Campus: CSU Los Angeles -- June 02, 2003

Cal State L.A.'s Commencement includes 15-year-old Biology Major, Her 17-Year-Old Brother and Her Mother

Among the Youngest Grads

In 1999, Verena Firpo (Hawthorne-L.A. resident), now a biology major, entered a Cal State L.A. program that enables gifted youth to participate fully in University life—Cal State L.A.’s Early Entrance Program (EEP)—the only program of its kind in the nation. This year, 12 of 100 youngsters in the program will graduate from Cal State L.A. on Saturday, June 14, with Verena among the youngest.

At eleven years old, Verena Firpo “transferred” to Cal State L.A. after completing eighth grade at Desert Junior-Senior High School at Edwards Air Force Base. Now fifteen, her career goal is to become a pediatrician, and she has applied to several medical schools. To gain some hospital experience, Verena volunteers at Garfield Medical Center Emergency Room. She also uses her considerable piano skills to entertain patients at the Del Amo Garden Convalescent Home. In the area of academic research, she has been working with Dr. Krishna Foster in Cal State L.A.’s Chemistry and Biochemistry department since Winter 2001. Her current project involves the detection of reduced phosphorous in natural water sources.

On campus, Verena is serving as secretary of Beta Beta Beta Biological Honors Society. Her interests outside biology include music (she plays percussion with the Cal State L.A. Wind Ensemble and has performed with the University’s Symphonic Band and Symphonic Orchestra) and karate (she will have her brown belt by June).

She was named All-American Scholar Collegiate and is a member of the national honor society Phi Kappa Phi and Golden Key International Honors Society. Verena’s accolades include the University’s General Education Honors Special Recognition and Scholarship, the Elias-Exposito Scholarship, and the Alumni Certificate of Honor. She is on the National Dean’s List and Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges.

This year, Verena and her brother—17-year-old Daniel Firpo, a computer science major—were both recipients of the Certificate of Merit from the campus chapter of Phi Kappa Phi national honor society. Daniel, who shares many of the same interests, involvements and honors as his sister, is additionally a General Motors Scholarship recipient and lists drums and piano as his musical instruments.

Making Cal State L.A.’s Commencement a real family affair for the Firpos, Verena’s mother, Ngoc-Dung Firpo, a former teacher, will receive a Master of Arts in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Others Languages) this year. She will not be marching in the procession, however. Preferring her children take the spotlight on graduation day, Mrs. Firpo and her husband, Rodolfo, will be among the more than 15,000 spectators in attendance to cheer family and friends graduating in Cal State L.A.’s Jesse Owens Stadium on June 14.

Contact: Carol Selkin, Media Relations Director, (323) 343-3044
or Margie Yu, Public Affairs Specialist, (323) 343-3047


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