31 Days of APIDAs: Kevin Casasola

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. If you’d like to share your story, fill out this form here.

Kevin Casasola is a third-year studying statistics. He is the External Vice President for Samahang Pilipinx and will be a Resident Assistant for a Pilipinx diaspora themed floor next school year.

How do you identify?

I identify as a 1.5 generation Pilipinx American.

How long have you been at UCLA & why did you choose UCLA?

This will be my third year at UCLA. To be honest, I chose to go to UCLA because of the proximity I thought it was to Downtown and Hollywood. At the time I really wanted to continue dancing and whenever I thought of dancing, I thought of LA. It turns out that without a car it’s hard to get to downtown and Hollywood, though. I wanted to be a part of the school spirit, too.

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

I didn’t think it would at first, but my identity and experiences definitely affected the way I first experienced UCLA. I come from a small suburb of Temecula where it’s mostly middle-class white Americans with a surprisingly strong amount of Pilipinxs. Moving out into the city for the first time as a 1.5 gen Pilipinx, it was a challenge. Me being queer as well, at the time I wasn’t out, so there were lots of challenging things when I was here. In terms of memorable experiences, for me it was when all the first years were out at the field and the student body president addressed us all. I saw a queer Pilipinx, John Joanino, take public office here and to see the student body had elected a queer Pilipinx-American president was one of the first times I felt safe being queer.

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

So the most memorable experiences would have to be with Samahang Pilipinx – various involvements in that organization. I was the Assistant Director for SPACE (Samahang Pilipino Advancing Community Empowerment); my third year I was External Vice President for Samahang Pilipinx. I intend to be on board next year as well. In terms of other experiences, I was heavily involved with USAC, our undergraduate student government. I was in the EVP office for Conrad Contreras before and this year I was in the All of Us campaign.

What do you love about your culture?

I love being Pilipinx. That’s surprising to me because I didn’t like being ethnically Pilipinx when I was growing up. When the UC app asked for ethnicity, I didn’t put one down and I didn’t even want to be known as Asian. I hoped that the admissions counselors would see that my last name is Casasola and just think I’m Latino or something. This speaks to the prevalence of the model minority myth in our communities. College was a good time because I was able to deconstruct those things that denied by identity. I love being Pilipino now. I love the food and the culture. Prior to my college experience, I didn’t even know a word of Tagalog, one of the the Pilipinx languages. Now, in my third year, I can say I can conversationally speak Tagalog. I’m trying really hard.

What’s your greatest challenge right now?

For me the greatest challenge, and also opportunity, is being a Resident Assistant for the Hill next school year. We petitioned for the creation of the Pilipinx Learning Living community. There will be up to 50 Pilipinxs or people interested in learning about the Pilipinx diaspora living there. The biggest challenge for me is having this piloted floor and what are we going to do with it, seeing how can we ensure the students are academically prepared and challenged in a way that engages their Pilipinx culture. I really hope this floor becomes a hub for Pilipinxs on the hill. The greatest challenge is execution. I don’t know any other campuses that have similar floors. Me and my co-RA are very interested in seeing what kind of Pilipinx community we can create.

What’s your favorite memory at UCLA?

My favorite memory would have to be Samahang Pilipinx Culture Night my first year. We had come out of a rough election season where two of the three candidates we ran had unfortunately lost. I was hurting at that time, but to be able to participate in the culture night I was really able to experience what community was. Seeing the whole community come together to put on an amazing show and for us to be able to take control of our own narrative and say this is what it means to be Pilipinx – that was important to me. And being able to sing the theme song with the entire cast at the end, that was also very powerful.

What’s on your UCLA/LA Bucket List?
I still need to go to a basketball game. I need to go to the USC/UCLA football game. I need to do Dance Marathon. Those are the UCLA things that I need do.

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