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Chico State

Fond Farewell: Criminal Justice Major Lizbeth Ceja Torres

Lizbeth Ceja poses with Willie the Wildcat during Wildcat Welcome
(Matt Bates/University Photograp

Lizbeth Ceja poses with Willie the Wildcat during the start of the fall 2023 semester. (Matt Bates / University Photographer)

Lizbeth Ceja Torres, a criminal justice major, passed away Saturday, September 30. She was 19.

Born April 8, 2004, she lived in Valley Springs and graduated from Calaveras High School, where she played soccer for all four years. Ceja attended Summer Bridge at Chico State in 2022 and remained active in the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), where her kind spirit drew students to her and she demonstrated great tenacity to achieve her goals.

“I remember seeing her on day 1 of Summer Bridge. Only a few hours into the program, she was already spending time with a group of peers that to this day she kept tight bonds with,” said Teresa Hernandez, First-Year Experience coordinator and Ceja’s advisor. “Her first year, I remember seeing her come into EOP frequently for her advising sessions with her paraprofessional, and she became that face you instantly recognized and brought an energy with her that you could not help but appreciate.”  

Ceja had shared with staff that she wanted to be a role model to teens from her hometown, proving that a college degree is possible if you work hard and never give up. She also wanted to make her family proud and build a career where she could help other people, which inspired many of her peers.

“Her heart is bigger than anyone else I’ve ever known,” said Lexi Villegas, a close friend and fellow member of EOP. “She had always made sure to put herself last and make sure everyone around her had everything they needed and everyone around her was happy.”

The two “instantly clicked” when they met during Summer Bridge. Ceja set big goals for herself and worked hard toward them, including applying for a job with the University Police Department during her first year of college and working to become a member of the Latina sorority Lambda Theta Alpha. She also prioritized her family, Facetiming her mother and siblings regularly to update them on her life and make sure they were doing well.

“Any place where she was entering or staying, she would fill it with her laughter, love, and energy—she was the light that every place needed,” said friend and health services administration major Judith Botell said. “She also loved to feed people with her delicious food and help people in need.”

Mathematics professor Katie Raymond got to know Ceja well this semester, as their class meets four days a week. She describes her as friendly, outgoing, and energetic, and said she was hardworking and participated often.

“I remember on the second day of class, when I didn’t really know anyone yet, she pulled me aside outside of class and she was so full of life,” she said. “She had struggled in math classes before and was excited to be there. It shows a lot for a student to be dedicated and engaged even if it’s not her passion or something she loves. She was trying her best, and I so appreciated that.”

Criminal justice professor Darin Haerle taught Ceja in a small class of primarily criminal justice majors and was looking forward to having her in another class in the spring.

“Lizbeth has always been such a bright light in our class—her smile lights up the room,” he said. “Her cheerful personality and willingness to speak up and participate never failed to set a pleasant tone for her peers to join in the conversation.”

Hardworking and independent but with a big heart, Ceja seemed to leave a lasting impression on all she met.

“There was never a time I was around her where I wasn’t in a good mood,” said Jocelyn Dretzka, friend and health services administration major. “Lizbeth loved to remind everyone of how much they were appreciated and was the first to offer a helping hand wherever necessary.”

She is survived by her father, Victor Ceja, mother Blanca Torres, a twin sister, and many other family members.

We will share service information when we learn it. The University flag will be lowered Monday, October 9, in her memory.