The Strands hold up a photo of their son
CPP Magazine

Overcoming Obstacles

The Strands Honor Son’s Life Through Memorial Fund

By Nancy Yeang

Four days before a final exam at Cal Poly Pomona, Jasen Strand was admitted to the hospital to drain fluid from his lungs. His parents, Peter and Tina, planned to call his professors to reschedule the exam, but Jasen was determined to be discharged to take his test on time.

The day of his final, he was cleared to go home, took the test and scored 100 percent.

“Some students may have taken advantage of the situation and used it as an excuse, but he was not that kind of kid,” Tina says. “He would not use his disability for any excuse. He wanted to be treated normal and be just like a normal person.”

At age 6, Jasen was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which causes muscle degeneration and weakness. His parents were uncertain about his future until he turned his disability into a pursuit to make others’ lives better.

He enrolled at Cal Poly Pomona in mechanical engineering in 2003, with a goal of designing wheelchairs that can navigate difficult terrain, such as mountain paths and sand. He was awarded a posthumous degree when he passed away in 2010 due to a complication caused by a ventilator trach he used for breathing.

To honor Jasen’s life, the Strands, with the help of family, community members, and matching donations from Peter’s work, made an initial gift of $50,000 in 2010, to create the first and only continuing scholarship offered through Cal Poly Pomona’s Disability Resource Center (DRC). Since then, Jasen’s Memorial Fund provided 12 students with $1,500 each. In 2020, Tina and Peter contributed $50,000 to help expand the President’s Scholars program by one award, and 26 students received $3,500 scholarships this year.

“His love for Cal Poly Pomona and his desire to help other disabled students is what he was all about,” Peter says. “Now, he will continue to do that through these scholarships.”

Cal Poly Pomona’s DRC helps students by addressing their specific needs, including testing and housing accommodations, mobility assistance, and sign-language interpretation or real-time captioning.

“The DRC assisted all disabled students who needed help,” Peter and Tina say. “They made sure Jasen got everything he needed and made the process much easier for him and all disabled students to go through college.

“We knew that he would have wanted to carry on what he can do at Cal Poly Pomona. He always loved helping people.”