Have you met the UCLA Optimists? Over the next several months, the Bruin Blog will be highlighting our student Optimists. These current UCLA undergraduates will give you insight into the application process and tips, student life and culture, and what it means to be a Bruin.
As a first-generation nontraditional college student, going to a four-year university was a pretty big deal for me and my family. It wasn’t that I didn’t have the drive to pursue a bachelor’s degree, I just did not know how to navigate college and develop the best path to pursue one. I am the oldest of five children, which means I had a lot of responsibility growing up. I started working a full time job at the age of seventeen to support myself and to help out my mother. Growing up, I witnessed my mother get certified as Certified Nursing Assistant, an electrocardiogram technician, and as a pharmacy technician. She made education an important part of her life while raising five children, so I found no reason why I should not be doing the same at some point in my own life.
Given these details, my priorities at 19 when I graduated high school were to make money and enjoy being a young person and not to attend college right out of high school. I had a well-paying job, a social life, and a loving family–why would college be my priority when that meant me having to figure out how to stop making the money I was making? Pursuing a bachelor’s also meant that I would stop being able to help my mother out and stop living as freely as I was. So instead, I sought out biotechnology and fashion design vocational programs at City College of San Francisco.
I pursued these programs as two separate semesters–a couple years apart from one another–because the class schedules fit around my work schedule at the time. They were both interesting fields to study and I gained useful skills from both programs, but I didn’t see myself working in a lab all day nor did I see myself as a fashion designer. I then reconsidered what I wanted out of an educational experience, I chose to pursue my bachelor’s degree.
After I made the decision to pursue my bachelor’s degree, I put all of my energy into researching, talking to friends, family, and a college counselor to outline my educational goals. That semester in a statistics class, my peers were the extra help I needed to fully navigate the college process. They showed me how to apply for scholarships and which universities I should consider applying to. Fast forward to April, 2015 and I receive the notice that I had been admitted to UCLA. That’s when I knew all of the intentional steps I had been taking were all worth it. I came down to Westwood for the Black Bruin Success Extravaganza (which I am now a part of) and fell in love with the UCLA campus. I started at UCLA the summer of 2015 as a student in the Transfer Summer Program (TSP) hosted by the Academic Advancement Program (AAP). I was part of a group that took four courses and got to live together and build a community before the school year started. That experience was invaluable as I met some of my closest friends that summer.
Being at UCLA as a transfer student was sort of shocking at first. There were A LOT of people on this campus compared to my community college. But over time, you get used to it. My favorite thing about UCLA is that there are so many different, highly-motivated and intelligent people on this campus to collaborate with, challenge, and learn from. I love that there are people who hail from all over the country and the world here who bring something different to every class and social space on this campus. That makes my experience here that much more special.
As a transfer you do have to hit the ground running as soon as you get here. I was lucky to have had an intense summer session that focused on social justice before I started the regular school year. The tools I received during the summer helped me excel during the academic school year. Because I knew I had to hit the ground running, I made sure to research different opportunities available to me at UCLA and outside of UCLA. I applied to the Sharpe Fellows program through the UCLA Career Center, got in, and learned so much about networking and pursuing top internships. I also applied for the national Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) Undergraduate Fellowship and was admitted to Princeton University to study public policy over the summer of 2016. This school year I have been the recipient of the AAP Academic Advancement Scholarship as well as the John Densmore Scholarship through the African American Studies Department. I am also a UCLA Law Fellow, I work in the USAC Office of the Transfer Student Representative as the Chief-of-Staff, and I work with Black Bruin Transfer Success as a coordinator, and with STOMP. I will also be graduating with College Honors, Departmental Honors, and Latin Honors. There are many more things I could write about how UCLA has been amazing to me, but I want you to know that with perseverance, determination, and an idea of what you want for yourself, almost anything is possible.