Prestigious Strauss scholarships go to two service-minded UCLA students
Two UCLA students have been chosen to receive prestigious Strauss Foundation scholarships, given annually to up to 15 California students who have demonstrated a commitment to public service. The scholarships come with a $10,000 award.
The UCLA students are Kendra Knudsen, who was also honored recently with UCLA's Charles E. Young Humanitarian Award for her work with a Santa Monica nonprofit that serves people affected by mental illness, and Angela Sanchez, who has created a campus chapter of a nonprofit that provides tutors for homeless students in Southern California and who was once homeless herself.
As with all Strauss recipients, both students will use the bulk of their awards to underwrite their service projects.
G. Jennifer Wilson, UCLA's assistant vice provost for honors and the chair of a campus committee that selects candidates for the Strauss and other awards, said the Strauss is "my complete favorite" because of the way it promotes public service.
"The students who apply for this scholarship not only have to have a stellar academic record and a significant history of public service but also have to undertake a real public service project that they design, that they explain the significance of, that they show the feasibility of and that they then, in fact, implement," Wilson said. "Right away, they start off in a kind of practicum which is going to help them develop their already significant leadership skills."
Sanchez, 21, a third-year history major with minors in English and education, founded and directs UCLA's branch of School on Wheels Inc., a nonprofit that tutors homeless K–12 students in the Los Angeles area. She has a special connection to these students, having herself been homeless while she was attending Hoover High School in Glendale, from which she graduated. She and her father spent two years in a homeless shelter, during which time she was tutored by a School on Wheels counselor. Sanchez, in turn, helped other students in the shelter.
"I was inspired to begin a School on Wheels student group here at UCLA for one simple reason: I wished to repay a service that had been afforded to me," she said.
Wilson noted that Sanchez, "instead of falling into depression or having her own grades suffer, made the experience meaningful." With the Strauss award, Wilson added, Sanchez "wants to ensure that homelessness, either through social stigma or financial distress, does not destroy a child's ambition for higher education."
Besides tutoring, UCLA's School on Wheels program offers workshops on financial aid, scholarship awareness and college readiness and sponsors a tour of UCLA. The Strauss award will be used for transportation to schools, enriched tutoring activities and tutor training.
Sanchez, who lives in the Highland Park area of Los Angeles, intends to seek a graduate degree and teaching credential and eventually move into school administration.
Knudsen, 22, of Pleasanton, Calif., a psychobiology major who will graduate in winter 2013, developed the Creative Minds Project at Step Up on Second. Working with people affected by mental illness, the project utilizes creative art therapies to foster change and progress toward recovery, stability and reintegration into society. In particular, Knudsen is an art teacher and coordinator of "Julie's Room," Step Up on Second's art studio, where she is bringing together UCLA undergraduate and graduate students to facilitate creative art therapy groups. To help sustain the project, Knudsen collaborated with UCLArts and Healing, a nonprofit organization that facilitates the use of the arts for empowerment and transformation.
Aaron Criswell, director of supportive services for Step Up on Second, said that many of the members of Step Up are not only fighting the stigma of mental illness but homelessness as well. "Kendra's sincere acceptance of the members and her promotion of dignity and compassion make the art studio a popular haven," he said.
Knudsen plans to pursue a doctorate in clinical neuropsychology to investigate how creative thinking may yield health benefits for both mentally ill and healthy individuals.
The Strauss scholarships are given by the Donald A. Strauss Public Service Scholarship Foundation, established as a memorial to Donald A. Strauss, who served on both the Newport Beach City Council and the Newport–Mesa Unified School District board. He died in 1995 at age 79. His wife, Dorothy M.R. Strauss, established the foundation in 1997, and it has since awarded 220 scholarships to California college students who have demonstrated a desire to "make a difference." Dorothy Strauss died in late 1997.