Name: Keanu Velasquez
Major: Sociology Major and Psychology Minor
Year: Graduating May 2021, School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts Commencement Student Speaker
Hometown: San Francisco
What clubs or organizations were you part of at UC Merced?
I was a member of the Pilipino-American Alliance and Alpha Kappa Psi. I was part of several dance organizations: INTRO movement, P.A.A. Modern, Homebound Dance Team, and P.H.D. I worked as a campus tour guide, Golden Lynx student ambassador, Calvin E. Bright Success Center mentor, peer instructor for Summer Bridge and an intern for the Office of the Chancellor and UC Merced Foundation.
What is a memorable project that you worked on during your time at UC Merced?
During my time at UC Merced, I have had the opportunity to be a lead peer instructor/mentor for the Summer Bridge Program. Through this experience, I was challenged (with my coworkers) to see how we can help transition incoming first-year students to college in a virtual environment. With starting college already being challenging, I was able to continue to think abstractly with my team about how we can build a community and provide a college experience through Zoom. Throughout Summer Bridge, I was able to have weekly one-on-one meetings with my mentees, lead a class that lays out tips and tricks on succeeding at UC Merced and host weekly events and workshops.
What did you learn personally and academically by participating in this?
By participating in Summer Bridge, it allowed me to reflect more on the idea of accessibility, inclusivity, the importance of building a community and providing a space for people to share their narratives. More specifically, every week in Summer Bridge I always enjoyed the opportunity to hear my mentees’/students’ stories and experiences. It was beautiful to see how they were able to build confidence in themselves and constantly be open to asking questions in order to explore their interests and passions. Additionally, it was satisfying to know that the events and workshops that we would put on would allow them to meet their classmates. By the time they all transitioned into the fall semester, it was a blessing to hear that they felt confident transitioning into the full academic year. It was those moments of their success and taking ownership in their personal narrative that made my experience going through the uncertainty of how I can best support them worth it. Overall, I believe programs like these truly provide the opportunity for students to succeed by empowering them, and it will lead to students showcasing their best work.
What’s next for you after graduation?
After graduation, I am looking to go into working within higher education or as a recruiting coordinator at a company. I am hoping to find roles that allow me the opportunity to hear the stories of others and do what I can to help them continue to take ownership in their narratives which would lead to them contributing to their best work.