Until my time at the Highlander, I have never considered myself a writer. In my eyes, I did not have the eloquence and expressiveness of someone worth being called a writer. For the longest time, I did not believe I was good at anything that fell into my hands.
From a young age, my dear mother and father tried to keep me active by getting me involved with everything and anything possible. Sports, music, STEM, arts, dance and the list goes on. Nothing stuck with me.
As a child, my family moved all over Los Angeles County. From Covina to Diamond Bar, it felt never-ending. In the summer of 2015, my parents told me once more my family would be packing up, but this time for Riverside County. I met with a counselor at my new middle school to register for my courses. My mother handed him a tightly sealed envelope with my 7th-grade teacher’s recommendation to enter the rigorous math course, which I felt I was truly great at. He took a long look at the letter with the signature and pushed it aside.
“The math is different here than at your old school,” he told my 12-year-old self with a look of devastation.
Throughout the year, I reached discouragement from pursuing my favorite activities and questioned my ability to perform them. This feeling continued throughout high school, as well as college.
I began studying at UC Riverside fall of 2020. After being stuck inside for months, I tried to socialize and be proactive in my community activism. I joined the ASUCR Office of External Affairs, where I dabbled around in the Lobby Corps and the Civic Engagement Committee. I spent a year and a half with ASUCR, eventually parting ways as Director of Civic Engagement. Yet, I never felt my contributions made a true impact in Riverside.
In 2021, a friend within the Lobby Corps encouraged me to look into the Roosevelt Network at UCR, a new public policy organization. My dream of becoming a lawyer died, as most political science students do. Instead, I grew an interest in research and political communications. While I met some of the most brilliant students, I did not feel an ounce of belonging.
That was until the summer of 2021 when I got a call for an interview with KUCR 88.3FM, the college radio station. I applied to be a DJ in my first year of college, back when there was nothing to do but listen to music. I trained, then onboarded, and have not looked back since. The community and enthusiasm within the station are unbelievable. I am appreciative of all the staff and DJs at KUCR.
Toward the end of my second year, I took a flight to Washington, D.C. to intern at a non-profit for three months. During this period, I began to figure out my path. While staying at the UCDC center, I took a journalism course with the Professor of Professional Practice and previous Washington Bureau Chief for the San Francisco Chronicle, Marc Sandalow. I would sit in his office asking questions in hopes of clearing my vision for my senior year, and he delivered. Professor Sandalow pushed me to do what I was afraid to do — journalism.
He encouraged me to join The Highlander when I returned back to California. I told him I am not a writer and explained my lack of confidence. I compared myself to great essayists like James Baldwin and Joan Didion. I thought to myself, I did not have an intricate mind like them or used extravagant language. He pointed out to me, I have been writing all my life. He laid out my capstone project to me, which was a journalist piece on the UC housing crisis. Professor Sandalow reassured me of my talents pulling details and original thoughts from the piece. After all the doubt that had been built from the age of 12, I was given the push I needed to be self-assured about following my true interests. Later on, The Highlander hired me as the Assistant Radar Editor.
Since then, I have spent the past year at one of the best places to be. With an amazing and supportive staff, I could not ask for anymore. From extensive interviews to the Sundance Film Festival, I will remember the paper to be one of the most important jumpstarts to my career. I would like to give a special thank you to Brenda Jovel and Madison Rheins for giving me the opportunity to be creative and trusting all my ideas.
As my senior year comes to a close, I remember my time at UC Riverside as a beautiful transformative period in my life. My message to anyone who has uncertainty about their capabilities to pursue their passions is to give yourself a chance. People can test your aptitude and surround you with discouragement, but it is ultimately up to you to unleash your potential and creative self.
Thank you to Alumni Vivek Kakar, Brendan Rooks, Emily Thomas and John Dover for inspiring me to be an advocate and leader for my community. To my coworkers whose collaborations always lead to phenomenal projects, thank you, Gavin Cho, Madyn Powell, Zaina Ali and Chiamaka Ezeunala. Thank you to my leads and supervisors, Elliot Fong and Eduardo Valencia for believing in my proposals. To my professors who motivated me to reach greater heights, Dr. Richard T. Rodríguez, Professor Michael Bucklin and Marc Sandalow. And to my parents, who supported me all throughout my life, mamá y papá.
I hope to achieve and reach for more in the next period of my life. Thank you to the Highlander for this opportunity and to the UC Riverside community for an amazing three years.