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CSUS scholarships help mothers start teaching careers
(Editor's note: Due to errors in last week's article, this piece is being re-published. We apologize for the factual errors).

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.

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.

Blackwood 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 Blackwood. "Just going to school itself is expensive plus transportation and baby-sitters and living expenses."

Blackwood 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 Blackwood.

Blackwood 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."

Sandoval graduated from CSUS in 2001 with a degree in computer information systems. The Ceres resident and mom of two - her daughter is five and her son is 2 1/2 years old - worked for a while as a systems administrator for Valley Fresh. She's now decided to go into teaching despite a cut in pay. Being a teacher will be a better fit, Sandoval said.

"I want to get a single subject credential in business and math," said Sandoval. "I decided to go back to teach because I realized that that was my calling and I felt like that was what I needed to do."

Helping others is a passion in her life.

"I want to give back to my community what I've gotten out of it."

Sandoval said that she wouldn't have been able to become a teacher without the Rogers scholarship.

"I am very grateful. It's not only the scholarship money - it's helpful yes, but I feel honored to hold title of a Rogers scholar."

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.