CSU Trustees' Award Honoree Seeks to ‘Finish Strong’

Cal State Fullerton Student to Be Recognized Sept. 8

CSUF Hispanic Outlook jobs in Higher Education

Ask Cal State Fullerton student Todd Callahan about being in a tough spot, and he will probably tell you that you can turn it around.

The public administration major is among 23 recipients chosen statewide for the 2015-16 CSU Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement. The award is presented each year to students who demonstrate superior academic performance, personal accomplishments, community service and financial need. Honorees will be recognized at the Sept. 8 meeting of the CSU Board of Trustees.

While working full time, Callahan returned to school to become a fire inspector, enrolling at Santa Ana College in 2011. During his first semester, he had reconstructive surgery to repair damaged tendons in his leg. As he was recuperating, his mother was diagnosed with cancer.

"What I thought was a transformation for me, putting my life back on track, turned out to be an opportunity for me to take care of my mother," he explains. "I thought it was about me, but I was actually there to help her with her journey and battle against cancer."

She passed away before she had the chance to see him get married that year and before the birth of his new son. After that, says Callahan, "it became my passion to finish strong."

In a daily struggle to "make things happen" that included having to choose gas over food to get to school, learning to walk again and blending together a family of seven, Callahan graduated with highest honors, a professional certificate and two associate degrees from Santa Ana College. He enrolled at Cal State Fullerton in fall 2014 and began a new job for the city of Long Beach Fire Department, working 10-hour shifts and going to school at night.

Callahan, a member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma, and Yuriy Dzyuba of Sacramento State, are this year's recipients of the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation scholarships. The Sycuan Band is one of 13 Kumeyaay tribes, each a sovereign nation with its own federally established reservation.

A member of Phi Theta Kappa, Callahan is also the recipient of the President's Volunteer Service Award from President Barack Obama for his volunteer work. Now a senior, Callahan plans to continue his education to pursue graduate degrees in public administration and law and is considering a career in teaching.

“I hope to help others to embrace, harness and maximize their potential via education,” he said.