Sahmae Jackson juggles it all with a 3.821 GPA – she’s a veteran of the United States Army; a single mother with a child with disabilities; a volunteer of her church and the Children’s Cancer Foundation of Loma Linda; a fitness instructor; and a graduate student in the Career and Technical Education master’s program at Cal State San Bernardino.

With her many accomplishments and notable perseverance, Jackson has been chosen as the 2023-24 California State University Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement for CSUSB, the CSU’s highest recognition of success. Jackson has been named the Trustee Emeritus Murray L. Galinson Scholar for the donor-funded CSU Trustees’ Award and will receive a $9,000 scholarship. 

“It feels amazing to be awarded the CSUSB 2023-24 CSU Trustees’ Award,” Jackson said. “I feel like all my hard work is paying off and being recognized by others motivates me to keep pushing harder than before.”

Jackson is no stranger to CSUSB, having graduated with her bachelor’s degree in information systems and technology in 2020 and a master’s degree in management in 2022, and is now on her way to obtaining a master’s in career and technical education. The faculty, she says, were the ones who influenced her to pursue a graduate degree.

“My instructors here at CSUSB have been an amazing help to me during the past six years,” she said. “They see my potential and push me to do things I never thought I could.” 

A first-generation college student, Jackson planned on stopping her educational journey after four years. But one of her professors convinced her to continue.

“She didn’t just tell me to keep going, but she gave me all the information I needed,” she said. “I’m so grateful for all my professors and all they do above and beyond.”

While some of the CSUSB faculty have influenced her to continue her academic career, it is her family who truly inspires her to succeed.

“My mother and my kids are my biggest motivation,” said Jackson, who plans to become a teacher and, eventually, a university professor teaching business management.

Jackson has a passion for helping people, which stems from her own experiences. One of her greatest personal accomplishments has been overcoming PTSD and using her experiences to launch a peer-to-peer veterans PTS support group for the city of San Bernardino and surrounding communities.  

“The peer group is called Veterans Exercising Truth, or VET for short,” she explained. “VET was created to help veterans suffering with the effects of PTS. Our peer support group provides veterans with biblical tools they can use for healing and restoration in their lives. I created a workbook that includes a healing prayer, weekly activities, session handouts that focus on different topics relating to PTS, and a list of church and community services available to them.”

Jackson holds the gathering once a month and it is open to all veterans.

“This group means a lot to me because I personally experienced the traumatic effects that PTSD from military service can have,” Jackson further explained. “My whole life was affected, from my relationship with my family and friends to me retreating and not leaving my home for years. Going to a peer group and getting help was my breakthrough and I would not be where I am today without that help and restoration in my life.”

Jackson’s passion for assisting others is also prevalent through her volunteer efforts at her church, The Way World Outreach, where she spends her time assisting in the Kids World Ministry, organizing and leading community outreach events, and providing assisting in the counseling department. She also volunteers as a fitness instructor, as well as being a regular volunteer for The Children’s Cancer Foundation of Loma Linda.

Each year, the California State University selects 23 students – one from each CSU university – who have demonstrated superior academic and personal achievement to receive the CSU Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement. The award grants students scholarships based on academic achievements, financial need, excellence in community service and personal hardship. Since the program’s inception in 1984, more than 440 CSU students have been honored with the Trustees’ Award.

This year’s class of inspiring awardees will receive more than $180,000 in scholarships collectively, thanks to the generous contributions from past and present CSU trustees and other donors. The 2023 awardees will be honored during a ceremony as part of the CSU Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 12.

“The life stories of these extraordinary students who have triumphed over personal hardships to stand among the university system’s most distinguished scholars are a testament to the transformative power of public higher education,” said CSU Interim Chancellor Jolene Koester. “Through donor support, the CSU is able to provide students who have faced educational barriers the opportunity to pursue a college degree and apply their life experiences and classroom knowledge to elevate their communities and our great state.”

For more information and to view the full list of 2023 awardees, visit the CSU Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement website.