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Public Affairs

Statucki sticks with school, wins scholarship

August 6, 2004

Photo of Cara StatuckiDespite sustaining a debilitating injury to her lower back just a year into a masters program in adult education, graduate student Cara Statucki managed to overcome the resulting limits to her mobility and motor skills and maintain a 3.9 grade point average while working toward her second master's degree at age 26.

Statucki is one of 14 California State University students to win the $3,000 William R. Hearst/CSU Trustees' Award for outstanding achievement in 2004.

"Cara was a sterling student," said H. Douglas Brown, professor of English. "I was very impressed by her attitude. Even though she was continuing to suffer pain from her back injury, she always -- and I mean always -- had a cheerful, positive disposition! It was always a genuine pleasure to interact with her."

After graduating with a bachelor's degree in psychology from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Statucki joined the Peace Corps, a goal she made for herself as a college freshman.

"I told them I wanted to go to South America and work in public health and they sent me to Guyana," Statucki said.

In Guyana, Statucki, then 21 years old, lived in a family compound in a tiny house in Anna Regina, an East Indian village on the Essequibo Coast where she worked in public health, traveling throughout the region by boat, providing HIV/AIDS and Red Cross training for teachers in the area. She also taught karate lessons at an elementary school, learned to cook curry and flat bread on a camping stove and grew accustomed to living with such amenities as a pit latrine.

Statucki's time in Guyana was cut short after a year and nine months because of security issues, so she returned to California and began a graduate program in adult education at SFSU. But in July 2001, Statucki tore a disk in her lower back and found herself suddenly confined to her bed for most of each day.

"Overnight I went from being an active student, volunteer, athlete and teacher to being trapped in my bed for the majority of each day that passed," Statucki said. "I couldn't go grocery shopping, I couldn't make my bed, I couldn't do the laundry, I couldn't do anything."

Faced with the choice of moving in with her parents in Santa Barbara or staying in San Francisco and continuing her studies, Statucki chose to stay.

"I'm stubborn. I didn't want to move home and I didn't want my back injury to derail my life," she said. "I wanted to keep my life as close to how it should have been as possible. So I started fall semester unsure of how I would attend class full-time or complete my school work."

Despite the hardships she faced, Statucki was dedicated to school. Though she had to lie on a mat in the back of the classroom, she attended as many classes as possible, relying on friends and colleagues to take notes and type some of her papers. She also dictated many papers into a voice-activated computer.

Statucki completed the adult education program in 2003 and is now working toward a second master's degree in English which she plans to finish in May 2005. She can now stand and sit in class, and her mobility and motor skills are gradually returning. Her doctors expect a full recovery.

"I'm out of bed," Statucki said. "That's huge!"

After graduating, Statucki hopes to return to her hometown and teach English at the community college level.

"The Hearst/Trustees scholarship has certainly helped me continue with school. Having not been able to work, the $3,000 will really help with tuition," Statucki said.

-- Public Affairs Student Writer Elizabeth Davis with Matt Itelson


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Last modified August 6, 2004 by University Communications