When Elaine Roche tuned in to watch the closing ceremony of the San José State’s 2021 Parent and Family Weekend, she did so at the invitation of her friend Whitney Albright, ’21 Communication Studies. Little did Roche know, she was about to win the Family of the Year Award during the live virtual event, held March 7 in front of 60 other Spartan families.
“I’m overwhelmed and humbled that Whitney nominated our family for this award,” said Roche. “When I think about what she has been able to accomplish with her pure heart and determination, I am truly amazed. The road to success is often littered with obstacles; yet while many others would have given up and turned around, Whitney persevered and managed to turn her dreams into a reality.”
The two women met through Roche’s son Kevin, who worked with Albright for the San José Giants before Albright moved to southern California. Roche describes Albright as positive, enthusiastic, hardworking and dedicated—a kindred spirit.
Albright had struggled to support herself, and occasionally her mother, as a student at CSU Fullerton. Her living conditions worsened when the pandemic started in spring 2020—she often had to camp out at Starbucks to access online classes.
Roche offered her the use of her late mother’s house rent-free, making it possible for Albright to transfer to San José State to safely complete her degree.
“It is incredibly humbling to recognize family members like Elaine because they do not expect recognition for the support and love they give,” said Rigoberto Flores, ’14 BA, ’17 MA, Communication Studies, program director of SJSU’s New Student and Family Programs office.
The Parent or Family of the Year Award was established in 2019 to offer a platform for students to recognize their family or community members who help them achieve their educational goals.
“People like Elaine receive this recognition by seeing their student succeed and one day walking the stage on graduation day,” said Flores. “We feel incredibly fortunate to be in a position where we can let our Spartan families know that we see them and truly appreciate them for all that they do.”
“I knew that I could never give back what she’s given to me, so this award was a very special way to show her my appreciation for all that she’s done,” said Albright. “They started to read what I had written about her, and she just looked at me and started to cry.”
“Elaine was kind enough to take me in and provide me with everything I needed to be successful in school,” Albright wrote in her nomination, which she submitted to the Office of New Student and Family Programs in early March.
“I seriously would not have been able to be as successful, or honestly be able to attend school, if it wasn’t for the kindness and generosity of Elaine Roche.”
Roche’s kindness reinforced Albright’s motivation to study hard, complete her degree and pursue her aspirations to work in entertainment, either as a performer or as a communications professional for a streaming services company.
“Elaine has given me so much, and all that she asks in return is that I enjoy my college experience and earn my degree,” wrote Albright.
“Elaine’s mother, Mary Lee, is an SJSU alumna, and I am currently living in her house. I want to make Mary Lee and Elaine proud. The least I can do for her is get the best grades I possibly can, take advantage of opportunities that come with attending San José State University, and graduate.”