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CSUS scholarships help moms start over
A scholarship can mean a world of difference to struggling college students. Especially those who are raising families and wanting to get into better-paying careers.

Just ask Hughson's Helen A. Arguelles of Hughson, and Ceres residents Tracy Blackwood and Mariana Sandoval, all teaching credential graduate students at California State University, Stanislaus. The three local students are among the 23 Mary Stuart Rogers scholars hailing from diverse backgrounds to develop reputations of academic excellence.

Recipients of the 2008-09 scholarship awards were honored by John and June Rogers of the Mary Stuart Rogers Foundation at a Thursday reception and dinner program on the CSU Stanislaus campus.

Sandoval said the $3,500 scholarship was put to great use.

"Especially now with the economy the way it is and I work full-time," said Sandoval. "Just going to school itself is expensive plus transportation and baby-sitters and living expenses."

Sandoval went back to college in order to become a teacher and has her sights set for third- or fourth-grade, possibly in Ceres.

"Personal advancement got me to go to college," said Sandoval.

Sandoval works as a veterinarian technician and is the mother of three children, aged 12, 17 and 22. She is now the first-generation college graduate of her family.

The scholarship has also helped Arguelles, who dropped out of high school as a teenage mother about two decades ago. While pregnant she worked various odd jobs, including a job at J.C. Penney. She got married and became a stay-at-home mom to raise her daughter. When the marriage broke up, Helen moved back in with her parents.

"That's when I had to make a decision," said Helen. "I was either going to be working at McDonalds or I had to go back and finish some kind of education."

At the prompting of her mother, Rosemary Arguelles, Helen acquired her G.E.D. and studied at Modesto Junior College where she made the Dean's List and the President's List consecutively and won many scholarships. She earned her associate degree in Behavioral and Social Sciences, then transferred to CSUS in the spring of 2007.

An English major, Arguelles aims to teach at the secondary level and begin the credentials program.

"It's just that drive to better yourself for the sake of your family," said Arguelles. "And my family is only me and my daughter. So it was like us against the world."

She also wanted to cast off the stigma that came with being a teenage mom and high school drop-out.

"It's like you have an 'F' for flunky printed on your forehead before you even give yourself a chance."

A mother of three children and two grandsons, Tracy Blackwood of Ceres is the first in her family to attend college and plans to teach thanks to the scholarship program.

The Rogers Scholarships go to high-achieving upper-division undergraduate students and Teaching Credential program students at CSU Stanislaus. Since being founded in 1991 by the late Mary Stuart Rogers, the program has awarded more than $2.2 million in scholarships and specially engraved rings to more than 400 CSU Stanislaus students. Teaching Credential graduate students receive $3,500 scholarships and undergraduate recipients are awarded $3,000.