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Student Success 2024

Vedagna Sarabu

Cal State LA graduate, Charmaine Chui
Graduating Cal State LA student to make a difference in the community
15-year-old criminal justice major gets full scholarship to law school

Rongxiang Xu College of Health and Human Services

Rongxiang Xu College of Health and Human Services

Vedagna Sarabu hopes to become a lawyer to help make a difference in her community, advocating for those who need legal assistance or guidance.  

“Growing up, I have observed family and friends who struggled emotionally and financially with legal issues, so my goal is to be trained and equipped to help people navigate through the legal system,” she said.  

The 15-year-old Sarabu will be one step closer to her goal this month when she graduates with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with a minor in law and society.  

She will be attending the Commencement ceremony for the university’s Rongxiang Xu College of Health and Human Services on Tuesday, May 21. The ceremony will take place in the West Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center.  

The Pomona resident is the youngest graduating senior in Cal State LA’s Class of 2024. *  

Sarabu was 11 years old when she enrolled at the university through the Early Entrance Program. The program, which accepts highly gifted students as young as 11 years old, is administered by the Honors College.  

As a young child, Sarabu considered becoming an author of fiction books as she enjoyed reading and writing short stories, but she eventually decided to pursue a career in law to help individuals and families in the community deal with legal matters.  

For her senior thesis project, Sarabu conducted research and compiled a database featuring first-person accounts of former residents of MacLaren Hall. This emergency shelter facility housed children who were removed from their homes or had nowhere else to live while awaiting placement with a foster family.  

The group home, which is now closed, has a documented history of having abused its residents and housed them in unsanitary conditions.  

“The effects of residing at MacLaren Hall have a deep emotional effect; there is no easy way to classify what happens to residents who have been shown that many adults who are supposed to be their caretakers do not care for them, empathize with them, or help them when they’re being abused or assaulted,” she wrote in her thesis paper.  

Sarabu explained that the next part of this initial research would be to examine the first-person experiences of youths in other group homes throughout time and compare their experiences.   

“It is important to determine the common factors and figure out what changes or improvements can be made,” she said, with a resolve to help make a difference in the future.  

Professor Akhila Ananth, who was Sarabu’s faculty advisor on the senior thesis project, praised Sarabu for her work on the research.  

“Veda worked hard in a very challenging data set—coding and analyzing the harrowing stories of young people of color detained at her exact age or younger in Los Angeles’s most abusive group home in recent history,” she said. “Her final paper really honored the grave injustices young Angelenos experienced, and I know her future will forever be impacted by this important work.”  

While studying at Cal State LA, Sarabu volunteered as a tutor for gifted children and middle schoolers. Most recently, Sarabu was working as a law clerk at a workers’ compensation firm to learn about different types of law practice areas. When time allows, she works on her fantasy novel that delves into the theme of redemption.  

A Dean’s List student, she has received a special recognition in Honors College and a certificate of achievement from the Early Entrance Program’s Honors Academy.   

As she reflected on her university experience, Sarabu recommended that incoming students utilize campus resources and take advantage of the opportunities available to them.   

“It was challenging the first year as I had to transition from a middle school to a college environment,” she said.  However, she indicated that the services offered at the University Library and in the Honors College, where she could study with like-minded peers, helped her to acclimate.   

“Cal State LA has helped to shape me to be a better writer and to grow as a student,” she said. “The campus is a safe place to learn and explore your interests.” 

Sarabu recalled being intrigued by various criminal justice classes at Cal State LA. One simulated a real courtroom for students to learn how to effectively represent clients in real cases.  

“I had the opportunity to collaborate with peers on a mock trial acting as a defense,” she said. “From that course, I learned the importance of storytelling and straight-forward legal arguments as a lawyer.”  

“In another class, I learned about judicial organization and analyzed real life cases with the professor,” she added. “Cal State LA has helped prepare me for the next step in my college journey.”  

In the fall, Sarabu is heading to Chapman University’s Dale E. Fowler School of Law on a full scholarship to pursue a juris doctor degree. She was also accepted to law schools at Pepperdine University and Southwestern University.    

*As of May 9, 2024. 

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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 26,000 students and has more than 250,000 distinguished alumni.

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