Desiree Benson Award: Jose Gonzalez

Originally Published April 9, 2020

The Desiree Benson Award is a very special award that was graciously established by our USC Financial Aid Department in the year 2000, to honor the life of a dedicated and inspired work-study student, Desiree Benson– a member of the USC ReadersPlus program who passed away unexpectedly in the middle of her senior year. The Desiree Benson Work-Study Grant was created that spring to pay tribute to the contributions to our community and dedication to service demonstrated by this promising young woman, and to recognize students similar to her — work-study students committed to making a difference and eager to use their skills and talents to inspire others.

This year’s Desiree Benson Award Recipient is Jose Gonzalez. Jose is a junior majoring in Sociology, double-minoring in Education and Society and Spanish. Jose, like Desiree, is a product of our nearby community of Inglewood. Like Desiree, he has also served as a USC Reader, this spring being his fifth semester as a reading and math tutor to children at John Mack Elementary School. Because of his dedication to the school and to the students he serves, and his leadership amongst fellow-tutors, Jose will be taking over the role of Program Site Coordinator at the school in fall 2020.

In addition to USC ReadersPLUS, Jose has also served younger K-12 students in our immediate USC neighborhood schools through JEP’s Freshman Seminar which connects USC students with high school seniors to assist them in writing their personal statements for college admittance;  was a Resident Advisor for an Upward Bound Program this past summer; and has been involved with USC Troy Camp for the past two semesters.

In his application for this award, Jose speaks about what he has gained through his community service experiences: “I always had role models growing up, and to now be that to kids of all ages means the world to me. I see the students I serve as personal inspiration as well. When I feel down or tired, I remind myself that I have countless sets of eyes looking at me, looking to replicate my behaviors. If I quit, they may see this as a viable option.”

One of his recommenders said this about Jose: “Jose’s journey to success involves more than his academic achievement. He has shown those around him that it is resiliency and hard work that translates into success. These qualities that this young man possesses make him a perfect candidate for the Desiree Benson Award Scholarship.”

Congratulations to Jose! We look forward to following your leadership and accomplishments in Fall 2020!