Sep 072011
 
Authors: Collette DeWitt

Editor’s note: Sam Lustgarten formerly worked for the Collegian as a columnist.

In April 2010, Sam Lustgarten, a first-year graduate psychology student, created a scholarship to be awarded to a junior or senior psychology undergrad with a 3.5 GPA and an interest in suicide prevention.

Lustgarten started thinking about creating the scholarship, called Always Remember Never Surrender, after the April 2009 suicide of a student in the parking lot of Ingersoll Hall. As a sophomore, Lustgarten was one of two resident assistants on site during the incident.

“It kind of put me in a serious, traumatic state,” Lustgarten said.

That same winter there were two more suicides that hit home for Lustgarten. These suicides, he explained, put him over the edge.

“I couldn’t foresee living, myself. I checked myself into a hospital,” Lustegarten said. “It really changed me.”

But, after being released from the hospital, Lustgarten decided to take his negative experiences and make them into something positive.

“I need to change this negative atmosphere,” Lustgarten said. “I need to try and make a difference. I want it to be for others.”

In March 2010, as a junior, Lustgarten took his idea to the dean of students and, in one month, made it official. After a year and half of fundraising, the Always Remember Never Surrender Scholarship now has $25,000.

As an endowed scholarship, it has been made permanent from the interest it earns. The award will offer $500 each school year to one student.

“A big piece of it is awareness of suicide and how to prevent it,” Lustgarten explained. “It’s a serious issue and should be taken seriously.”

Jack McGrew, Assistant Dean of the College of Natural Sciences, was one of the first people Lustgarten shared his idea with. McGrew works closely with Residence Life staff and resident assistants.

“As you can imagine, this was a traumatic experience for them,” McGrew said of the suicide.

“I liked it (the scholarship idea) and immediately set him up with Simone Clasen,” McGrew said.

“Literally within a couple of weeks, the initial paperwork had been accomplished with the CSU Foundation, and Sam started fundraising.”

Jennifer Vazzano, a senior psychology major and the most recent recipient of the scholarship, said she was excited, grateful and extremely honored to find out she was the recipient.

“I was very impressed with this scholarship program as a whole, and I agree that it’s a big help to students who receive it because it provides financial help as well as a reward for hard work and dedication,” Vazzano said.

“I agree that we need to raise awareness of suicide and prevention, especially in college communities,” Vazzano added. “I have seen how much this issue has affected CSU as I have several friends who have lost loved ones to suicide.”

“I think spreading awareness is the first step toward achieving this goal, and that this scholarship will aid in getting the message out to the community.”

Collegian writer Collette DeWitt can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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