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.
Kolohe Kai, Common Kings… just island music.
Check out Asian Pacific Coalition’s new website!