Did you know that 21% of entering freshmen and 23% of transfers in the fall of 2020 are Latinx students? The cost of attendance at UCLA is $28,408 which is 50.7% of a Latinx family’s annual income! The high cost of a college education continues to rise and is a barrier for our UCLA Latinx students.
Since 1991, ULAA has awarded more than $1.5 million in scholarship awards to 800 Latinx Bruins. On average, ULAA receives 500 applications each year from qualified applicants. Every dollar makes a difference!
This year our UCLA Latino Alumni Spark Campaign will be awarding even more scholarships to deserving Latinx Bruins and we need your help!
We are catching up with our former Latinx ULAA Scholars to hear about their lives after school and the impact of ULAA's scholarship! Check out Andrea Arias's responses below.
Interview by Jessica Zaldana
Time at UCLA
1. How did you hear about the UCLA Latino Alumni Association (ULAA)?
My mentor through the Center for Community College Partnerships told me to apply to the ULAA scholarship for incoming transfer students! CCCP’s mission is to support community college students applying to transfer to a four-year university. The Center for Community College Partnerships (CCCP) is housed under the Academic Advancement Program (AAP). AAP’s mission is to support historically underrepresented students at UCLA and ensure their success.
2. How did the ULAA scholarship impact your transfer experience?
The ULAA scholarship was a crucial element to the success of my transfer experience. Without it, I would not have graduated debt-free from UCLA or met the incredible community of Latinx alumni I love so much!
3. What was the transition from Santa Monica College to UCLA like? Was your transfer a smooth process and/or what was the biggest challenge or pleasant surprise?
I am grateful to say that my transition from SMC to UCLA was smooth. This was all thanks to the Transfer Summer Program (TSP), hosted by AAP. TSP is a rigorous six-week ‘boot camp’ that prepares transfer students by taking twelve units over the summer for their first fall quarter at UCLA. After ‘surviving’ twelve units in six weeks, I felt invincible. As a result, my first fall quarter was a piece of cake. I highly recommend the program to all incoming transfer students! A similar program is the also available to incoming freshmen. It's called the Freshmen Summer Program (FSP), available to incoming freshmen and I have heard great things about it, too.
4. Did you apply to additional scholarships and/or student services programs?
I did not.
5. As a transfer student, what was your time at UCLA like?
My time at UCLA went by too fast!! But I had an amazing experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world. UCLA challenged me every single day. There are so many things I loved about my experience: studying English at one of the best English departments in the country, the gorgeous campus, and my loving community of Hermanas in Hermanas Unidas. I also appreciated the seemingly endless opportunities to network, volunteer, and grow professionally. I miss the oat milk lattes from Kerckhoff Coffee House and visiting the botanical garden!
6. Were you involved on campus and if so, which clubs or activities did you participate in? Is there anything you learned from your involvement that you would like to share?
I was involved in the Alumni Scholars Club, a club for undergrad students who received a scholarship from an alumni association, that made it possible for them to attend UCLA; Hermanas Unidas (who are the literal loves of my life), a club where undergrad Latinas support each other through higher education; I frequented the University Catholic Center to enrich my spiritual life. I also helped organize Raza Grad 2020 with MEChA, which transitioned to a virtual ceremony once the pandemic hit. Through my involvement, I had the privilege of meeting a diverse range of Bruins and learned how passionate each Bruin is about their major or campus involvement. Being a part of such a passionate community inspired me every day.
7. As a student you were an intern for UCLA Ventures through UCLA External Affairs. Could you tell me more about this experience?
My internship with UCLA External Affairs was one of the highlights of my experience at UCLA. I grew professionally and plus had the privilege to meet the incredible staff who work so hard to ensure UCLA remains open for generations to come. The state government provides a shockingly small percentage of the funding UCLA needs to run. As a result, UCLA is left to raise more than half the money needed through alumni and other sources. I would never have known this had it not been for my internship. This experience and left me with a newfound appreciation and respect for UCLA External Affairs - not to mention a possible career interest in the future!
1. Currently, you work at PLEDGE. Could you tell me more about your role? How did you start there?
I am currently an Events Coordinator at Pledge. I help nonprofits integrate our fundraising technology into their fundraising events. I love it so much! I got my start at Pledge thanks to a fellow Bruin! UCLA offers students the opportunity to create their own class and teach it for a quarter. After taking my fellow Bruin’s class on social impact, we connected on LinkedIn. A few months later, I saw her LinkedIn update that she was hiring for a full-time position at Pledge. I messaged her congratulations and she replied back saying she’d let me know when they were hiring interns. Sure enough, she did and I was hired. A year later, I was hired to join the team full-time. I share this story to hopefully motivate undergrad students who might be reading this to network, reach out, and most importantly, make a LinkedIn profile as soon as possible!! I’d recommend making it as early as your freshman year at UCLA.
2. How was your role and/or workplace affected by the pandemic?
Similar to other teams across the country, we worked from home and started to hire folks from all over the country because of virtual office flexibility.
3. What skills from your major and previous experiences translate to your current role?
As an English major, I learned how to communicate effectively in written and verbal forms. The magic of school is that your major does not equal your career. I never thought my first job would be working at a tech startup! For any undergrad students who might be reading this, don’t feel confined by your major. Study something you love and the job will come - just focus on following your curiosity, passion, and graduating!
As a recent graduate…
1. How did graduating debt-free impact your life after graduation?
Graduating debt-free because of a scholarship from ULAA gave me the gift of financial freedom and peace in my post-grad life. I recognize my privilege, which is why I encourage others to support ULAA so that more Latinx students can be positively impacted. I will always be grateful to ULAA.
2. What do you think is next for you? Are you planning ahead, taking it one step at a time, or enjoying the present?
Getting my MBA is next for me! At least that’s what my plan is for now. I am definitely taking it day by day, trying my best to enjoy the present and growing as much as possible at Pledge, while also excited to see where the future takes me.
3. Is there anything you would have done differently if you had more time at UCLA?
I would have double majored in Sociology! I fell in love with Sociology at SMC. I almost double-majored but didn’t want to put more stress on myself to finish two majors as a transfer student. There are many incredible transfer students who do double major and/or minor, so it is possible if that’s what you want to pursue!
4. Are there any additional resources or hidden gems you discovered at UCLA?
If you’re a transfer student, definitely take advantage of the Transfer Resource Center!! Think of it as a space just for you: to study, to meet other transfer students, and other goodies. They are located in Kerckhoff Hall. Also, visit the botanical garden located on the south campus if you like the idea of being surrounded by nothing but green plants and trees. You can take a book or watch the turtles swim in the pond.
5. Any advice for future students, transfer students or recent alumni?
For future students and transfer students:
- Prioritize your mental health
- Don’t be hard on yourself: your best is good enough!
- Take advantage of the endless resources and network UCLA has to offer you.
- Try new things and explore! Don’t be afraid to mess up - you can always start again.
- Follow your curiosity and passion inside and outside the classroom
- Advocate for yourself
- Meet new Bruins, current and alumni, as much as possible. Make new friends and connections!
- Make good memories and have fun!!!
For recent alumni:
- Celebrate the milestone
- Trust the process!
We are so excited to introduce and congratulate the UCLA Latino Alumni Association's Freshman 2021-2022 Scholarship Recipients!!
They are amazing individuals and so deserving of our support.
Name: Pedro Calderon
Hometown: Oxnard, CA
About Pedro: Holding positions of student leadership in organizations such as MESA, AVID, and his high school robotics club, Pedro seeks to change the lack of Latinx representation in STEM. When his family faced financial difficulty, Pedro went to work in agricultural fields to earn additional income. This also didn’t stop him from completing nearly 800 hours of community service during his last two years of high school. Pedro looks forward to engaging a mentor from the ULAA community. He is from Oxnard, CA, and plans to major in mechanical engineering.
Name: Veronica Berduo
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
About Veronica: The child of immigrants, Veronica shared that while her family was never able to afford a computer or the utility of basic internet, that never stopped her from pursuing her academic goals. During the pandemic, she has done most of her work on a cellular device. Through earnings from providing child care, Veronica was able to save up to buy a tablet. However, living in a small home with nine residents still proves to be a challenging environment. Veronica is from Los Angeles and plans to major in psychology in order to work in a hospital as a child life specialist.
Name: Kobe Sanders
Hometown: Coachella Valley, CA
About Kobe: Like many high schools, Kobe’s own school faced severe cuts to its visual and performing arts programs. Kobe, however, went on to become a student music instructor for his school. Ultimately, he earned the leadership role of Head Drum Major. He also seeks to break the stigma of low-income students pursuing degrees in the arts. One of his biggest takeaways during the pandemic was learning to care for his own mental health. More than anything, he’s excited to work with a ULAA alumni mentor. Kobe is from the Coachella Valley and plans to major in Music Education.
In the latest installment of our Interview with a Bruin, Lena Y. Hines (‘99, J.D.‘02) tells us why she chose UCLA and what makes her a proud Latina Bruin. Lena grew up in Huntington Park with four older brothers and discusses experiencing the otherness of being the only Black and Mexican family in the neighborhood. She shares insights about her journey as a young single mother in pursuit of an education, transferring to UCLA from East Los Angeles College, searching for scholarships and finding mentors, and how she now uses her platform as a Principal in EY’s National Tax Department to empower the next generation of professionals.
Congratulations to our 2021 Graduates!! We are so proud of your perseverance through the last year and a half! We send you positive vibes for what comes next in your life and we can't wait for you to join ULAA in supporting the next generation of Latino scholars.
In order of submission:
B.A in Art History
Lauren majored in Art History with a specialization in Mexican Art. After spending two years at the University of Washington, Lauren transferred to UCLA to pursue a Latino focused education. During the transition, she received the Getty Marrow Multicultural Internship and worked as the Curatorial Intern in the American Art Department at the Huntington Library. During this time, she realized that she wanted to pursue a career path similar to her immigrant father who is a hospital administrator at the LAC-USC Medical Center. Upon completing her undergraduate education with summa cum laude honors in December, she is in the process of completing nursing prerequisites to apply to the UCLA MECN program and pursue a nursing career path.
Jessica J. Nunez
Jessica is graduating from UCLA with a double major in Cognitive Science and Spanish, Community and Culture. She will be taking a few gap years to study for the MCAT, gain medical experience, and apply to medical school.
Maria (she/her) is majoring in Cognitive Science with a specialization in Computing. She is originally from San Francisco and the oldest of 5. She is interested in tech and behavioral psychology and hopes to find a career that interfaces her two interests.
Upon graduation, she will start a full-time job at Google in Mountain View!
Dr. Cristina Villalpando, MD, MPP
Hometown: Hawthorne, CA
Undergrad: UCLA (Anthropology, BS)
Master: UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs (MPP)
I am graduating from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA as the first Doctor in my family! I will be starting my residency training next month in Emergency Medicine at UCLA (Go Bruins!!)
My path to medicine was non-traditional as a first-gen student, but the experiences I had along the way ultimately made me a stronger applicant. To my first-gen pre-meds: always believe in yourself, and never let anyone deter your dreams. Feel free to reach out, as I will be around campus for the next 4 years!
Thank you to my amazing family for always believing in me and being the best support system. Si Se Pudo!!
Hometown: Stockton, California, United States
I dedicate my degree to my grandparents, they never gave up on me and always did their best with raising me.
If I could go back, I would definitely tell myself to not worry so much or be so hard on myself, and that everything would work out the way it was supposed to in the end.
B.A in Political Science + minor in Public Affairs and Chicana/o & Central American Studies
Hometown: La Puente, CA, USA
My journey with school is still not over. I was the first in my family to graduate from high school. I was also the first in my family to receive a B.A. The next goal is to be the first in my family to get a law degree.
Daian Adilene Lopez Villegas
B.S. in Biology
Hometwon: Palmdale, CA, USA
I will be working on improving myself by taking a gap year where I will study for the MCAT as well as take part in post-bacc programs.
I am dedicating my degree to my family. They have been my rock along my entire journey and I don’t know what I would’ve done without them.
Sociology and Education
Hometown: Santa Maria, CA, USA
This June, I will be starting graduate school at the UCSB Gevirtz School of Education in their Teacher Education Program (TEP) to earn my Masters of Education and my teaching credential. The following year, I will become a high school English teacher.
If I could go back in time, the advice I would give myself about school would be: Don't worry because you will soon meet some of the most beautiful people of your life at this school. Also, carb up plenty before you go out on Thursdays.
Nancy La Chingona
Chicanx & Central American Studies, Minoring in African American Studies & Education
Starting Chicana/o Latina/o Masters Program in the Fall @ CSULA
I dedicate my degree to my son Dee Sun Gutierrez
Linguistics and Psychology
Hometown: Long Beach, CA, US
I will be pursuing a career in Speech-Language Pathology (SLP). I will be doing my post-baccalaureate in Speech-Language Pathology at San Diego State University (SDSU).
I dedicate my degree to my parents, mami y papi: Llegaron sin nada pero me lo dieron todo!! Thank you for your endless support and for always being there for me. I also dedicate my degree to myself. As a first-gen student, it is a big accomplishment for me and it is so rewarding to see how all the hard work pay off.
B.A. in Anthropology, Minor in Chicana/o and Central American Studies
Los Angeles, CA
Take it one day at a time and never give up.
This is for you Matthew, Nathan, Katie, Jayden, Pakal, and Emma. I love you all! ❤️
B.S. in Physiological Science
Hometown: Pacoima, California, USA
Dedicated to my parents who accomplished their dreams through me.
If I could go back in time I would tell myself to relax and not let stress overcome me. College is tough but if it's meant to be it will happen.
Traditions: Walking to Target late at night when things got tough.
Aerospace Engineering, Master of Science
Hometown: Phoenix, AZ
My plans are to continue working at Raytheon Technologies as a GPS Design Engineer. I plan to use my master's for higher breath into the aerospace industry.
If I could go back in time, I would make sure to not be afraid to apply for a technical master's. I think it’s important to challenge oneself and know everything is going to be ok!
Environmental Science; minors: Environmental Health, Environmental Engineering
Caracas, Venezuela and Phoenix, Arizona, USA
I will be attending Emory University to start an MPH program in Global Environmental Health with an emphasis on Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene. I am passionate about environmental health and hope to be able to incorporate this into my goals of working in environmental microbiology, specifically on improving water infrastructure and mitigating outbreaks of tropical diseases in Venezuela and other places in Latin America.
Dedicating this degree to my mama who raised my brother and me as a hard-working, single mother. Te quiero mucho!
Psychology Major and Education Studies Minor
Hometown: Shafter, CA
Gracias a mi familia por todo su apoyo ❤️ I couldn’t have done this without you!
I will be attending graduate school this upcoming fall to become a school psychologist + licensed educational psychologist!
I would tell myself to just have fun and don’t worry about the future so much. Things will eventually work out 🎓❤️
Spanish, Comparative Literature
Hometown: Moroleon, Guanajuato, MÉXICO
Me voy pa' México a pistear y regreso luego a Grad school.
Folklorico es vida, Banda pa Bailar, sin poesía no hay inmortalidad.
Hometown: East Los Angeles, CA
After UCLA, I am happy to announce that I will be attending USC this fall for my master's in Educational Counseling!
""Caminante, no hay puentes, se hace puentes al andar"". - Gloria Anzaldua
This quote reminds me that there is no clear path for many of us. As a first-generation college student, a transfer, and a woman of color, I need to persevere and continue to break down barriers placed on people like me to show that stigmas can discourage us, but they cannot stop us.
Hometown: San Diego, CA, USA
Operations Analyst at Goldman Sachs
Things turn out how they’re supposed. This does not mean it follows a set path or plan. Así pasa cuando sucede.
Kevin Menedez Lopez
Political Science, Minor in Chicano Studies
Transfered from De Anza Community College with and AA in Administration of Justice
Kevin is a first-gen undocumented graduate!! After UCLA he plans to go to UCLA Law School in order to be an Immigration, Corporate or Contract Lawyer. He isn't sure which, but maybe all three!!
Hometown: Whittier, CA
When my dad had just come to the states, he got a job as a chef at one of the UCLA sororities, Pi Beta Phi. He then met my mom and they became pregnant with me and my twin brother. My parents told me about how they would often walk around and admire the campus while they talk about "What if one of our babies went to UCLA?" As a first-gen student at UCLA, that story has always motivated me to keep moving forward even in the times that I thought school just wasn't for me. Their love, support, and patience for my academic journey have guided me through some of the toughest years of my life! I am forever grateful for the sacrifices my parents have made for me and my family, and I hope that I am everything they hoped their little baby would turn out to be :)
If I could go back in time, I would probably tell myself to prioritize my own needs before I focus on others. Be a little selfish! It's ok! You're gonna make it.
Monica Elizabeth Moreno
Spanish and Sociology Mexican Studies
Hometown: San Bernardino, CA, United States
My post-grad plans are to be a Teach For America corps member. I will be teaching Spanish at a high school in Los Angeles and a full-time graduate student at LMU.
A quote that has motivated me throughout my journey as an undergrad has been, "La vida es prestada y hay que disfrutarla."
History with a minor in Education
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
I am dedicating my degree to my mom and dad who have endlessly guided me, supported me, and loved me throughout my academic career. To my community who has taught me to never give up on my dreams. My loving boyfriend, who has given me a hand to hold and a shoulder to cry on lastly my amazing friends who gave me endless memories and laughter.
I am pursuing a career in education! I will serve as a fellow in UCLA’s DCAC for the next two years and continue on my journey to becoming a school principal / academic program coordinator.
I say thank you after a meal even if no one is around because my dad taught me that the universe is always listening.
Catching Up with Latina Bruin Esmeralda Suarez '19
by Jessica Zaldana
Time at UCLA
As a former UCLA Latino Alumni Association (ULAA) scholarship recipient, how did winning this scholarship impact or shape your UCLA experience?
I do not think my UCLA experience would have been the same without the UCLA Latino Alumni Association Scholarship. Winning the scholarship actually made me choose UCLA because it gave me a sense of belonging before, I even started school. As a first-generation college student, the scholarship and the support system that came along with it reassured me that I was in the right place. Furthermore, the Latino alumni that I interacted with during my undergraduate career were so inspirational and encouraging that they empowered me to pursue opportunities that I thought were out of my reach.
On a personal note, winning the scholarship was a sentimental accomplishment for my family, especially for my dad. When I was in elementary school, my dad actually worked at UCLA. He was one of the many construction workers that helped build the school. Flash forward to ten years later, not only was I accepted to UCLA but offered an amazing scholarship. I don’t think my dad thought he would return to campus as a parent of a student, so it truly was a full-circle experience for my family and me.
A special shout to Soleil Delgadillo, Scholarship Director for ULAA! Soleil literally has been there for me since my scholarship interview. Not only did she welcome me at UCLA, but she also whole-heartedly welcomed my family. Beyond her warm welcome, she’s taught me the importance of representation, mentorship, networking, and negotiating!
Words cannot express my sincere gratitude to the UCLA Latino Alumni Association. I would not be in the position I am today without their support!
Did you apply for additional scholarships and/or student services programs?
Although I was a UCLA Latino Alumni Scholar, I applied for additional scholarships to help cover my living expenses. I applied to the Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF), an organization dedicated to supporting Latinx students in higher education. I recommend this scholarship opportunity to anyone pursuing higher education because it is available for incoming and current undergraduate/graduate students. When I participated in the Quarter in Washington Program, through the UCLA Center for American Politics and Public Policy, I also applied to the UC Presidential Public Service Fellowship and Robert T. Matsui UC Congressional Fellowship.
Furthermore, I was awarded a work-study grant and worked on campus all four years of college in the UCLA Spanish and Portuguese Department. I remember moving in early my freshman year to help other students move in and attend my work-study job interviews. I was fortunate enough to have secured my position in the Spanish and Portuguese Department before I even started my first day of classes.
I also participated in the Academic Advancement Program (AAP). During my freshman year, I bombed my Game Theory midterm and was terrified of failing the overall class. Thankfully, AAP’s Peer Learning Facilitators (PLFs) helped me pass the class. Through AAP, I also had access to graduate student advisors. These students gave me a realistic perspective on the law school application process and law school in general. Whenever I speak to prospective UCLA students of color, I advise joining AAP and actively participating in their programming.
Other student services programs that I participated in:
- UCLA First To Go/First-Gen
- UCLA Law Fellows Program
- Los Angeles JusticeCorps Program (an AmeriCorps Program)
- Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) Program
- UCLA Center for Community Engagement - 195CE Courses
- Hispanic Association Colleges and Universities National Internship Program
What are some of your fondest memories at UCLA?
- Ice blocking down Janss Steps
- Meeting Jorge Ramos behind Royce Hall
- Attending movie premieres in Westwood
- Late-night runs to Diddy Riese
- Studying at the botanical gardens
After graduation, you were an intern at Pensions Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Could you tell me a bit about your time there? What did you do, learn, and/or find interesting?
Following graduation, I interned at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) through the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) National Internship Program. The internships are short-term full-time positions in Washington D.C. federal agencies. The program facilitates short-term housing in the surrounding area and provides professional development workshops.
At PBGC, I was a summer legislative intern. In this role, I researched Congressional bills and monitored any of their related activities (endorsements, hearings, etc.) My internship was a great experience because the people I worked with were welcoming and so knowledgeable. I learned about federal agencies, multi-employer pension plans, retirement policies, and lobbying.
Have you given some thought to your future career goals or next steps or just taking it one step at a time?
The next step is law school! I am not sure what area of law I want to practice, but I definitely want to pursue public-interest work. Hopefully, in a few years from now, I am a pre-law mentor for future UCLA Latino Alumni Scholars.
Currently, you work as a Legal Assistant for CARECEN, an organization that provides free legal immigration services and resources, what does your role consist of?
At CARECEN, I work in the College Legal Services division for the California State University (CSU) Project. The CSU Project is a collaborative effort between CARECEN, the California Department of Social Services, and the Office of the CSU Chancellor to provide free immigration legal services to students, staff, faculty, and their immediate families. At the moment, CARECEN serves all 8 SoCal CSU campuses: Long Beach, Fullerton, Los Angeles, Dominguez Hills, Northridge, Channel Islands, Pomona, and San Bernardino (including its Palm Desert location).
I specifically work with the Cal Poly Pomona and Cal State San Bernardino campuses. Under attorney supervision, I conduct legal intakes, inform community members about different immigration legal options, prepare USCIS filings, provide updates on immigration policies, and collaborate with the university’s undocumented student centers and other university offices/student organizations. I absolutely love working on this project because it involves both legal services and community-based education efforts. When I am an attorney, I hope to work in a space where I can continue this dual combination.
Given the current public health crisis, what are some of the challenges your organization is facing and how does this affect your role?
Given the current public health crisis, all of our services are completely remote. This remote experience has exasperated the digital divide in low-income communities. Although our legal services are free, some folks have difficulties reaching us because they do not have a stable internet connection or a safe space to speak at home. Plus, Zoom fatigue is REAL! So sometimes this affects our turnout for our community events and limits who we can reach out to.
In response to these limits, the attorney and I have gotten creative with our outreach methods. We started having Instagram live sessions instead of Zoom events and those have been extremely successful. We are now reaching out to other IE immigration community organizations to collaborate on an initial DACA clinic.
As a recent UCLA college graduate…
Is there something that surprised you about or being at UCLA?
Although UCLA has a large student population, you’ll find your community! I was concerned that a large school would overwhelm me but instead, it made me a better advocate. Self-advocacy is something that we may find uncomfortable at first, but UCLA taught me the importance of using my voice. This lesson helped me form positive friendships and relationships with faculty and staff.
Is there anything at UCLA you wish you could have done if you had more time?
I wish I would have taken more advantage of the various research programs at UCLA. There are numerous scholarships to help with research-related costs and there are centers dedicated to helping undergraduates with research projects, UCR-HASS and UCR-Sciences!
If you had the opportunity to do to give your younger self advice, what would it be?
There is strength in vulnerability! Instead of hiding them away, embrace your vulnerabilities. You’ll realize you’re not alone and it will only make you stronger.
In your opinion, is there something underrated and/or wish you know about UCLA?
Take advantage of the career services office and Scholarship Resource Center! Even after graduation, I still communicate with the Scholarship Resource Center; the staff is extremely supportive!
Any advice for future students?
Do not be afraid to ask questions. Go to office hours and pick the brains of your professors, TA’s, and academic advisors. Go to alumni events and ask questions about their academic/career journeys. Join student groups to ask other students about their academic experiences.
*Best study spot on campus:
3rd Floor of the Arts Library in the Public Affairs building
(they have free snacks during finals week)
Latino Bruin Carlo Valdes was raised in Newport Beach, California. Carlo Valdes is a three-time member of the USA Bobsled national team. Racing in the USA-1 BMW sled alongside one of the best bobsled pilots in the world and three-time Olympic Medalist Steven Holcomb, Valdes has turned himself into one of the finest brakeman to compete in the two-man and the four-person disciplines. Before joining Team USA, Valdes was a two-sport star (track and football) at Mater Dei High School and UCLA, where he received four varsity letters.
During his rookie season, Valdes was awarded the USA Bobsled Rookie of the Year Award. His season was highlighted by nine top-10 finishes on the World Cup tour. Valdes also helped two-time Olympic Medalist Elana Meyers Taylor make history, pushing her to the bronze medal in the Calgary North American Cup race. The third-place finish was the first-ever medal won by a female piloting a four-person bobsled in an international competition.
Valdes returned to the ice in 2015-16 with even more success, pushing Holcomb to two medals on the World Cup circuit en route to the USA Bobsled Athletes' Choice Award.
In the 2016-17 season, Valdes and Holcomb raced again as USA-1. The duo finished this season ranked second in the world in two-man and third in the four-person. During his first three seasons in the sport of bobsled, Valdes has already accumulated six World Cup medals.
Carlo earned 2 more World Cup medals (Silver, Bronze) in the 2017/2018 season sliding with Codie Bascue and earned himself a spot on the Olympic Team representing Team USA in Pyeongchang, South Korea, where he teamed up with Justin Olsen, Nate Weber, and Chris Fogt.
Valdes took 2 years off from the sport to start a financial services business while still keeping his level of fitness up and made the decision to come back to the sport in 2020. He went on his way to slide with Codie Bascue once again for the 2020-21 World Cup season and just finished qualifications for the Olympic Games next year in Beijing, China.
After the weekend of races March 20-21, 2021, Carlo came in first in his two man boat and his four-man team (Codie Bascue (Whitehall, N.Y.), Gage Smith (Whitefish, Mont.), and Kyle Wilcox (Tampa, Fla.)) finished second.
You can follow Carlo on Instagram @carlosvaldes_usa or check out the Team USA Website to keep up with his journey towards the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic qualifications. We'll be watching in October when USA teams are named and also in January 2022 when Olympic teams are named!
On February 11th, ULAA hosted a STEM panel featuring NASA Engineer, Katya Echazarreta, Emergency Room Medical Doctor, Dr. Jesus Torres, and former Chevron Project Manager Engineer, Randy Arizmendiz. Ivette Jimenez, Nurse Practitioner, moderated the session. We learned about supportive organizations on campus, how they were able to thrive despite being one of the few Latinx in their classrooms, and even heard about the Perseverance Rover landing.
Check out our Panelist and Moderators bios below!
Ivette Jimenez MS, RN, AGNP-BC (UCLA Class of 2011) is a Nurse Practitioner and Primary Care Provider at the San Francisco VA Medical Center. She is also the Associate Co-Director of the NP Residency at the VA and an Assistant Clinical Professor at the University of California, San Francisco. She is passionate about education, health care equity and mentorship. She hopes that her efforts in education and mentoring will cause more students to go into health care fields. She was born and raised in Los Angeles, loves to run marathons and is proud of her Zapotec indigenous roots.
Randy Arizmendiz received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering (UCLA '09) and M.B.A (USC '20), focused on data analytics and team leadership. His passion is in energy and its environmental implications. He began his career at Chevron where he found creative ways to minimize wastes, clean and reuse water, and also reduce air pollution. His projects included developing technologies to "count" carbon atoms in realtime in order to reduce greenhouse gases as well as optimize the operations. Most recently he's moved into projects that involve developing renewable energy from trash and other industrial wastes.
When he's not "nerding-out" over technology, he spends time with his wife, dog, cat, and chickens.
Jesus Torres completed his Emergency Medicine residency at UCSF-SFGH in 2020 and attended medical school at New York Medical College and Harvard for an MPH. He was born and raised in Pacoima, California, a community surrounding Olive-UCLA Medical Center, and attended UCLA for college. He is currently a research fellow at the UCLA National Clinician Scholars Program and the International and Domestic Health Equity and Leadership (IDHEAL). He practices emergency medicine at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center.
Katya Echazarreta graduated from UCLA in 2019 with a degree in Electrical Engineering. During her time there she was a part-time intern at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She is now a full-time engineer at JPL and has worked on missions such as the Perseverance Rover and Europa Clipper.
Brenda Robles, PhD, MPH (‘07, ‘10, ‘18) is a THREE TIME Bruin based in Los Angeles who currently works for the Los Angeles Department of Public Health battling the spread of COVID-19. Before the pandemic took over, she served solely as the chief research analyst for nutrition and health programs. Her education, training, and Spanish skills have made her an invaluable asset performing contract tracing and helping to mitigate risk in the Latino community. "It's something so novel and not like anything any of us have experienced, including the health department," she confided.
The Good Samaritan
At the start of the pandemic, Robles started sewing masks for the public. "I just wanted to do something. It started out just me making masks for myself and my family. And the next thing you know, me and my mom and dad made around 1,300 masks. We are part of the Aunty Sewing Club- it’s a grassroots mutual aid network dedicated to making masks to stop the spread of Covid-19. They sent masks to populations who didn't have access to them like immigration groups and tribal nations like the Navajo Nation. She reminds Bruins to follow the health recommendations, “It’s important to do our part to keep other people safe who don’t have the option.Try to limit the spread so it doesn’t put essential workers and other essential workers at greater risks.” She hopes enough vaccines will be made available to the general public to help get us out of this pandemic, “I see the light with the vaccine.”
Thriving Beyond Imposter Syndrome
Brenda shares that her experience at UCLA was exciting and exposed her to numerous learning opportunities. She shares, with great self-assurance, that she didn’t have everything figured out before entering her field, “Public Health was something I was always interested in, but I wasn’t aware it was a career choice,” reflected Robles. She made her way from a Chicano Studies major (a route she was influenced to take by a peer counselor supporting first generation students) to the world of public health by participating in UCLA campus groups and discovering her passions through those experiences.
“I’ve made really amazing friends in all three chapters of my Bruin life,” she says but describes some of her fondest moments in her undergrad years being part of student groups and experiencing college for the first time as a first gen student. “A lot of us first gens, we’ve had to overcome a lot of struggles and assumptions about people. It’s not a cake walk. I vividly remember my high school teacher telling us that we were the cream of the crop at our school, but that we would fail at UCLA (wasn’t she wrong!).
Remind yourself that you deserve to be at UCLA. Sometimes imposter syndrome can set in and that can be a challenge for a lot of first gen people, including myself! I had to learn to be confident and realize that I’m qualified,” she urged. She added that it’s important to be ok with failing, “It’s ok to not always succeed -- be open minded.”
She urges Bruins entering the workforce to find a job that compensates them and drives them.
How One Zoom Meeting Raised Over $1k for the UCLA Latino Alumni Endowed Scholarship Fund via Pledgeling
by: Andrea Arias
My UCLA education was made possible with a scholarship from the UCLA Latino Alumni Association. After graduating this past March and joining the Pledgeling team full-time, I got more involved with the UCLA Latino Alumni Association and decided to combine my two worlds.
In December, the UCLA Latino Alumni Association had a fun ‘Ugly Sweater Soiree’ over Zoom to gather our community safely during the holiday season. Prior to the event, we did not set a fundraising goal because we weren’t planning to focus on fundraising, but rather on community. Then, however, we realized we were missing an opportunity to fundraise live. It was clear to me that Pledgeling's seamless technology was the solution the UCLA Latino Alumni Association needed to streamline fundraising during the festivities while maintaining focus on the DJ, games, and music, so I suggested it. The ULAA team thought it worked perfectly and decided to just see what happened if we offered an easy option to donate.
After setting up the Virtual Donation Overlay and text to donate in minutes, ULAA was able to raise a little over a thousand dollars in forty minutes! Now we have a thousand more dollars in our Scholarship Endowment fund to support Latinx students’ UCLA education. This was without planning a marketing campaign for our fundraiser far in advance! Having an easy text to donate option makes a huge difference.
I can’t recommend the Virtual Donation Overlay and text to donate enough to all nonprofits and alumni associations. We live in exciting times where you don’t need to throw fancy, expensive galas for your donors. One hour or thirty minutes of virtual programming can raise thousands of dollars for your mission - it’s that simple.
Join the #PledgeToDoGood! Now is the time.
Screenshot taken during this virtual event on Zoom when they surpassed $1k raised in 40 minutes!
Reflections from a Poll Worker
By Jessica Zaldana
I began volunteering as a poll worker back in 2010. I never planned to volunteer as an election worker, much less continue to volunteer as one since. I remember turning up to vote earlier that year and I was shocked by the lack of civic involvement. Based on what I observed, 2010 was a stark contrast compared to the voter turnout for the Presidential Election of 2008. As I cast my ballot to vote, I noticed a flyer on the sign-in table calling for poll workers. I requested one. Everyone at the table was delighted. They even asked if I wanted to immediately write my information in the special section for people interested in becoming poll workers from the Roster for Registered Voters. I politely declined, but took the flyer and let them know I wanted to do a bit of background research first.
I took the flyer home then searched the website listed on the flyer. I felt nervous about the whole process. Looking back, I think it was the general state of the economy. I was 20 and jobs were hard to come by. The typical entry-level jobs employing young people were filled by middle-aged adults and senior citizens. The Economic Recession of 2008 had really taken a heavy toll on people all over the country. Many were out of work. In the apartment building where I was living, the majority of the one-bedroom apartments were occupied by multiple families avoiding homelessness. Some of the residents were new to living in low-income neighborhoods; they had lost everything, including their homes and small businesses. Despite my doubts, I decided to sign up as an election worker instead of sitting around and lamenting the lack of career opportunities. By getting involved, I thought to myself while filling out the application, I may learn something.
Over the years, I have learned that we all have the opportunity to contribute to our communities. We should all contribute what we can. There are many ways to make a difference. Nothing will change in our communities if we do not inform ourselves and vote. The voter turnout for non-Presidential or non-State elections is abysmal. I have worked in elections where fewer than 5 people turned out to vote. I have come across people that proudly proclaim that they don’t vote, and that it does not matter. They believe it changes nothing and they will not benefit from voting. I disagree. Simply because an issue does not affect you it does not mean that it will not impact your neighbors, families, and community. I cannot tell you how many times people think smaller elections matter less. These elections elect local school board members and community college board members. These elected board members have the power to decide where funding is needed, like after-school programs, meal programs, community resources, and programs to improve access to higher and technical education. For too long, the majority of voters have been too complacent or too busy to care. The current nationwide education problem is a byproduct of decades of infrastructure neglect. You cannot have a first-rate country without a first-rate public education system, much less competent government.
Serving as a poll worker is an eye-opening experience and an opportunity to interact with people from all walks of life. You never know when a skill might come in handy. Anything is possible on Election Day. The only constant throughout the day is that voting never stops, no matter what. Before Election Day, candidates that are selected as poll workers or inspectors and must undergo training and read through all required materials. I have found that it is best to review all reading material at least one week prior to Election Day. This makes it easier to support other poll workers or new inspectors and defend voters when their right to vote is being challenged. Ideally, an inspector will visit the polling center to become familiar with the layout and make the necessary arrangements to ensure access on Election Day. A good inspector should also call before Election Day to confirm attendance, the specific location of the polling center (since some locations are large public institutions like universities). However, this advance work by the inspector is not always possible due to last-minute changes.
Each Election Day begins early. Poll workers begin gathering before 5:50 a.m. and wait for their inspector. The expectation is for everyone to arrive by 6 a.m. Usually, everyone waits outside of the polling center, meeting each other in person for the first time, waiting for a call from their inspector. After the inspector arrives, everyone uploads voting equipment and supplies from the inspector’s car, carrying everything into the polling center. Within that crucial hour, everyone has to work together to assemble and test equipment. Polling booths, voting machines, and check-in tables must be up and ready to go by 7 a.m. when the polls officially open for voting.
There are slow and rush hour periods. On occasion, problems may arise. No matter the situation, it is important to remain calm in order to find a solution and allow the voting process to continue. The last major election period was filled with many technical and logistical problems due to major changes for voters and poll workers. Now, the setup does not occur on Election Day, but on the first day of the voting period. Election Day now marks the last day to vote. Despite the changes, the responsibilities of poll workers remain the same. The objective is always to allow people to exercise their right to vote.
One observation I have made over the last decade regarding the deficits in the system is the lack of sufficient bilingual poll workers. Oftentimes, I find that I am the only proficient Spanish-speaker for my precinct, although recruitment has slightly improved. Most poll workers tend to be middle-aged to senior-aged adults. I have noticed that senior citizens take great pride in exercising their right to vote. Some of these senior citizens are voters with disabilities; they will come in with their walkers, oxygen masks, wheelchairs, or escorted by their caretakers to cast their vote in person. For this election, however, it is absolutely essential that young people volunteer as poll workers due to the COVID-19 health risks for senior citizens.
The key to a smooth day is providing quality customer service and good communication. The goal is to make the process as smooth as possible by processing voters quickly and efficiently. Throughout the day, poll workers and inspectors assist people with checking in, the voting process, and any other questions or concerns. In addition, everyone has to work together to ensure that proper procedure is being followed and to report irregularities such as electioneering and open campaigning at polling centers. Election workers also have to make sure no one steals ballots or polling center supplies. Sometimes, there are several voting districts or precincts housed at the same location. Despite being located in the same place, they operate independently. All poll workers must ensure issued ballots are cast at the same precinct where they were originally issued. Mail-in ballots are the exception as they can be handed in at any polling center or precinct.
As I have previously mentioned, anything can happen on Election Day. People will sometimes forget their personal belongings-- identification cards, bill receipts, glasses, teddy bears. Usually, people return to retrieve them, but not always. Please don’t forget to check your voting booth before casting your ballot to make sure you have all your belongings.
Some voters are so joyous and outgoing that they can energize the people around them. A few voters have danced their way through the polling center. On the other hand, other voters seem agitated, eager to express their eccentricity. As a poll worker, your job is not to react to people, no matter how outlandish (i.e. candidate x is an alien from outer space, the latest trending conspiracy theory, fill in the blank). As long as a voter can tell you their name, address, and sign the register, they must be allowed to vote. In some cases, it is necessary to remind voters not to voice their political opinions while inside the polling center in order to avoid altercations between voters. By the end of the day, all voters in line before 8 p.m. are processed, then everything has to be quickly disassembled, all ballots accounted for including damaged ballots. Inventory must be conducted for all equipment, supplies, and ballots. Everything is packed followed by a quick walk-through of the area to ensure the area is left clean. Polling centers are lost when left in an unacceptable condition or damaged since polling centers are usually spaces that organizations or property owners (some polling areas are homes or businesses) have volunteered to the local community for use. The day ends after the inspector, along with another poll worker, drops everything at the collection site for processing. After the official Election Day ends, everyone who worked together go their separate ways.
Throughout, the years I have met interesting people. I never imagined that I would have the opportunity to informally learn about other professions or careers by working alongside other volunteers as a poll worker. I have met an architect, a retired actress, a park recreation worker, a librarian, as well as people planning a new career. Most of these people have been kind enough to share life wisdom. If you can, please consider volunteering as a poll worker for this election to protect our senior citizens, or even in future elections! They all matter. Please don’t forget to vote!
Edited by Nicki Beltranena
This program matches alumni with ULAA scholarship recipients and other Latinx students to provide mentorship in professional development and personal growth. Mentors commit for one academic year, attend virtual events, and connect with students one-on-one at least twice every quarter. All professional disciplines welcome. Applications are due by 11:59pm PST on Monday, October 5, 2020. Questions? Contact UCLA Latino Alumni Association Scholarship Chair Angela Sanchez: [email protected]
Monday, October 5, 2020 - Applications are due by 11:59pm PST.
Sunday, October 18, 2020 - OrgullOSO mentor/student matches will be announced.
October 21-24, 2020 - Multiple mentor training sessions will be held virtually.
Oct. 26-31, 2020 - We will kick-off meetings for Mentors and Mentees. Details TBD.
First, to anyone facing food insecurity, please see LA County Public Health’s Food Banks.
Find family assistance through the Children’s Institute, transforming the lives of children exposed to adversity and poverty in Los Angeles. Programs are available for early age, school age, foster youth and teenagers, as well as Parents/Caregivers and Fathers. As part of your Blue Shield of California Promise Health coverage, enrollment in their no-cost Health Homes Program can provide a dedicated care coordinator tol help you navigate health benefits and apply for community services.
Mental health is also key to stability. UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center’s free programming offers free podcasts and guided meditations.
Finally, there’s still time to sign up for UCLA Extension’s FREE career course MGMT 753. This course aims to prepare you for an effective job search. Enroll by Jan 4 for Spring.
This Facebook group is an open forum for new, current, and former UCLA first-generation students to connect, share information, and ask questions about all things UCLA and first-gen!
The Transfer Student Center is committed to serving the diverse population of transfer students at UCLA and the needs particular to this community. We help students hit the ground running by connecting them to the university system and offering support and the tools they need to achieve their desired goals at UCLA and beyond
The mission at the Engineering Transfer Center is to provide resources and support to current Samueli Engineering transfer students, increase visibility and advocacy for the transfer community in the school, and build partnerships with local community colleges to support the engineering pipeline.
24/7 crisis support is always available by phone at 310-825-0768
Build skills to bounce back, persist, and thrive in the face of challenge
Alumni Career Engagement Resources
Job Search Starter Kit - Provides easy templates for a résumé, cover letter and email correspondences, as well as Résumé Tips and a Career Development Plan.
Job Search and Networking – an incredible list of over sixty job search, networking, and personal resources.
Tools for Your 2020 Job Search, Career Development, and First Job- resources to help guide you
UCLAOne - This is your community, where Bruins help Bruins. Leverage the collective power of the vast alumni network and cultivate a culture of helping and giving back.
The Association of Latino Professionals for America is a business organization that aims to empower underrepresented students.
Their mission is to uplift Central American graduate students in the United States through mutual support, education, and organizing that is rooted and founded in social change.
The UCLA Veterans Resource Center (VRC) provides caring and personalized support to UCLA undergraduate and graduate military-connected student. We help our military-connected students navigate UCLA and provide a welcoming space, mentoring from student veterans, guidance on educational benefits, and tools to succeed academically and personally.
State of the Labor Market - by Industry (AKA Top Fields for a Post-Covid World)
Utilize this tool from Handshake that can share top industries and fields. https://learn.joinhandshake.com/students/hiring-on-handshake-500/
Register at: http://bit.ly/SabioCode
The Hispanic Heritage Foundation identifies, inspires, prepares, and connects Latino Leaders in the community, classroom, and workforce.
UCLA’s first and only Latinx newsmagazine
A national membership organization that addresses the professional needs of [email protected] content creators. We stand as the premiere Latino media organization, addressing for close to 20 years the most underrepresented and the largest ethnic minority in the country. NALIP was founded in 1999 by a group of Latino producers, content creators, academics and media advocates. During the first NALIP conference in San Francisco in June 1999, NALIP was organized by the conference participants, and the mission and organizational guiding principles were adopted.
NALIP's mission is to promote, advance and advocate for Latino content creators across media.
Courses completely free for anyone, anywhere, including:
Free Drop-in Meditations
Free weekly "drop-in" sessions led by UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center's Diana Winston, Marvin G. Belzer Ph.D, and other MARC-affiliated teachers. Open to anyone interested in how to 'live more presently' in life.