While my great-great grandmother and I have a common spirit, I have forged my own path in this world.
I grew up in Orange County, California as the daughter of an engineering geologist and a fifth grade teacher. Wanting to challenge me and give me a future of opportunity, my parents enrolled me in a dual-way immersion program. My kindergarden class was 90% in Spanish -- a difficult set-up for a native English speaker such as myself. But by the time I left the program in sixth grade, I had overcome those difficulties, speaking, reading, and writing at the same level as my counterparts in the Spanish-speaking world.
I left the program to attend the Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA). For the first two years I majored in Integrated Arts, where I attended classes in creative writing, acting, and more. Upon entering high school, I switched into the Creative Writing program. Dedicated to my craft, I began attending the "Writer's Jam" workshop, eventually becoming the workshop leader. I also started my own workshop specifically for those looking to enter the YoungArts competition and participated in the annual Orange County Regional Youth Slam Poetry Event. Starting in 2014, I became interested in sharing my passion for writing with local elementary school children, joining both the Community Arts Outreach class and Camp OCSA as a counselor. I was later a Student Director for Community Arts Outreach, organizing and teaching a series of lesson plans. My students' work ultimately culminated in an anthology -- I translated some of the students' stories into Spanish for their parents. It was amazing to connect with so many of these kids, many of whom reminded me of a certain quirky, creative, kind-of-an-outsider kid: me.
I participated in a lot of other groups at OCSA -- from Spanish Honor Society to National Honor Society to the California Scholarship Federation -- holding many leadership positions. But my favorite activity was yearbook. Working on the yearbook staff taught me design and copy skills but also how to work effectively on a team. When promoted to Copy Editor then Editor-in-Chief, I also learned how to lead. It was difficult. I wasn't always the best team player or the best leader, especially going into my senior year when my grandfather was diagnosed with blood cancer. At the end, my team and I managed to develop an inventive theme (& Beyond) and created a 360-page yearbook with consistent design and copy elements. I'm proudest, though, of the fact that, due to a letter I wrote to the principal and the lobbying efforts of my fellow students, this was the first yearbook to feature the true names and pronouns of our trans students.
During this time, I also maneuvered my way into an internship at a marketing and PR firm and a position as a media specialist at a start-up dog treat company (long story). I thought I wanted to go into marketing, but both of these experiences left me empty.
It wasn't until I came to UC Berkeley that I realized what was wrong: I wanted to do something big and good. A lot of things have happened to me between birth and now that I haven't outlined in this page, private things, things that shocked and hurt me and threatened to weigh me down. I've also traveled the world, meeting new people and learning about issues in different countries. Whether it was hanging out with newfound LGBT+ Tunisian friends at RightsCon, chatting about the dictatorship with a chocolatier in Buenos Aires, or performing open source investigations from home, I have always sought to understand and empathize with people across these imagined borders. All of it lead me to this realization: naive as it sounds, I want to make the world a better place, even if it's just a little bit. And I want to use all my will and skills built up over the years to make it happen.
I am so grateful that my parents didn't listen to me when I said I wanted to quit the Spanish-immersion program. Because I have this passion for Spanish and studying Latin America. Because it set in motion everything that lead me to now. I took that first spark and used it to blaze my own path -- I'm thrilled to keep doing so now as a new graduate of UC Berkeley.