It was a long, tough climb to the top for Terri Star of Palms, who delivered the valedictorian's speech at West Los Angeles College's graduation ceremony.
Star graduated last month with an associate's degree in art and achieved a 4.0 grade-point average. In addition to academic honors, she was also the top scholarship winner, receiving $13,000 in scholarships from West L.A. College and from UCLA to continue her studies at the Westwood campus.
"My head was spinning but I felt a great sense of accomplishment," said Star, 33. "I have had to work so hard to get where I am."
Indeed, the road to academic achievement has not been an easy one for the New York native. "I used to stutter," she said. "And I faked reading up until high school."
Star moved to Los Angles 10 years ago and continued to have difficulty reading when she enrolled in courses at West L.A. College. A series of diagnostic tests showed her to be dyslexic. With the help of instructors and special classes, she raised her reading ability from the sixth-grade to the 11th-grade level in her first year at the college. The next year, however, she had to drop out of school after suffering a heart attack brought on by bulimia. With the help of a therapist, she slowly regained her health and control of her life.
"The early years of growing up in New York City were hard for me," she said. "I had developed a lot of strength as a child but my problems came out in my 20s."
In 1989, Star returned to the classroom to complete the degree she had started seven years earlier. In spite of a heavy school schedule, she found time to tutor students and work part time as a floral designer. She attributed her success to dedication and a strong belief in herself.
"What kept me going was really believing that I had something precious inside of me," she said.
This fall, Star will begin undergraduate classes at UCLA and also plans to pursue a master of fine arts degree. She hopes to someday work with people who have undergone emotional, mental and physical problems in their lives and use art as a tool to help them heal.
UCLA physiologist Jared Diamond has received the 1992 Science Book Prize from the international chemical and pharmaceutical company Rhone-Poulenc for his book "The Rise and Fall of Third Chimpanzee."
The award recognizes books that advance the public's understanding of science. Diamond teaches at the UCLA School of Medicine.
Three Westside residents have been elected to the Board of Directors of Big Brothers of Greater Los Angeles.
They are: Ronald Fujikawa, a senior partner in the law firm of Kinsella, Boesch, Fujikawa & Towle and a resident of Santa Monica; Todd Morgan, who works for Goldman, Sachs & Co. and lives in Pacific Palisades, and Richard Green, a Malibu resident who is president of Westfield Inc.
They will assist the nonprofit agency with fund-raising and volunteer recruitment programs.