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Defying the Odds

CSU awards 2017 Trustees’ Award to Cal State LA Scholar

Anthony Robles, 2017 recipient of the CSU Trustees' Award for Outstanding Achievement.

J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA

Anthony Robles, 2017 recipient of the CSU Trustees' Award for Outstanding Achievement.

Anthony Karambelas, Staff Reporter

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Between having a father who has been deported three times, a mother who battled cancer, and a criminal record, Anthony Robles is defying the odds. Through it all, Robles still pursues higher education, and was recently presented the highest student award offered in the California State University (CSU) system.

The title of a “Trustee Emeritus Murray L. Galinson Scholar” was awarded to Anthony Robles, an astonishingly motivated and passionate student who recently accepted a $8,000 financial package alongside the award.

Robles is one of twenty-three scholars across the CSU system selected for this prestigious scholarship. Every year, one student per campus is selected, and Robles proudly represents Cal State LA with the “2017 CSU Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement.”

With a 3.7 GPA, Robles is academically driven and strives to accomplish his goals. His active involvement on campus—motivated in large part by his personal background—is equally noteworthy. Recently, Robles helped establish a pen pal and immigrant detention visitation program at Cal State LA called the “Migrant Liberation Collective.”

“We go to the County Jail, where they keep and detain migrants who are fighting deportation cases. So we go and we visit them and just talk to them,” said Robles. “Surprisingly, they’re not all Mexican or Central American. There’s people from Nigeria, there’s people from Haiti, there’s a lot of people from Nepal, Laos and Cambodia.”

Robles is a member of Project Rebound, an organization that provides incarcerated students a second chance at higher education by making sure they are involved in academia and working diligently in the community. He also serves as Vice President of the Student Homie Union, the student auxiliary organization to Project Rebound, spreading awareness on mass incarceration through fundraisers and events.

As a first-generation student, Robles’ academic future had been uncertain. His father was a warehouse worker, deported three times over the course of Robles’ life. His mother worked numerous jobs and in 2008, started her long battle against Stage three cancer.

“They’re just working people, you know, humble. They’ve been through a lot. They’re strong. They don’t take credit for a lot of things, so it reminds me to be humble,” said Robles.

As a teenager, Robles endured several altercations with the police, eventually resulting in a threatened sentence of two years in prison for bringing contraband into a police station. Though Robles tried not to detract from personal accountability, he emphasized that the environment he grew up in was not conducive to academic success.

“I remember in high school, we’d be hanging out on the blocks, just smoking and drinking all day. And these older guys would always come up–and they were in their twenties already, grown men–and they’d see me in high school and they’d see me not going to school and they’d be like, ‘Man, just graduate,” said Robles.

His experiences growing up have led him to pursue a B.S. in Sociology with an interest in immigration, criminal justice and environmental justice.

Now a senior, Robles is on the home stretch to becoming the first in his family to graduate. He is currently working on his senior thesis, in which he dissects the role of prosecutorial discretion and race in the criminal justice system. He is also working on a textbook chapter focusing on the criminalization of immigration.

His plans for the future include enrolling in graduate school and completing his Ph.D. He hopes to go on to teach for the CSU system. In the meantime, Robles is continuing his campus and volunteer involvement.

Robles’ “CSU Trustees’ Award” was provided by a program established by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation in honor of the Hearst newspaper chain founder. The Foundation partnered with the CSU Board of Trustees in 1999 to create what is now a scholarship fund supplemented by contributions from CSU Trustees, CSU Foundation Board of Governors, and private donors.

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