"If you have an idea, any motivation to do something that you feel is important, don’t wait for anyone. I promise you, there is absolutely enough support in the world for you to carry out your idea, you just have to work a little hard in looking (and this is easier, when you’ve networked a ton!)."
I hosted UCLA’s first ever interfaith event. This particular event was a storytelling event called: This, My Belief. It was opened up by UCLA Vice Chancellor Monroe Gorden.
In this specific picture, I’m standing with organizers and Vice Chancellor Mick DeLuca and URC President Jeanne Roe Smith who were instrumental in funding and support for this event, and are my mentors.
My career roadmap has been somewhat defined.
In my Sophomore year at AOC, I took advantage of the ROP program, simply because I was interested after watching Criminal Minds all the time. I took the Criminal Justice class and had an amazing instructor who encouraged me to learn more. He showed me the inside of a jail for the first time in my life.
Also in my sophomore year, I joined the LASD Sheriff Explorer Academy and took Sociology 101. My professor, Katie Coleman taught me about the issues with our prisons and jails. I realized then I wished to have the education so that I could understand how to change the carceral systems in the United States.
Over the summer, I sat with the Chief Judge on her sofa after a trial she’d invited me to watch. The defendant begged not to go back to jail after having all non-court employees removed from the room. She told me that even if she wanted to lessen his sentence, she couldn’t because of the laws. I realized then I wanted the power to change them.
In my senior year of high school, I got a book in the mail over the summer: Oh The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Suess. It was signed by judges from the 9th District Federal Court who were my mentors. I realized that the people who I grew up admiring and wanted to be were the same people who were on the sidelines cheering me on to get to where they are today.
At orientation for UCLA, one of our speakers was a professor who worked with the UCLA Prison Education Program and taught at local carceral facilities. I had no idea this program even existed until the professor mentioned it during orientation and that’s how I knew that I was in the right place.
Over the summer, I worked at the DA’s office. At an arraignment, a man begged to have a lesser sentence, pleading that his son would have no father figure to grow up with and would consequently, follow in his father’s footsteps without a role model. The judge repeated the same thing I had heard years ago: my hands are tied [because of the law]. I realized that the laws I wanted so badly to change, still hadn’t, and that’s the moment I knew for a fact that I wanted to go into prison abolition and reform.
Here are my extracurriculars relevant to this pathway
DURING MY HIGH SCHOOL CAREER
Explorer at the Los Angeles’s Sheriff’s Department North Valley Explorer Academy
Habeas Corpus Intern at the 9th Circuit Federal District Court (worked on death penalty petitions and removing those incarcerated off of death penalty).
Intern at Poole and Schaffery LLS (Business-oriented law firm in Santa Clarita)
Intern at The Signal, Santa Clarita Newspaper
DURING MY COLLEGE CAREER
Undergraduate Law Clerk at the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office
Legal and HR Intern at Playboy Enterprises
Undergraduate Law Clerk at the Los Angeles Public Defender’s Office
EDUC 191A Class Instructor, UCLA (mentored under a professor for a semester, and they let me teach an upper-division class, 4 units, under the education major each semester it was offered)
President, Resident Government Council
President, Sociology Undergraduate Association
Programmer, Residential Life UCLA
I was also heavily involved in other pockets of UCLA. I worked to change Residential Life policies regarding inclusion and identity and gave Residential Directors and other faculty, among Chancellors, several trainings and presentations. I held the first interfaith story-telling event at UCLA, opened by the Vice-Chancellor himself. I was also asked to be a 1919 Speaker (which is like TEDx Speaker only 1919 is the brand UCLA uses) during staff training. Furthermore, I worked on creating the first interfaith coalition and interfaith/intercultural group that would be an advisory to the Chancellor. I also help set up the first faith-based website for UCLA, including several of the projects I worked on. I am still involved in many of these projects and help train the new leaders of UCLA to take on these projects and expand them. If you’re interested, let me know!
What I'm currently doing/hope to do
I recently finished my undergraduate with high-standing with UCLA. I worked on several projects such as inclusivity training, new policies, the first interfaith story-telling event as UCLA with the Vice-Chancellor as the opener, and taught a class on Allyship and Intergroup Dialogue so much more. I’m still working on these projects despite having graduated as faculty and UCLA staff continue to call on me for support and prepare the next class of leaders to take on the projects I started.
I realized that advocacy and allyship are aspects that I wanted to grow in. Since I finished undergrad in two years, I decided to spend the next two years obtaining my Masters in Public Policy (MPP) from USC. My goal still remains to go to law school after I do my MPP. My MPP will allow me to do risk assessments and evaluations based on the population I intend to serve (something law school doesn’t teach you). I hope to then use my JD to work in different areas: in the public defender’s office, legal defense, a nonprofit (like the ACLU), and others focused on civil liberties and rights. Ultimately, I plan to create legislation and policy that is instrumental in prison abolition.
How to maximize my time in high school?
Advice #1: Network! The reason why I’ve been able to be so successful* in my pathway is simply because of the abundance of support I receive from my mentors. It gives me so much motivation to keep going, especially knowing that people I look up to, who I want to be, are standing on the sidelines cheering for me. (If you need help with learning all the tricks of networking, send me an email! and I also say successful* because to me, my journey, including all failures, has been perfect)
Advice #2: Don’t compare yourself to someone else, especially if they are in the same field or pathway as you. It’s very easy to do so, but remember the sun and moon shine at different times. They’re both equally as important, equally as perfect, and equally as separate.
Advice #3: If you have an idea, any motivation to do something that you feel is important, don’t wait for anyone. I promise you, there is absolutely enough support in the world for you to carry out your idea, you just have to work a little hard in looking (and this is easier, when you’ve networked a ton!). There are so many projects I’ve done with the Chancellors at UCLA, simply because I didn’t let anyone stop my perseverance. I sought out support whenever I needed it, but I didn’t let anyone stop it. Only you have the power to control your drive and where it leads you.