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Alumni Spotlight    Picture of Leo James Magrdichian

Leo James Magrdichian (B.A., Social Work ’08) was chosen as this year’s Alumni Awards Gala recipient for Outstanding Senior. L eo is a devoted husband, father of three (Joshua, Joseph, and Caleb) and stepfather of two (Ray and Ricky). All five boys reside with him and his wife (Irma) in East Los Angeles, CA. Leo and his family attend church regularly, where he serves as the music technician for all church events. Leo attributes much of his success to the fact that he willingly puts God first and foremost in his life.

Leo attended East Los Angeles Community College and received an Associate in Arts degree in Liberal Arts while maintaining a 4.0 GPA and graduating with highest honors. He also completed the Chemical Dependency Counselor Certificate Program, took and active role with the Students Against Substance Abuse (SASA) student organization, and was a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society on campus. He received the President’s Award for academic excellence. In March of 2007 he passed the California Association of Alcohol and Drug Educators (CAADE) state exam, and has worked in Substance Abuse treatment while continuing his education.

Leo transferred to Cal State LA in the fall of 2006 to pursue a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Social Work, again maintaining a 4.0 GPA in his studies. He has demonstrated strong leadership skills by serving first as Vice President and then President of the Association of Student Social Workers (ASSW) and President of the School of Social Work Lobby Days Caucus. Leo was the primary reason for generating the strong presence of undergraduate students at the National Association of Social Workers Legislative Lobby Days in Sacramento. In addition, Leo was responsible for facilitating several successful fundraising efforts to help offset some of the costs for the students who attended the event. He received an Outstanding Student Organization President Award, an Outstanding BASW Student Services Award, and the College of Health and Human Services Certificate of Honor at the 2007-2008 Honors Convocation. Leo graduated in June of 2008, summa cum laude, and has begun his pursuit of a Master’s Degree in Social Work here at Cal State LA.

Leo has also taken an active role within his community. Leo volunteers his time with the Midnight Mission, and on Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays can be found with his family serving meals to the homeless population in Downtown Los Angeles. His community involvement also includes sitting on two different advisory councils. The first is with Bienvenidos Family Services, and it is part of the First 5 LA/Project Escuelita. The second is with the Department of Children and Family Services’ (DCFS) Family-to Family Initiative’s “Parents In Partnership” (PIP) program. Leo assisted in the development of a handbook for use by birth-parents to help them navigate through DCFS and Children’s Court, with the goal of regaining timely reunification with their children. Leo also attends and participates in DCFS Steering Committee meetings and monthly program planning meetings. Leo is an active volunteer with Friends Outside of Los Angeles County where he regularly visits inmates within the Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail, providing services to inmates and their families.

Leo’s academic excellence and devotion to his family and the community have earned him numerous awards and recognitions. In 2004, he was one of five recipients who received recognition as an Outstanding Father at the 3rd Annual National Latino Fatherhood Conference.  Furthermore he has received the National Association of Social Workers Region I Social Work Student Scholarship, two CSULA Alumni Association Scholarships, the CSU Scholarship for Future Scholars, and the Los Angeles County Hispanic Managers Association Educational Association Scholarship.

Leo’s Gala Speech, November 6, 2008
I am truly honored and privileged to stand before you this evening. To be included in such a rich history and to be recognized with so many influential people is something that I never dreamed could have been possible.

This university has had such a tremendous impact on my life. From the moment I stepped onto this campus as a member of the Educational Opportunity Program’s transfer bridge, I have been treated with dignity, respect, and I have been encouraged to not only succeed, but to excel.

Photo of Dr. Joanne Altschuler,Leo James Magrdichian and Dr. Karin Brown

I would like to thank President James Rosser. Sir, I thank you not for your role in my being chosen for this award, but for your continued service and dedication to the students of this university. You serve as a perfect example of what these awards this evening signify, commitment, perseverance, and excellence. OK, I also want to thank you for your role in my being chosen.

I want to thank the Alumni Association for all of their hard work and for putting together such a wonderful event. Your influence in my life has been nothing but rewarding and life changing. You have introduced me to some very influential individuals who have taken an active role in my success. I want to thank Mr. Gary Matus who is a former Alumni Award recipient, a member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors, a generous donor to the university and to the Alumni Association Student Scholarship fund, and also my mentor.

I would like to thank the Dean of the College of Health and Human Services, Beatrice Yorker, the Director of the School of Social Work, Dr. Karin Elliot Brown, and all of the School of Social Work faculty and staff for their dedication towards providing a quality education, for going above and beyond their duties, and for continually supporting and promoting students’ successes.

People can spend their entire lives searching for their purpose or calling in life. I have this university to thank for helping me to realize mine, and this award for validating the choices I have made in terms of where I received my education and the career path I have chosen to follow.

I would like to quote Cavett Robert who founded the National Speakers Association. “If we study the lives of great men and women carefully and unemotionally we find that, invariably, greatness was developed, tested and revealed through the darker periods of their lives. One of the largest tributaries of the river of greatness is always the stream of adversity”.

By no means do I believe that I have achieved any form of greatness, yet, however this is a great event and a great award. I make reference to this quote for 2 very important reasons.

#1- It is the direct result of some of the more difficult or darker periods in my life that have actually persuaded me to pursue a career in social work. It is my desire to be able to promote change in a very difficult time, and to also serve as a voice for those who may be without one.

#2- It is also during those darker times where I have found out who is truly concerned with my overall wellbeing. That is why I would like to thank my wife Irma, my father Jim, my mother Ruth who could not be here, and the members of my family who are here this evening. I want to thank you for your unconditional love, and for supporting me even in times when you probably shouldn’t have. I may never be able to repay you for all that you have done, but what I can do is share this award with you and let you know that none of this would be possible without you. Thank you for believing in me and I love you very much.

I would like to personally congratulate the award recipients who will be following me this evening, which is ironic, because it is my desire to actually follow you in terms of your hard work, dedication, and success in your chosen professions. I could only hope to be able to have the same impact on my profession as you have had on yours.

Finally and most important, I want to thank God for being a God of second chances, and for working all things, both good and bad, together for good in my life. Thank you all for sharing this wonderful experience with me, and may God bless you.