She and the other 22 student scholars were honored on Sept. 20 at the CSU Office of the Chancellor in Long Beach, California.
The Hearst/CSU Trustees' award is among the highest forms of recognition for student achievement in the CSU. The students receiving the awards have all demonstrated inspirational resolve along the path to college success.
"Hambalek endured many challenges growing up, including poverty and homelessness. She moved more than four times while in high school, and in all, lived in more than a dozen homes. She knows many things, one of which is that to have the life she wants, education is a key component."
As a first-generation student, Hambalek feels she is building a trail for her two younger sisters. She is a dean's list student at SSU, majoring in biology with an emphasis in zoology and a minor in environmental studies and planning. The American Association of University Women has recognized her achievements in six different subjects.
Hambalek volunteers time at the American Cancer Society, the Marine Mammal Center, coastal clean-ups and garden restorations. She is a judge at a local science fair for students in grades 6-12 and serves as a mentor for at-risk youth. Her long-term goal is to do as much scientific research as she can to help educate others about biodiversity and the importance of conservation.
"It's not about having the most and deepest scars, it's about how you put the Band-Aids on," she says.