anything is possible no matter where you are at in life or what you might have been through.”
Robles’ family has struggled to make ends meet. His father, who works in a warehouse, was an undocumented immigrant and deported three times. His mother battled cancer.
As a teenager, Robles had run-ins with police and was arrested. He found himself facing a possible sentence of two years for carrying contraband into a police station. That experience changed his life, Robles recalled.
He wanted to help his family and make his parents proud. He set a goal to complete high school and go to college. He earned a high school diploma and was accepted to Rio Hondo College. In 2016, he enrolled at Cal State LA.
Now, Robles is in his senior year and has a 3.7 GPA. He is on his way to becoming the first in his family to earn a university degree. His goal is to become a professor. He wants to help transform the lives of young people through education, just as his life was transformed.
“We’re proud of Anthony and what he has overcome on his path to a university education,” Cal State LA President William A. Covino said. “His dedication to his community and social justice is unwavering. He is poised to become a scholar whose research will shed fresh light on matters impacting youth and immigrants.”
Robles’ life challenges have motivated him to pursue a degree in sociology with a focus on immigration, criminal justice and environmental justice.
Having experienced first-hand the impact of immigration on his family, Robles is writing a book chapter on the criminalization of immigration. He also helped create an immigrant detention visitation and pen pal program at Cal State LA called the Migrant Liberation Collective.
For his senior thesis, he is examining prosecutorial discretion and racialized decision-making in the criminal justice system. He also organized a club that serves as a support network for students who have been incarcerated.
“Academia has taken me from a destructive environment to a positive environment full of possibilities and opportunities to help transform others’ lives,” Robles said. “Because of the transformative experiences I have had in college, I now live an inspired life filled with hope rather than calamity and despair.”
Robles finds time to mentor high school students in East Los Angeles and to volunteer at Habitat for Humanity, the L.A. Food Bank and Earth Peace. He is a member of Project Rebound, a university program that assists incarcerated students. With determination and drive, Robles is committed to helping young people in his community.
“Everything I accomplish is with those who are marginalized in mind because success is not personal for me. It is mutual, reciprocal and shared,” he said. “It is meant to uplift others.”
The CSU Trustees’ Award program was originally established by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation as an endowed scholarship fund to honor William Randolph Hearst, founder of the Hearst newspaper chain. In 1999, the William Randolph Hearst Foundation partnered with the CSU Board of Trustees to supplement the endowment with contributions from CSU Trustees, CSU Foundation Board of Governors, and private donors. Today, more than 120 donors have supported the program.
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California State University, Los Angeles is the premier comprehensive public university in the heart of Los Angeles. Cal State LA is ranked number one in the United States for the upward mobility of its students. Cal State LA is dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good, offering nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education, and the humanities. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 28,000 students and has more than 245,000 distinguished alumni.
Cal State LA is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, Billie Jean King Sports Complex and the TV, Film and Media Center. For more information, visit www.CalStateLA.edu.