Personal Statements

First Personal Statement
The following personal statement was written in 2012, when I was applying for a graduate school program. (Note that the university's name has been omitted.)

      In a dust-ridden room comprised of second-hand clothing, I observed an internal battle waging within a small child from behind my counter. Clutching essentials in her hands, she debated whether to succumb to the allure of a soft teddy bear in place of warm socks and shirts. Moving forward, I picked up the desired object and offered it to her. She took a step back, slowly shook her head, and wistfully explained she understood the clothes closet’s policy of five items per person. Moved with compassion, I approached her mother and told her I could make an exception. As the child’s eyes lit up, I could barely contain my tears, reflecting upon my own childhood of waiting four-plus hours in line at charity distribution centers each Christmas to receive my only toys for the year. Moments like this one have cemented my devotion to the human rights sector of public service, with a focus on those at a socio-economic disadvantage.

      Perhaps growing up in poverty naturally led me to develop an interest in civic involvement. When asked where I saw myself in 10 years, I wrote in my fifth-grade yearbook that I “wanted to be a teacher or have a job that can help my community and my world.” As a kid raised in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district by parents who had just immigrated from Cambodia, I took note of those in my immediate environment. I asked my mom about people living in the streets. I questioned my teachers about why people were starving while I was fortunate enough to attend classes and receive free lunch. I was confused, yet fascinated. And more than anything – even without knowing why I felt so connected to them – I yearned to learn how to help the people I saw.

      My parents did not fully understand my passion. They simply told me I could aid others if I did well in school; hopeful, I listened to them. During my first 12 years of education, I earned virtually perfect grades. When I started my undergraduate studies, however, I began to lose faith in their words. For some people, this is where newfound freedom expresses itself in a life of partying. For me though, not a single drop of alcohol touched my lips. What I thirsted for was involvement in social causes. I grew tired of earning top grades. I could not process the worth of a high GPA when people were suffering around my university. As my goals in college changed, my grades dropped. Instead of concentrating on my classroom studies, I committed most of my time to hands-on life experiences: leading student organizations and associating with non-profit agencies that advocate for human rights.

      While in college, I learned of Student Homeless Alliance (SHA), an on-campus organization from 1990 dedicated to bringing awareness to the plight of the homeless. In the mid-2000’s, an acquaintance and I resurrected the group. Serving as the vice president, I brought together students, people in poverty, and community activists in a fight to end homelessness. One of the most successful events I created was Poverty Under the Stars, which consisted of a panel of local leaders and a sleep-out covered by mainstream media; the seventh annual event will be held later this year.

      In 2007, members of SHA and I took it one step further when we set the goal to garner national support for rebuilding efforts in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. Through careful planning and execution, we involved faculty members and the local government. After the national media was reached, legislators and lawmakers in the Gulf Coast welcomed us with open arms. My hard work reached fruition when hundreds of students from 40 universities arrived in Louisiana to take action. Soon after, the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act was introduced to the US Congress as Bill HR 4048, drawing supporters such as U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren and then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. When the student organization I revived was awarded the Most Outstanding Student Organization at my university, I was given the opportunity to speak on stage. In front of students, faculty members, and activists, I conveyed how the dedication of a small group of young adults truly progressed human rights. On that day, my aspirations to make a difference in civil service were fully reinforced.

      Since earning my Bachelor of Arts degree, I have been employed at a non-profit with programs such as a clothes closet, held a supervisory position in a federal government agency, and am currently a counselor at Progress Foundation. At this community-based residential treatment non-profit agency, I have been maintaining the well-being of clients afflicted with mental illness and substance abuse issues while promoting the philosophy of social rehabilitation. While I am grateful my job has allowed me to fulfill my desire to help others and make a positive impact, I yearn to do more.

      In order to recognize my dream of exciting further positive change, I feel that higher education is necessary. I appreciate and cherish my time spent volunteering and working custodial positions in non-profits – for one, this experience will enable me to better supervise others – but I aspire to hold a managerial position. A Master in Public Administration would propel me to meet both my personal and professional goals, which are powerfully aligned. My psychology major and business management minor have been beneficial, but I wish to expand my knowledge by pursuing a graduate degree. And [this university’s graduate] degree is the perfect fit. I favor an eclectic curriculum that provides a balanced educational experience that integrates concepts from different disciplines. Throughout my undergraduate years, I explored a variety of classes and firmly believe an all-encompassing approach to knowledge is the most beneficial. Additionally, I feel that the program’s emphasis on developing teamwork and a coursework that harmonizes practice and theory will prepare graduates to sufficiently lead others while growing professionally.

      I have always understood the value of knowledge acquisition through academic classes, but as an undergraduate, I failed to balance my studies with civic participation. Thus, I did not earn the most desirable grades. My parents could not comprehend the extracurricular activities I was often involved in and worried I would not find remunerative work. However, I do not regret partaking in any of the activities; as expressed by one of my role models, César E. Chávez, “The end of all education should surely be service to others.” Since graduation, I have learned how to balance work with classes, and plan to remain a counselor while pursuing my degree.

      Seventeen years since my yearbook pledge to “help my community and my world,” I realize that I have at least started addressing the issues with which I was so fascinated as an adolescent. My hope is that within half a decade, I would be strengthened by knowledge gained through [this university’s graduate] program. Perhaps then I can begin to impart an impact in the world and make it a place where a child will never have to choose between staying warm and experiencing the comfort of a toy.

Second Personal Statement
The majority of the following was written in 2007, taken from material I had written for an undergraduate sociology class assignment.

      I am a man governed by morality, and often, I don't only practice what I preach, but I also only preach what I practice. Core values such as justice, integrity, love, truth, and peace make up who I am.

      I graduated from San Jose State University (SJSU) in May of 2007, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and a minor in business. During my time at SJSU, I also gained knowledge by enrolling in classes that were not related to psychology and business, such as nutrition, sociology, creative writing, public speaking, and anthropology. I believe in lifelong learning, and I try to be educated in various areas because knowledge is very important to me.

      My core values have led me to civic involvement, and through civic involvement, my core values have been strengthened and my beliefs have been refined. Human, environmental, and animal rights and equity are important to me, and I have been involved with a multitude of organizations that share my beliefs, such as AmeriCorps.

      During college, I advocated for human rights by being involved in local organizations. For two consecutive semesters, I was the vice president of Student Homeless Alliance, an organization that investigates the complex nature of homelessness. Notably, I founded the first annual Poverty Under the Stars Sleep Out, which is now in its fifth year. Through the event that I spearheaded, the Gulf Coast Civic Works Project (GCCWP) was born.

      During my last year at SJSU, I was the chairperson of Queers Thoughtfully Interrupting Prejudice, a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, and allies (GLBTQQIA) organization. Although I am a straight male, I am also a strong ally of this community, as I see the issue of sexual orientation as a human rights one.

      For three semesters, I was a member of the Environmental Club, and I encouraged a culture of environmentalism and take part in projects that directly make my community more environmentally-friendly. Nature and the environment hold a special place in my heart, and I do my part every day to green the world that I live in, whether it is through smaller things such as eating organic foods, being vegetarian, and recycling, or through major projects, such as bringing organic foods to my university for the first time in the school's history.

      I am usually open-minded, I try my best to help those around me and make them feel at ease, and I try to prevent problems before they occur and alleviate distress when it presents itself. I believe that communication and understanding can solve more problems than the average person may think.

      I try to help the people who deserve my help, and I try to help the environment because it deserves my help; this is an idea that I have had for a while now and one that I will most likely have for the rest of my life.