When recent Alhambra High School graduate Leslie*, 18, found out her piano lesson tuition would increase during her senior year, she took up a part-time job while balancing schoolwork and community service work instead of asking her mother to continue supporting her passion.
Leslie, who identifies as Chinese and Vietnamese, knew about her family’s financial troubles, and wanted to lighten the burden even though it meant she would have less time to enjoy her last year before heading to college.
“For most of my life, seeing my parents struggle with finances made me feel so powerless,” Leslie told the Alhambra Source.
The homegrown Alhambra resident is one of 17 Asian American students from LA County, who are matriculating to the University of California, Los Angeles, and attended the Asian Pacific Alumni of UCLA send-off in the city of Monterey Park on Aug. 7. She didn’t know what to expect, but found herself right at home in Sequoia Park, surrounded by Bruins ranging from recent graduates to alumni who attended over 25 years ago.
“I learned that even though you graduate from UCLA, it's still a part of you. The alumni made me feel as if I was family and that I had support everywhere at UCLA. I also learned that the food and housing are much, much better than they were many years ago,” Leslie said.
Leslie, part of the class of 2020, expected a rejection when she sat with her friend at a home volleyball game and checked her application decision in March, but called home to deliver the good news—she was accepted, as a neuroscience student, to the most applied University of California school in a pool of about 119,000.
Her positive experience performing with her marching band at a UCLA football game in ninth grade sealed her decision to attend UCLA, along with an appealing financial aid package.
“There was so much spirit in that [football] stadium. I wanted to be more open and less afraid of crowds, and the vibe, spirit, and the atmosphere I got when I visited made me feel that I could overcome my shyness,” Leslie said.
Leslie and other incoming students will matriculate at a time when there has been an increased demand for mental health and counseling services at universities, including the Counseling and Psychological Services at UCLA, the Daily Bruin reported.
Leslie herself started receiving mental health treatment about three years ago. Because of the particular stigma associated with mental illness in immigrant communities, she opted out of using her full name in this article.
“I didn't feel like I was worth anything because I wasn't doing so well in trigonometry and precalculus and I was physically and mentally tired from school and band,” Leslie said.
One way that Leslie was able to cope with her anxiety and depression was volunteering with the Alhambra Youth Commission on the weekend. She felt like she could make a difference while helping and bonding with others. She plans to continue community service work at UCLA, which boasts 1000 clubs and student organizations.
When she moves into the dorms in September, she will be a 40-minute drive away from her home in Alhambra.
“I'm excited to be dorming at UCLA, but I guess it would be natural to feel nervous. I was initially scared of meeting new people, but from the send-off and my English professor, I know I have support at UCLA when I need it,” Leslie said. “I have never been away from my family for more than a few days.”
*Leslie requested to omit her last name.