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Josue Guadarrama, left, takes a picture with fellow graduate Cathy Ureta during commencement last month. Photo by Karen Tapia

Passion to Serve

Scholar Lands Full Scholarship at Washington State University for Doctoral Degree in Counseling Psychology

May 18, 2010

By Mimi Ko Cruz

Updated June 8, 2010

Photo by Karen Tapia

Josue Guadarrama

Degree: B.A. human communication studies, minor in psychology, May 2010

Residence: Santa Ana

Favorite Book: "Fully Human, Fully Alive" by John Powell

Philosophy: ”All individuals are interconnected, regardless of religion, color, race, sex or social status. There are disparities between the rich and the poor and individuals, like myself, who have the opportunity to get a higher education have a moral obligation to help the most in need.”

When he reached Cancun Airport on his way to the Western Psychological Association’s 90th annual convention recently, Josue Guadarrama realized he had lost his cell phone and began to fret.

“Then, I talked to this guy who was cleaning the bathroom in the airport and learned that he works all day and barely earns $20 a week,” Guadarrama recalled. “There I was complaining about a phone that costs me more than what this poor worker makes in an entire month.”

The encounter reinforced Guadarrama’s passion for serving the underserved.

The Santa Ana resident has completed his bachelor’s degree in human communication studies with a minor in psychology, and has accepted a full scholarship to Washington State University, where he will pursue a doctorate in counseling psychology.

His plan is to become a university professor and researcher, as well as a counselor for low-income immigrants.

“I think that as educated individuals, we have a moral obligation to help others who are less fortunate,” Guadarrama said. “I want to focus on those most in need because they’re the ones who suffer the most.”

Guadarrama transferred to Cal State Fullerton from Santa Ana College in 2007 and became a volunteer peer mentor in the university’s Freshman Programs. He works for the Diocese of Orange, teaching courses on self growth, human development and social justice to the underprivileged and underrepresented in Orange County.

His own background drives him.

Born in Mexico City, he was raised by his grandmother until he was 9 years old, when his parents sent for him to join them in Santa Ana.

“I remember crying as I was ripped from the arms of my grandmother and feeling great depression in my new homeland where I could not speak English and my parents were working all the time,” Guadarrama said. “I didn’t have anyone to guide me to college, so I found a job working at a department store after I graduated from high school, but I always felt a void inside of me.”

That void began to disappear when he discovered opportunities in higher education.

Guadarrama was selected as a CSUF McNair Scholar and paired with Alexandro José Gradilla, assistant professor of Chicana and Chicano studies, Guadarrama’s mentor and McNair adviser since 2007.

“From when I first met Josue, I could tell he was a very driven student, a special person who realizes the responsibility, or urgency, to be successful so that he can give back,” Gradilla said. “We don’t see enough of this kind of student. He will be sorely missed at Cal State Fullerton but we will be cheering him on as he pursues his doctoral degree and begins his career.”

As a McNair Scholar, Guadarrama has been researching issues that affect the Latino community and the structural and behavioral patterns that hinder it. He has presented his research nationwide, most recently at the April Western Psychological Association Conference.

In 2008, he won a competitive National Science Foundation fellowship. As part of the fellowship, he participated in research at Oklahoma State University on how family communication patterns affect assertiveness in the classroom. In 2009, Guadarrama was chosen to participate in the Summer Research Opportunity Program at the University of Michigan, where he researched cultural differences of depression.

Growing up poor, Guadarrama said, his present path could not have been predicted and he credits the McNair Scholars Program for preparing him for graduate school and helping him find the career best suited for him. His late grandmother gets the credit for teaching him about generosity and helping others. “For me, reaching my goals will be a way to honor my parents for their sacrifices and their strong work ethic, and my grandmother, who taught me about responsibility, humility and dedication,” Guadarrama said. "She always gave to people who were poorer than us."

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