Colin Bethishou chose to attend Stanislaus State because he loves his hometown and didn’t want to leave Turlock.
He fit in nicely as a business major with a concentration in computer information systems, and more than that, he has become a superb representative of the University.
Bethishou is Stanislaus State’s recipient of the 2023-24 Cailfornia State University Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement, joining one student from each of the other 22 CSU campuses to earn the prestigious award. Bethishou is the recipient of the Steve Relyea Scholar award.
These exemplary students 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.”
The Trustees awards are based on superior academic performance, personal accomplishments, community service and financial need.
Community and service are at Bethishou’s core.
While his friends at Turlock High School couldn’t wait to venture off to bigger cities to attend college, Bethishou never even considered such a move.
“I love it here,” the second-year student said. “The people here are awesome. I want to give back. The ultimate act of selflessness, what people have done for me and my peers, the resources they offered, the help they offered, the advice, the mentorship — that’s what I want to do.”
Bethishou is already finding ways to do that.
Mostly, he’s dedicated to Mar Addai Parish, translated, he said, to St. Thadeus, the Assyrian Church of the East he attends.
Although he didn’t become a devoted member until a few years ago, Bethishou has embraced the importance of the Assyrian Church, which he said dates back 2,000 years and was one of the first Christian churches established after the apostles spread the word of Jesus.
He is learning Aramaic, the language of the services, and was ordained as a sub-deacon, a deacon-in-training, he explained.
“My goal is to work up to learning the liturgies and language and mass, then one day be ordained as a deacon and continue my role there,” he said.
For now, he devotes weeknights to various prayer sessions or bible studies, as well as Sunday services. For him, it’s part of being Assyrian.
He speaks Assyrian to be able to communicate with his grandparents, he said, and grew up a typical teenager in Turlock. He played basketball for a year, but a shoulder injury and then COVID-19 derailed his sports career.
A high school teacher encouraged him to get involved with the Assyrian American Club on campus, which spurred his interest in his culture and shared that knowledge with others.
That Stanislaus State has the Sarguis Modern Assyrian Heritage Project, which includes a collection in the J. Burton Vasché Library and encourages new and emerging research in Assyrian studies with courses in Assyrian history, guest speakers and support of student researchers, is not what drew Bethishou to his hometown University.
Rather, he fell in love with the campus when his family would take occasional evening walks across it. That appreciation for the campus has only grown.
“The new building, the (renovated) Library is nice. It’s like it’s brand new,” Bethishou said. “The green space, the ducks, the ponds. It’s a very nice campus. Being on campus is uplifting.”
Although he started as a computer science major, Bethishou switched to computer information systems within the business program, preferring to use others’ computer programs to make businesses more efficient.
He’s gained a bit of an understanding of how businesses work.
He spent his first year as a student working at Turlock’s Table 26, where he watched the restaurant’s business workings. He served a summer internship at Turlock Irrigation District in the information technology department, where he was able to see the operations of a utility company.
He hasn’t decided what type of business he’ll eventually want to enter, but he knows he’d like it to be in Turlock.
“I’d love to create an organization that teaches kids or teens these skills, of how you get into the professional world, how you get to college, how you stay focused, how you choose the right path to be beneficial to the community in the long run,” Bethishou said. “I’ve been blessed to have all these resources and people doing something for me and probably others. They didn’t have to. I want to do that, too.”