Spotlight: UCLA 2021 Latinx Graduates!!
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.
An Interview with former ULAA Scholar Esmeralda Suarez
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)