Student Overcomes Odds to Be Named a Top National Scholar

Fabiola Gonzalez has been named a Scholar of the Week for a second time by HENAAC

February 20, 2007

By Russ Hudson

Fabiola Gonzalez, arrived in the United States during her senior year of high school. She knew very little English, but managed to learn it, graduate and go on to Fullerton Community College before enrolling at Cal State Fullerton.

Now a senior in computer science, she has been named a Scholar of the Week for a second time by HENAAC, a national organization formerly known as the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference.

Gonzalez’s photo and biographical information were posted the week of Jan. 29 on the HENAAC home page.

This is her third round of recognition for achievement by the group. Gonzalez was a Scholar of the week last year, as well as a HENAAC/Lockheed Martin Scholarship recipient.

To earn this honor, Gonzalez had to demonstrate exceptional scholarship abilities and leadership, and had to have overcome significant obstacles. Besides having to make major adjustments after arriving in the United States, she also entered into, and excelled in, computer science — a field that has attracted few Hispanics and even fewer women, according to statistics.

Gonzalez, however, has not let it deter her: “Sometimes I am the only woman and only Latina in the class, but I have never seen this as an obstacle. It has been challenging, but not impossible. I always keep in mind Cesar Chavez’s refrain, ‘Si, se puede,’ which means ‘Yes, you can.’ My parents have always taught me to never give up. Their lessons have been the major part of achieving my goals. I have been fortunate to have extraordinary role models in my life at home and at school, and help from my coworkers.”

Gonzalez got into computer science in a roundabout way. Originally interested in seismology, or the study of earthquakes, Gonzales also found she loved working with computers and was good at it. So, she decided to combine the two. As it says in her HENAAC biography, “Fabiola also sees an opportunity to use her skill and her fascination with geology to address this problem. Once she becomes a professional, Fabiola plans to use technology to understand all of the factors that contribute to earthquakes, and perhaps one day, even develop a method to predict them.

A senior expecting to graduate in May, Gonzalez is far from slowing down. She currently works at an elementary school, at Fullerton College and on campus as a grader, and also is taking 12 units of coursework. At the same time, she is a student ambassador for the College of Engineering and Computer Science, and Association for Computing Machinery representative on the Inter-Club Council. She is a member of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, the Mexican American Engineers and Scientists, and the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. Gonzalez also accepted the responsibilities of treasurer for the Epsilon Pi Epsilon honorary computer society.

It seems a heavy load, but she says, “When someone has the will of accomplishing a goal, it is possible.”

There are no plans to slow down after graduation, either. “This May, if everything goes as planned, I will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, then I plan to enroll in the computer science master’s program at CSUF.”

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