31 Days of APIDAs

We met so many passionate, articulate, and inspiring APIDAs from all walks of life that we couldn’t just stop at 31 Days of APIDAs. So here’s another bonus interview featuring TinyBubbles Aranda, a fourth year sociology major who was vice president of PISA 2014-2015.

How do you identify?

I am half Samoan and Mexican, I’m Christian and I’m from Carson, California.

How long have you been at UCLA?

I’ve been at UCLA since the summer of 2012 before my freshman year. I got into Freshman Summer Program through South Central Scholars.

Why did you choose UCLA?

When senior year came I really didn’t have a dream school. I had no clue where I wanted to go. I just knew that I could apply to four UCs and four Cal States for free. It’s funny because I wasn’t even going to apply to UCLA at first. When a UCLA rep from the Early Academic Outreach Program was talking to me about college he asked why I didn’t want to apply here because obviously it’s such a prestigious school. As a naive high schooler, I said “I don’t know, everyone applies there so I thought I would apply to other schools. He then went on to say, “so you’re letting others determine where you’re going to apply?” It hit me that that was the dumbest reason to not apply to UCLA and I’m so glad that I did. It was between here and Berkeley. The biggest thing on my mind was my family; I wasn’t ready to leave them. Although I have a lot of family in the bay, I wanted to be close to my parents. I was a PIER student at Carson High, where they still currently service, so I was able to meet folks from PISA. I knew I would have a PI family at UCLA and that comforted me because I was so used to being around Poly’s and I didn’t know what to expect from college. At the end of the year leadership retreat that they hold for the students, they found out I was accepted into UCLA and encouraged me to apply for PIER, where I worked my first two years of college. My first year in I knew I made the right decision.

How do you think your identity affects your experiences at UCLA?

I mostly identify with my Samoan side because I grew up with my mom’s side of the family. In high school I was used to being around Poly’s all the time, but when I got to UCLA I found out how small the PI community actually is in higher education, which at the time was .001%. We make up a much smaller percentage and have to do a lot more to be known on campus and have to work harder for our community and service events. My eyes opened to the real struggle that PI’s faced beyond my small city of Carson. I wanted to change this in any big or small way that I could. I thought college was going to nothing but classes and partying. Boy was I wrong. I learned the importance of using my privilege as a college student to give back to my own community and encourage more of my people to pursue higher education. When the younger generation can see that Pacific Islanders can make it to college and be successful in it, it motivates them to follow that path and break the stereotypes that we face everyday. Often times when people first meet me and find out that I go to UCLA, they ask “what do you play?” I want our people to be seen as more than our physical capabilities and be recognized for our intellect as well. This mentality was the drive of much of my experiences in college. It feels good to be a role model as a minority for my younger family members back home and the younger generation in our community. Being a part of PISA taught me how to give back to my community, which was especially a blessing because I could serve my own hometown of Carson. I think having found PISA made my whole college experience the best it could have ever been. I was in PISA all four years of college and they have truly become another family to me. Having them as my support system really made college a great experience for me.

Are you in any student groups on campus? What are some of your experiences?

I’ve always been heavily involved in the Pacific Islands’ Student Association (PISA), I worked for the Pacific Islander Education and Retention (PIER) outreach project my first 2 years, and I was an intern for the Asian Pacific Coalition my 3rd year. One of my favorite memories was our first Polynesian Arts & Culture Night last year. Coming here, I was slightly disappointed that there was no dancing because I had danced for almost 10 years with Tupulaga (Polynesian dance group based in Carson) before leaving to college. Live, then president, wanted to coordinate this Polynesian Arts & Culture Night during her last year, so that’s something she wanted to leave behind as part of her legacy. I was thankful to be a part of it and help to coordinate the choreography. It was nice to be able to dance again and use my dance experience to teach the community and fellow Bruins about our history and spread cultural awareness.

What’s your favorite part of your culture(s)?

We always keep God first in our lives. In all that we do we never forget to thank Him because we know that nothing is possible without Him. Family because even though you aren’t able to be with your own family, you can really make family anywhere. A lot of times when you see another Poly you just want to know them and you’re not scared to approach them, especially in college when you don’t see as many PI people so you get excited seeing a fellow PI. Food is such a huge part of my culture, not only because Samoan food is bomb, but it also brings people together.

What’s your greatest challenge right now?

My big challenge right now is trying to find a job in the field I’m actually interested in. I know I want to work in a hospital, probably starting in a clerical position because I still need to take some classes before applying to nursing school. I’ll be moving home after I graduate and will have to contribute to the family income. So after I find a job, I’m hoping it won’t be too much of a struggle balancing a job, courses, and hopefully volunteering.

What’s your favorite memory of UCLA?

All the memories are for sure with PISA. One of my favorites from first year is when all the PISA girls went out for a club event. That was all of our first times clubbing together. The seniors took out the all freshies and it was really fun. Professor Camacho’s class is also one of my favorite memories because it was the first and only class I was able to take that focuses on the Pacific Islands and probably my favorite class at UCLA for that reason. I loved learning about my own culture and from a real PI professor at that! Also attending the Hawaii travel study program in 2014. Those courses really opened my eyes to the history of colonialism in the islands. I also loved it because I was able to see a lot of family that I haven’t seen in a while. Both these courses motivated me to be another voice of advocacy for my PI people through community service work. It makes me strive to see more PI’s in higher education. We’ve come a long way but also have a lot more work to do.

What is on your UCLA or LA bucket list?

For the most part I have had a very fulfilling college experience at UCLA. There have lots of new and fun experiences as well as trials. However, if I had to list one thing it would be to run the perimeter. I have only done it one time in my freshman year. If you know me, you know I hate running and rarely ever do, although I know I can. So maybe before sometime before I graduate (or summer) I will run the perimeter one last time to end off my UCLA college experience.

Overall, I’m just blessed to be able to be a college graduate for my family and myself. My sister made me realize I’d be the first of my siblings to graduate college. I’ll be the first grandchild to graduate from my family as well. I’m thankful to be a role model for my family and I can’t wait to see the future God has in store for me when I leave UCLA.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path.

Check out Asian Pacific Coalition’s new website!

We met so many passionate, articulate, and inspiring APIDAs from all walks of life that we couldn’t just stop at 31 Days of APIDAs. So here’s a bonus interview featuring Tonu Tenari, a fourth year anthropology major and cognitive science minor.

How do you identify?

First generation, full Samoan, female, and first generation college student from Long Beach. Rooted in a long history of seafarers and warriors from Western Samoa.

Why did you choose UCLA?

Attending PISA (Pacific Islands Students Association)’s Yield/Bruin Day Weekend. As opposed to when I visited other college campuses, this institution was the only one that actually catered to my community: Pacific Islanders pursuing higher education. The first PISA member I met was Live Maluia, who actually turned out to be my cousin! I had no idea and my parents just got out of the car all casual and were like, “Oh, hey Live.” Since then, I became comfortable with the idea of coming here to UCLA knowing that I had family here to help guide me along the way. On this same weekend, I made a strong connection with older PISA members and was originally going to enroll at USC but changed my mind after that Bruin Day weekend and SIR’d to UCLA. Ever since I was in middle school, USC was my dream school so my family was surprised that I chose otherwise. My intention of coming to Yield/Bruin Day weekend was just to have fun and get out of the house, but PISA’s program had such an impact on me that I began to be able to imagine myself here for the next four years. That was a game changer and it just goes to show how powerful PISA’s presence is to our community. We try to make positive impacts everyday.

How do you think your identity affects your experiences at UCLA?

I grew up in a traditional Samoan family. My household practices consisted of the values of Fa’a Samoa and being raised in this type of environment had a huge influence on the interactions and relationships I made here at UCLA. I sympathize with lower income and marginalized communities at UCLA because they parallel the community conditions that I am familiar with. Coming to UCLA was a culture shock because I came into contact with people who were obviously more privileged than myself. But being active in PISA helped to keep me rooted, supported, and retained. Engaging with my peers within these spaces inspired me to become an active voice within the community. PISA taught me that if you don’t fight for your community, no one else will do it for you.

When I first got here I never really thought about the disproportionate amount of PIs in STEM related career fields. It also didn’t dawn on me how lonely it would get or how people would categorize me as dumb because of my profile. I recall the struggle to form study groups but I felt like it was a hostile environment. South campus is so competitive; everyone is trying to compete against each other and unknowingly bring each other down. Coming from a community where I’m heavily invested in my family and going to school for reasons besides self fulfillment makes it hard to connect with others. I didn’t feel that many people in my classes, at that time, understood this struggle or shared these responsibilities. My cultural identity already set me on a separate trajectory from many here at UCLA. My experiences with PISA and PIER have helped me to realize that my eventual goal is to go home and increase access to health care for my communities of color. I’m just trying to make sure that I’m making ways for my community to improve as well as build others up.

In the end, I have decided to become a medical social worker and hope to increase the dialogue on mental health by eliminating stigmas and promoting a holistic approach to wellness. My identity is intricately tied to my cultural values, career goals as well as my hope to give back to the community.

Are you in any student groups on campus? What are some of your experiences?

PISA, PIER (Pacific Islander Education and Retention), Pacific Islanders for Health. These entities capture the biggest values I learned during my time at UCLA. As a hugely underrepresented population on campus, PISA creates a space to give voice to issues like disaggregated data and eliminating stereotypes surrounding Pacific Islanders in athleticism and militarism.

During my freshman year, I was enrolled in the cluster for interracial dynamics. I remember introducing myself to classmates who specifically asked about my ethnicity. When I told them that I was Pacific Islander, I specified that I was from the island of Samoa. They were quick to equate Pacific Islander under the popular umbrella term AAPI, but mistakenly said that these two communities were the same. Which they are NOT. As a first year, I quickly came to the realization that many students are under the impression of referring to textbooks (written by our own colonizers) to try and tell me where my ancestors came from. That was one of the most powerful experiences I had experienced of Western privilege. I realized that Western education was a dominant force that tries to oppress the narratives that indigenous people have experienced. No textbook should have the power to erase an entire history of people who have passed down their culture with spoken language and gestures for thousands of years. That was a massive wake up call, which is why I am so vocal about the presence of PISA on campus. We exist to establish a genuine and authentic account of Pacific Islander struggles and hope to spread it to the greater Los Angeles network.

PIER had a huge part in shaping my strengths into a career. I had always been flexible with tutoring methodologies and loved to learn about how others learned. As a reflection of low retention and matriculation rates into college, I learned the significance that this project has in creating the bridge from UCLA to home. This project symbolizes a stepping stone for many of my family and friends who can get motivated to succeed in the academic sphere. During my time here at UCLA, I had gotten on academic probation and actually stooped very low by becoming subject to dismissal (STD). I became depressed and extremely anxious. One of my biggest motivations to turn my GPA around and to succeed was knowing that my PIER students, as well as the kids from my church and family, looked up to me as a role model. While I continued to preach and lecture them about the importance of meeting their A-G requirements, I began to start taking my own advice. Also by sharing my academic struggles with PIER students and being honest about my progress, I no longer felt alone and neither did they. I worked hard with my students to simultaneously reach our goals. I was deeply touched by the progress that many students had made with the mission that PIER strives to fulfill. I started to pray more and practice methods of self-love and self-care. Because of this, PIER will always have a special place in my heart, and I serve now as the Outreach Coordinator who overlooks the project.

By combining my two passions for increasing access to higher education as well as increasing access to affordable healthcare, I came across medical social work. So now I have come full circle.

What’s your favorite part of your culture(s)?

“E iloa le tama ma le teine Samoa i lana tu ma le savali, fa’apea ma lana tautala.” Rough translation: “You know a Samoan male or female by the way that they present themselves (stance), the way they walk (grace) as well as how they speak with others.” The three core values all PIs share are their faith in God, their family, and their culture.

This quote captures how one identifies as a Samoan through language. One of the biggest problems in the U.S. is that there are a loss of languages everywhere. With language serving as one of the biggest markers of culture, what does it mean when more and more generations of Pacific Islanders are not retaining and transmitting the tongue of our ancestors? By being monolingual English speakers, we are playing into a very systematic way of disconnecting us with who we are and where we originated from. The way you conduct yourself and the way you walk incorporates the pride one has in their history and the gracefulness in which we dance. These things are meaningful to us. Being raised with Fa’a Samoa, there is no greater pride I have than to display the rich history that my parents taught me. Without my parents, I would have turned out to be a completely different person. They were the foundation of cultural values that shaped me into who I was today. Growing up in the U.S. there is a large demand to assimilate and I am glad to acknowledge that I am one of the few Pacific Islanders on campus that actually speak their language and understand it fluently. I carry this privilege with me and hope to pass this on to my future generations.

What’s your greatest challenge right now?

Honestly, I’m just trying to stay mentally strong throughout these next week of finals and studying. I pray everyday for strength and guidance. Spreading prayers of endurance and well wishes to all of my graduating seniors, we are almost there!!!

What’s your favorite memory of UCLA?

Institutionally, my favorite experience was finally getting straight A’s this year. Within the past two years that I had been on a contract, I have worked through my own anxieties of inadequacy and self-doubt. My grades reflect how I have overcome something that I struggled with for a long time. These grades also combine with the newfound confidence that I gained in finding my passion with mental health and being able to spread this impact through programming the annual Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Youth Health and Fitness Day for three years in a row. This time period has been very symbolic in ways that I have established to improve myself – emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically. It was a reflection of all the personal growth I made on campus. My second favorite memory was meeting my best friend while working for PIER in my first year. He kept me sane throughout all of the ups and downs that I experienced during my time here at UCLA. As of this today, this person will have been my boyfriend for about three years and some. Shoutout to Wade Yandall, my college sweetheart.

What is on your UCLA or LA bucket list?

I’ve done everything on my bucket list. I’m an outgoing person so I’ve done many things I’ve wanted to do, like rushing a sorority, trying out for club sports, maintaining a long term relationship, getting involved with community service, organizing health fairs, meeting lifelong friends through PISA, and working meaningful jobs. I am very humbled to have ended my Bruin career on a very positive note as well as being surrounded by an excellent support system.

Check out Asian Pacific Coalition’s new website!

In honor of May being Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Pacific Ties and Asian Pacific Coalition (APC) are teaming up to featuring Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Bruins. We’ll be posting one interview per day. 

Michelle Mendoza is a fourth-year student majoring in Sociology. She identifies as half-Chamorro and half-Pilipina.

When did you join PISA (Pacific Islands Student Association)?

I first heard of it in my second year; my TA identified as Chamorro, which is also what I identify as, and told me about it. So I joined in spring quarter of my second year.

How has your experience in PISA been?

It’s very welcoming, like a family. It’s also shown me a lot about the political aspects of my community, not just cultural. In my third year, I was still just a general member, but later that year I applied to be one of the Yield coordinators. The Yield program is where we invite freshmen and transfers from our community to have the Bruin Experience: we show them resources, introduce them to PISA members, and just expose what UCLA is. It’s before they SIR (submit a Statement of Intent to Register), so our aim is recruitment.

Do you have a favorite memory from your time in PISA?

My first staff retreat. That was when I got to see everything that goes on behind-the-scenes. I realized how involved they are – not just with retention projects, but also cultural night, youth fitness days, and inviting high school students to campus multiple times a quarter. It’s really nice to get to see your own people on campus. It’s amazing how a small group of people can pull off all that.

Are you involved in any other organizations on campus?

I joined Pilipinos for Community Health (PCH) in my first year. My RA that year was Pilipina, and she recommended I check it out. I’ve been on the staff for the past three years: in my second year, I was staff assistant/historian, because taking photos is one of my hobbies; in my third and fourth years, I was Alumni Relations Director.

Speaking of alumni, can you comment on the importance of alumni in your community?

Yeah, there are actually a lot of Pilipinos in the area that can offer advice and build networking opportunities. I’ve been contacting a lot of recent graduates, and it’s nice to see how they’re working towards their journey. A lot of them are applying to med school, getting accepted to med school, or already in med school – it’s nice to see, because a lot of our members are hoping to achieve that goal as well.

Anything else you’d like to mention?

I forgot to mention earlier, I’m work for a program called Jumpstart, which is part of Americorps. It’s an enrichment opportunity to work with children in low-income families. This is my third year being involved, and I’m now working with three year-olds, the youngest age group. It’s so rewarding to see them putting letters and words together, to see them learning. The program is really trying to bridge the educational gap, something I’m very passionate about.

I’m also involved in Pacific Islanders for Health (P4H), which is like PCH but targeted toward PI communities. We just started this year, and so far we’re off to a really good start. We collaborated with the health fair recently, and our general members are very active in trying to improve the quality of health of our people and bridge health disparities of our people.

Wow, you’ve done a lot of great work on this campus. How have you managed it all?

When you like the people, it doesn’t feel like an obligation. When you like what you do, it doesn’t feel like work. The orgs I’m involved in also helped me figure out what I want to do after school, as they’re all centered around community health and education. I found that I am very passionate about community health, not as much things like research or medical practice.

Lastly, is there any guilty pleasure music that you listen to?

Okay, so this sounds really cheesy but on sunny days like this, I like to listen to island music.

Any recommendations?

Kolohe Kai, Common Kings… just island music.

Check out Asian Pacific Coalition’s new website!

 

In honor of May being Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Pacific Ties and Asian Pacific Coalition (APC) are teaming up to featuring Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Bruins. We’ll be posting one interview per day. 

Angela Yip is a third-year Asian American studies and political science major and public affairs minor. She a part of UCLA Residential Life, Students for Education Reform, and the Student Fee Advisory Committee (SFAC).

How do you identify?

Chinese American woman. My mom’s parents are immigrants, but my dad’s family has been here for at least four generations. I think my dad’s family having been here for a long time has affected my experience. When I lived in Oregon as a kid, I didn’t see other Asian Americans around me and I ended up taking on a colorblind perspective. My parents used to joke that I was white. I moved to California when I was seven, but it wasn’t until the end of high school that my perspective began to change.

How is it like finishing up your second year as a Residential Advisor?

I love being an R.A. It challenges me to become a role model and a mentor. Through my role, I’ve also learned of different pressures that students face, especially students of color, so I try to be a source of support.

So I heard you’re involved in SFAC, what exactly is that?

I’m a part of the Student Fee Advisory Committee. It’s a two-year term that consists of undergraduates, administrators, and faculty who recommend where the student fees should be allocated.

Why is this something you chose to take part of?

Well there are two major categories of fees that students pay for: tuition and student service fees. Student fees go to different types of non-academic services. For example, the bruin resource center is paid by student fees. It’s cool being a part of this because I learn about different services that are provided on campus. I think it’s incredibly important that students are part of the decision-making process of where their money goes, so it has been a privilege to be on this committee.

What do you do to de-stress?

I call my grandma! Shout out to Yin Yin! She just had her birthday and turned 92 years old.

Why do you love your grandma?

She’s so kind and nurturing, I want to be just like her. I spent a lot of time with her in San Francisco. I would go to her house during the summers as a kid and after school in high school. We would often take the bus to Chinatown, where we couldn’t walk a block without her running into someone she knows—she is just that friendly and social. She’s my hero, I can’t wait to see her.

Any plans over the summer?

I’m going to Beijing for two months. I don’t speak Chinese so I’m going to learn Mandarin. Although my family speaks Cantonese. And then for fun, I’m going to Tokyo for a week!

Check out Asian Pacific Coalition’s new website!

In honor of May being Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Pacific Ties and Asian Pacific Coalition (APC) are teaming up to featuring Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Bruins. We’ll be posting one interview per day. 

Moneel Chand is a 5th year mechanical engineering major who has been in the Pacific Islands’ Student Association, the Community Programs Office as an Extern and a member of the Pacific Islander Education and Retention (PIER) project, and the Student Fee Advisory Committee (SFAC).

What does a CPO Extern do?

You have an extern site and they pay you do to an unpaid internship. Mine’s a little different in that I help assist the office managers in whatever duties they want to do. It’s kind of like an assistant.

How do you identify?

I identify as Indo-Fijian. I have roots in the Pacific Islands and, by blood, I’m mostly Indian, but I identify with Pacific Islander (PI) culture. This is a part of the diaspora of Indians, so there are a lot of Indians in Fiji.

How has your identity affected your experience at UCLA?

For me, being Indo-Fijian, UCLA has challenged what it means to be Indo-Fijian. There are aspects where I benefit from being primarily Indian, but I feel alienated from other Indians at UCLA because I identify more with my PI side. It’s hard to explain to both PISA and South Asian Orgs on campus. It feels like at times you don’t completely belong in one or the other.

Have you tried to enter any South Asian orgs?

I haven’t tried to enter any South Asian orgs on campus because I don’t identify with my Indian heritage too much, and our cultural values and socioeconomic status are different. Indo-Fijians have values that align more to PIs. I always refer to myself as PI.

What kind of cultural values do you find align more with PI culture?

Family above all else. Education is also not necessarily a value, but cultural retention is one – being involved in one’s culture. Faith, too. In our culture, faith is basically a huge component of being Indo-Fijian. You cannot be one without the other. It’s hard to be considered Indo-Fijian if you’re not strong in your faith.  Also working together as a community, just like other PI communities. Working closely with your neighbors and growing together as a community. Another huge cultural value is serving one’s parents and elders.

What does community mean to you?

Community, to me, is a network of people that not only understand the struggles that you come from, but also align with the values one has. At the same time, I think community is someone that is able to leverage resources to allow everybody to grow. It does not allow individuals to be selfish or individualistic. I think the best way to summarize community is who is there for you when shit hits the fan.

What kind of involvements have you had at UCLA?

I’ve been a part of PISA. I have been the Yield coordinator and the fiscal coordinator. I’ve helped out with making sure all the events are funded, making sure we can leverage all the resources on campus to make sure we can get resources. As the yield coordinator I worked for 2 years to make sure we have more PIs coming into the university. IN PIER I volunteer occasionally, I tutor and mentor. I go out to Carson this quarter. I’ve also gone out to Long Beach Poly HS to mentor and tutor youth. I always wanted to be a math and science teacher to increase the number of PIS in college as well as in STEM fields. In the CPO I started as an Intern, I really loved the internship and I could interact with a lot of different cultures. I didn’t really get to interact with Asian people, people who are Muslim, and others from different backgrounds before I got to UCLA. I’ve also served on SFAC – it’s detached and not as grass roots, but it’s on a different level. How do we interact with the university policies and fundraising to make sure UCLA students have the best time they can at UCLA?

I also was a part of UCLA Baja – an engineering organization that builds a car from ground up. I worked on the fiscal and business aspects of that, particularly relationships with sponsors.

What drove you to join PISA/PIER?

I think it was a family away from home. I’m originally from Fiji, but we moved to the Bay Area. The reason I chose UCLA despite better finance options elsewhere was as soon as I came here as a YIELD student and I saw all the resources in the CPO, I knew I had a family here. I really fell in love with the campus. One of the things that has always been on my mind is always not fitting in. I’m one of two engineering students that are PI and it feels isolating. CPO and PISA really helped me find a community on campus.

What are some community issues you wish you could address?

I think one is the number of PIs that are matriculating into colleges. It’s more of an outreach issue and it’s not that they don’t know about college. Colleges aren’t putting enough effort into outreaching to them.

The retention of PIs, as well.  We have RAIN that helps the retention of PIs on campus, so I can’t even imagine what it’s like at places other than UCLA. Almost everyone runs into academic trouble at UCLA.

Lastly, I’d say that emphasizing the importance of academics isn’t that emphasized in community. There is a vast amount of possibilities when you get your education. We value helping out our family immediately with jobs, but there are a lot of long term successes that can come from having an education.

How do you think your experience here will help you in the future?

If I could describe my experiences here in one word it would be “rough.” It’s super rough. Being low income, first generation, PI, you get to see how much everything is against you. But you can also see how much opportunity there is out there for other people from your community that don’t have the privilege of coming to a 4-year institution. I know that I can help educate my PIER kids and my future students about college and help guide them.

It’s a lot of figuring out how to do paperwork, when I should take classes, which classes to take and what professors; knowing these things would allow students a better opportunity to enjoy college. Right now I just want to get out of here so other people can get here.

What’s one of your most memorable moments at UCLA?

My first memory that really sticks out to me is Yield. That was the first time I got to meet PISA, the family, the camaraderie, everyone’s joking around with each other and everyone’s poking fun at each other familially – it felt like home. Other times I would probably say seeing the PISA girls perform at the CPO reception my second year – it was so graceful and beautiful and it was eye opening to see how far we’ve come in a few years. The people I’ve met are great too. Natasha Saelua, a former associate director to the CPO, was really awesome to work with. Being able to work with her and her guidance to steer me in the right direction, that really stuck out to me. Also meeting Johnnie Yang and Live Maluia were both memorable experiences. They have had such a positive influence in my life since I met them.

Are there any parts of your culture that you wish you could teach others?

Indo-Fijians – we don’t have phenotypes of being PI, but it’s basically like externally taking the body structure, but internally everything I know and where I grew up is all PI. One thing I wish that people understood that is that Indo-Fijian is a hybrid of this Indian diaspora and a mixture of all this new PI culture.

Are there any things on your bucket list for UCLA or LA in general?

I want to visit more of the museums that are here. I just visited LACMA for the first time and I thought it was an amazing experience. I want to take more advantage of that. I’ve kind of become a grandpa in the last few years here. I want to go out to see more of LA – Chinatown, different markets, Disneyland, Magic Mountain, different beaches.

In terms of school, one thing I definitely want to get done is trying to create a structural support structure for PIs in STEM. This is the first year we’ve had an insurgence of south campus majors. We’ve typically had north campus majors. This is specifically a support for PIs in STEM fields.

Check out Asian Pacific Coalition’s new website!

In honor of May being Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Pacific Ties and Asian Pacific Coalition (APC) are teaming up to featuring Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Bruins. We’ll be posting one interview per day. 

Guillan “Gee” Leonardo is a fourth year music history major who just finished her senior thesis film about music venues in Westwood. She plays trumpet in the UCLA marching band and has been involved with UCLA Radio, Mindful Music, and Kappa Kappa Psi (Marching Band Service Fraternity).

How do you identify?

I identify as a first-generation Pilipinx-American. Too many of my experiences have involved the best and the worst of both worlds, and I am blessed to be able to live this unique life.

How has being an Asian American women influence your college experiences, the way you live, and how you view the world?

There is a certain discrepancy between how I see the world and how the world sees me. However, I do not let these existing stereotypes about Asian women influence any of my actions or mannerisms; in fact, I endeavor to be known as someone who is truly passionate about my work. This give me the courage and the drive to do whatever it takes to reach my goals.

Why did you change your major from neuroscience to music history during the fall quarter of your junior year? And what challenges have you faced by doing so?

I discovered a lot of things about myself the hard way. I learned my thinking style, my passions, and my weaknesses, but this journey of discovery has made me a much stronger and self-aware person. In my science classes, my mind always wandered back to music–how I could create it and how I could share my love for it– and eventually, my academic performance started faltering simply because I wasn’t passionate about what I was studying. It took major self-reflection and the support of my closest loved ones to work up the courage to start anew, and I am so much happier because I was brave enough to realize that I was unhappy, and that I was willing to change in order to pursue something I love.

In your thesis video “a quiet village”, you recount why there is a lack of music venues in Westwood and why Westwood should have them. What motivated you to investigate this what are you currently doing to improve the situation?

After my first rock concert, I absolutely fell in love with the experience of live music. This led me to frequent many venues in Los Angeles, and I slowly started realizing that there were no places in Westwood that allowed for this musical expression. Additionally, I helped with the creation of Mindful Music, a Semel Institute and UCLA music program that integrates live music into communities to promote wellbeing. This placement of live music on campus served to highlight the stark absence of music performance spaces in Westwood.

I am actively working on a campaign to raise awareness about Westwood’s need for a music venue through my work in my Senior Capstone Project as well as through consultations with a wide variety of industry experts about the technicality and the logistics of making this dream happen.

What are your plans after graduating?

“Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Check out Asian Pacific Coalition’s new website!

 

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