Earlier this month, CSUN’s College of Health and Human Development recognized 10 physical therapy students for winning scholarships from the Roy and Roxie Campanella Foundation and the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation. The 2024 scholarship recipients celebrated at a luncheon held Feb. 2 at the Orchard Conference Center on campus, and they’ll be honored at Dodger Stadium in late April.

At the luncheon, eminent guests including Joni Campanella, daughter of Roy and Roxie Campanella, and Nichol Whiteman, CEO of the Dodgers Foundation, lauded the students for their hard work and dedication.

The scholarships recognize students who dedicate their careers, and lives, to physical therapy. This year’s recipients are: Jasmine Amirian, Sanwal Dilshad, Olivia Gonzalez, Brandon Guerrero, Esmeralda Huambachano, Cassandra Hutchinson, Kyle Llorens, Pat Metoki, Mauricio Pineda and Sabrina Shahbandeh.

Many of the recipients expressed their shared experience of being first-generation graduate students, having a history with sports, and having a traumatic injury within their family that inspired their career in physical therapy.

Amirian, a second-year graduate student, grew up in a Mexican-Persian household.

“One key part of my childhood was going to Dodger games,” which made this scholarship that much more special to her, she said. Her passion for physical therapy started at a young age as a softball player but grew when her grandmother went through physical therapy after a car accident.

“The impact the therapists had on her rehab really inspired me to push toward that direction,” Amirian said.

Family connections were a common theme among the scholarship winners.

“When I was a senior in high school, I was asked who my hero was. I replied, ‘my father,'” Dilshad said. He gave a heartfelt speech about his Pakistani upbringing and his family’s sacrifices, which ultimately led him to where he is today, Dilshad said. The selflessness, passion and discipline he saw from his own relatives as a child inspired his passions and motivation toward his career.

“This scholarship means so much to me because when I look at the history behind it, I see a daughter, (Joni Campanella), making active effort to keep her family’s legacy alive,” he said.

Llorens, who works as an EMT on top of his graduate studies, also shared his appreciation for his family.

“Teamwork, compassion and care are just a few core values my family has instilled in me since day one. They also made sure I love the Dodgers,” he said, “It’s pretty safe to say that my blood will continue to run Dodger blue.”

Joni Campanella shared her appreciation for her family as well. She congratulated this year’s scholars and thanked them for helping keep her parents’ dreams alive. Just as many of the recipients are the first in their family to go to college, she said, her family knows what it is like to be the first. Her father, Roy “Campy” Campanella, was the first Black catcher in the Major Leagues.

“My dad always kept his eye on the ball, the ball of his dreams,” she said.

She reflected on the nickname “Campy” and explained what she felt each letter stood for — courage, attitude, motivation, passion and youthfulness. “Each of you have ‘C.A.M.P.Y.,'” she told the physical therapy students.

Her father’s career came to a sudden end after a traumatic car accident in 1958 that left him paralyzed. “My father always credited his physical therapist as the person who helped to motivate him and give him back his will to live,” she said.

For more than a dozen years, the Campanella Foundation and the Dodgers Foundation have teamed up to provide financial assistance to CSUN physical therapy students who show outstanding clinical potential as they proceed through the program. CSUN’s three-year physical therapy doctorate program prepares its students with the skills, technique and experience to make a difference in the lives of their future patients.

Joni Campanella encouraged this year’s scholarship winners to maintain “C.A.M.P.Y.” throughout their career. She thanked them for choosing a field that is focused on helping others, which she saw throughout her upbringing.

“Helping others is the most important thing you could do,” she said.

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