Ismael "Mayo" de la Rocha Scholarship Impact & Gratitude Report, 2022-2023

Award Recipient: 

Natalie Martin, Thalia Ornelas, Zacarias Bernal, Andy Barerra Rios, Lesley Mendoza-Serrano

Award Date: 

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Dear Supporters, On behalf of the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies we appreciate your generous contributions to the Ismael “Mayo” de la Rocha Endowed Scholarship Fund. Your contribution to the Department and to our students is a gift that reaches beyond their individual success. Most of our majors are first generation in their families to attend college. Many of them are the eldest in their families and they enjoin the long history of inspiring younger siblings and other relatives to attend higher education. These students “lift as they climb” inside of higher education. Your contribution further supports this arduous trek to succeed in their educational pursuits. The Ismael “Mayo” de la Rocha Endowed Scholarship embodies the efforts of our majors to continue their passion for education. Mr. de la Rocha was an activist dedicated to opening the doors of higher education for the benefit of his community. He envisioned obtaining a degree as leading to greater civic participation and therefore influencing policies that would further “el bienestar” (the well-being) of the entire community. Your gift is a gift to these efforts and, most importantly, a gift to these students’ commitment to do better for themselves, their families, and their communities. Thank you for joining nuestra lucha by contributing to increasing the educational pipeline. With gratitude and admiration, Aída Hurtado, Chair Professor and Luis Leal Endowed Chair Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies

I decided on a Chicanx Studies degree because it provided me with answers to questions I had about the history of my identity, my family, and my community that I did not have the language for. I found tools and lenses such as decoloniality, Third World Feminism, and organizing practices that brought me a sense of clarity and hope during a time of uprising following the murder of George Floyd. I learned that there are others who also feel this sense of ambiguity of being ni de aqui, ni de alla. I found ways of healing and new ways of knowing that provided me with confidence in who I am and believing I can create change. As a future high school Ethnic Studies educator, my intentions are to provide students with the same lenses to make sense of their existence and instill a sense of social responsibility to create change as we are in the midst of human self-destruction. A Chicanx Studies degree has provided me with the desire to be a life-long learner and I hope to share the same mindset with others who are discontent with the colonial society we live in. I have been a part of the Chumash land defense struggle at the San Marcos Foothills that faced the threat of development. I reached out to publishers and local bookstores with the intention of selling them on a donation basis as a dual form of raising awareness on social justice issues through literature and raising money to buy the land back. This turned into using the book collection skills I developed for addressing the inhumane reality of the carceral system. I am part of an initiative called Pages for Individuals in Prison that works to send books to incarcerated people via letter request. I am currently a member of El Congreso, a student-led cultural, social, and activist organization on campus. Chicanx Studies has awakened me to a social responsibility of fighting against oppressive systems. Thank you for believing in me and providing Latinx students like myself the opportunity to support our community through student activism.

The Chicana/o Studies major honors students as creators and theorists, this is something that I had never experienced coming from a predominantly conservative town where being in a mixed status family was considered shameful and something to keep quiet about. By deciding on a Chicana/o Studies degree, I was listening to the part of me that I had muffled for the safety of my family’s precarious immigration status. What began as a gut feeling for needing to choose this major resulted in an intense drive to learn the history of my people and how to translate this to methods of dismantling all institutions that have exploited our communities. I have learned about labor and immigrant rights, done research on how to bring educational equity to campus that especially affects first generation STEM students, and have found joy in researching the impact of queer Chicana artists on the intersectional feminist movement. By learning how to theorize, conduct research, and cultivate community organizing, I am prepared to come to any job with a social justice lens. Whether I participate in a grassroots organization, work as legislative advocate for educational policy, or continue my research on art, spiritual activism and queerness, I will be prepared to create methods to bridge the gaps between the human individual, society, and policy. In Chicana/o Studies critical thinking is put into practice, we learn to feel and create theories from within to continue to bring love and joy into our culture and advocate for our communities. Being from an agricultural town, working in agricultural administration seemed like the only way to reach economic mobility. The funds to my community have been systematically realigned to uphold the deadly agricultural economy which divest from educational pipeline programs to help scholars pursue education. Bringing in momentum inspired by Chicana/os Studies, I formed a cohort of students that became dependent on each other for informal help with college and financial aid applications. Creating a ripple effect, this form of mutual aid has been able to spread throughout our agricultural community, dismantling systems that have shut out the working-class and farm working families from higher education. Having access to university spaces such as El Centro where personal growth is celebrated, I was able to find community with other queer latines. Being part of Raices de Mi Tierra and helping revive the queer foundations of this organization, was not only personally rewarding, but was monumental in remembering (Moraga) a space where queer latino performers felt welcomed and seen. Another group that was fundamental in my queer journey was La Familia De Colores (LFDC) which unfortunately went into hibernation during the pandemic. Longing for a space for queer peoples and artists, I am joining efforts with other queer latines to revive LFDC for future generations to unify and create a home and chosen family. Creating spaces where historically oppressed peoples can come together is a radical act of social justice. Thank you to all the donor of the Ismael “Mayo” Do La Rocha Scholarship. Your support will make a tremendous impact in my life.

The reasons that I decided on Chicana/o Studies as my major are many. Still, the main one will be as an immigrant from Mexico. I didn’t have the opportunity of getting the education I would have liked. I was really into history as a kid. One of my favorite hobbies was reading a history book, something that many people would find boring. Still, with limited resources correlated with living on a farm, we didn’t have that many books to expand my knowledge. When I came to the United States, I was introduced to new information and books that tell stories of these white heroic men. But even being a history fanatic, I had difficulty finding an identity. My lack of English stopped me from pursuing Latin base history, so I worked hard to understand the language. When I got out of the English Learner program, I finally could take a a Chicana/o Studies class. It made me feel at home, even if it was not my history. I was in love with seeing people of my color as heroes. It opened the door to new possibilities, and enhanced my skills in communication, advocacy, and social work. I use every day to achieve the goal of being the first in my family to complete university and return to my community as a teacher. During my years in English Learner classes, I saw the lack of resources and tools for me and my classmates. I joined Puente, a program focused on Chicana/o history. I was amazed by all the opportunities and development I was able to achieve in Puente. But I never forgot about my peers, so I decided to get involved in committees that control funding to help them understand that funding needs to be distributed equally. I created a club to focused on bringing monetary support to newcomers by giving schools materials and even clothes and food. Another thing I did was become a student representative for my school at the district level, making more classes accessible to English Learners and advocating for their needs. I was also advocated to bring support during the pandemic. Currently, I am a counselor for low-income students. I also want to start a Puente club to give tours of UCSB with the hopes of bringing more students to the UC system. Lastly, my friends and I are starting the first Chicana/o poetry club (brown voices). I am honored to be selected as a scholarship recipient. I hope to meet you one day. Thank you for your support!

As the eldest daughter to first-generation Mexican parents, I struggled with my bicultural identity and mental health. I did not see myself represented in educational institutions, and felt insignificant. Additionally, needing to financially support my family deteriorated my mental health, consequently ending my academic career. After a few years working two full-time jobs and meeting other Latinxs (several of them monolingual Spanish speakers) who also struggled with their mental health, I learned about the scarcity of bilingual/bicultural therapists in a state where Latinxs are the majority. I began to investigate how I could change this, and became passionate about mental health in the Latinx population and fighting stigma surrounding it. After meeting with an influential Latina counselor in my community college, I pursued a Chicana/o/x Studies degree. This interdisciplinary major has given me a well-rounded education, ignited my activism by aspiring to make lasting changes, enhanced my academic confidence, and reaffirmed pride in my meXicana identity. Spanish courses strengthened my bilingual communication skills. History courses taught me to defend myself in politics. Chicana Feminism courses opened my eyes to new perspectives (i.e., gender roles, sexuality, and identity) which will allow me to better assist a diverse population of Latinxs as a licensed clinical social worker. Lastly, one of many important lessons I received from this major is that there is always more we can do to help, and this inspired me to apply to graduate programs this fall to pursue a Masters in Social Work. I am fortunate to be a Mental Health Peer and part of a diverse team that is dedicated to help students at UCSB achieve academic, social, and personal success. Examples of services I have been involved in are coordinating our School Anxiety Program which teaches time management and relaxation skills to reduce academic anxiety, presenting workshops on mitigating imposter syndrome, and teaching coping tools to manage challenges through drop-in peer counseling. This work is important to me because I am a nontraditional college student, and I remember dropping out of college at 19 because I was not able to manage my anxiety. My goal is to help students who are struggling with their mental health and make sure they receive the support they need to graduate. A social justice effort project I am currently working on is creating a workshop on how colorism impacts the mental health of Latinxs. I am passionate about this topic and have been researching it because of its unspoken prevalence in the Chicanx/Latinx population. AntiIndigenous and anti-Black sentiments have long existed before the hurtful remarks made by Latinx L.A. City Council members, and I want to help Latinx students facilitate conversations with their families to dismantle deep-rooted colonial legacies of the caste system. Lastly, I am planning future mental health awareness events throughout the year with different organizations on campus. My main outreach interests are Latinxs, transfer, non-traditional, and undocumented students, but I am also collaborating with LGBTQIA+, AsianAmerican, and Black student organizations. Thank you for helping me in this journey and making my dreams come true. I am so grateful for this scholarship, and hope to thank you in person one day.

My parents are Mexican immigrants who decided to raise me in Los Angeles where I was raised to view myself as “MexicanAmerican”, but that term never recognized the true mestizo identity within me. It was until I took Chicana/o Studies 1a with Professor Ralph that I opened my eyes to the institutionalized oppression against my community and with that I discovered my internal feelings of shame & anger from colonization. As much of a burden it sounds, Chicanx Studies is also the fiery resistance throughout my body that allows me to share the pain, joy, & pride of being Chicanx with my community. That’s what being Chicano is about. It’s about creating a diverse space for my community to be inclusive of the broad spectrum of Chicano experiences. It’s a skill I continue to develop but has allowed me to help create space for other marginalized communities & support them in celebrating/developing their identity. For example, being the Men’s Engagement Educator for CARE I’ve had to navigate learning why men generally avoid supporting sexual assault survivors and using that information to create an inclusive environment for men to talk about deconstructing this harmful behavior. From that internal skill, I’ve been able to hold positions on campus that have allowed me to learn external skills such as grassroots organizing, programming, & leadership skills. When I graduate from UCSB, I’ll always carry my culture with me to create space for young Chicana/os and spark that fire the way this department has done for me. As liberating as my CHST classes have been, I’ve simultaneously experienced feelings of despair & guilt from watching previous generations of Chicana/os resist institutionalized oppression. This was most profound when taking CHST 168I during Fall 2020 (when political turmoil was dominated by COVID-19, voting rights, & police brutality) & I felt a deep sense of responsibility to carry that ancestral work of social justice. Using Professor Ralph’s encouragement, the class co-founded the People’s Initiative, an Instagram page where we used infographics to educate the UCSB community on social issues from the people’s perspective & share resources/tools to resist. While we continued throughout the virtual year, UCSB’s transition to in-person instruction presented the issue of inadequate support to the UCSB community navigating the pandemic. In response to this, through the People’s Initiative, I helped lead a coalition of eight on-campus orgs such as S.C.O.R.E. & El Congreso in accessing student needs during winter quarter 2022. We used data from a survey to craft demands to the administration such as transparency on developing campus COVID-19 protocols, increased availability of masks/testing for COVID-19, etc. In the town hall we included student leaders & faculty to narrate their struggles with these issues which convinced the present administrators to hold continuous meetings with the coalition. Together we collaborated on establishing these demands. While all demands weren’t met (establishing hybrid instruction) the town hall was a learning step in my progression of social activism. Thank you for choosing me to receive this scholarship to help make a difference in our community.

When I was in high school, I took an introductory Chicano course through a community college after school. Of all the history classes I’d taken up until my senior year, that semester during my sophomore year impacted me the most. I had never taken such a class before where the systems that I grew up in, that I had come to see as the norm and unquestionable, be exposed for what they really were; constructed and engineered to keep anyone seen as “other” in their place, made to oppress others so that only a few could succeed. This degree has helped me evolve into the person I am today, as I continue to question systems that have become a standard, overlooked because those in power have made us believe there is no alternative. As a future ethnic studies teacher, I hope to instill this curiosity and passion for a better society within future generations. A society where we learn from each and with one another, sharing ideas and collaborating to create a system that works for all of us, without having the need to put others down. So much of our history, whether we identify as Chicane, Latine, Indigenous, or any identity, has been intentionally erased throughout our lives and I hope that through my career I can bring some of it back and help others regain themselves. I hope that others can feel as liberated and a sense of community where we are empowered and can express ourselves authentically. For so long, education has been costly, limiting many low-income families from sending their children to schools. Within this country, this means that the majority of students who cannot afford to attain these higher education degrees are people of color. As a first-gen Latina myself, advocating for my education and surviving on this campus is difficult, but I have learned to do so and have focused my efforts on passing this knowledge to others. Due to the pandemic, one of the resources that was greatly impacted was the AS Book Bank. Over the past few months, I have helped bring that service back into existence. Access to textbooks and course materials shouldn’t be the reason that many students forgo having dinner or paying their utility bills. Knowledge should be accessible to everyone, especially when our tuition and student fees are already so high. More often than not, it is students of color and first gen students who are unable to afford these textbooks, and I am working on breaking this barrier. Although it is one of many, by eliminating this injustice, I hope to continue to help my community receive the education they rightfully deserve. Receiving support like the Ismael “Mayo” De La Rocha Scholarship helps bridge the gap for students like me. Thank you so much for choosing me. This scholarship will change my life.

The Ismael “Mayo” de la Rocha Scholarship promotes diversity by supporting high-achieving students with financial need pursuing a Chicana and Chicano Studies degree at UC Santa Barbara. These young scholars have demonstrated significant potential to embark on a journey of rigorous academics, cutting-edge research, and student leadership. The Ismael “Mayo” de la Rocha Scholarship provides financial awards to ensure students are well supported and complete their degree. The scholarship promotes retention, completion, and overall success in all aspects of our scholars’ educational goals. Thank you for your generosity, commitment and dedication to the advancement of our Chicana/o Studies scholars.

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