Student Leadership: UCLA PTSP Bayanihan Project 6 Years Later

Posted on June 13, 2012 by

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June 2005.  I probably gave the most incoherent acceptance speech of all time in front of friends, family, and school admins.  My sister pointed out how many times I said, “like.”

At any rate, I was going to become the Student Director of a brand new outreach project, UCLA’s Pilipino Transfer Student Partnership (PTSP) Bayanihan Project for the 2005-2006 school year.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

We had just come off a sparsely attended Bruin For a Day (BFAD), and I’d felt so embarassed by the turnout we had.  I wanted to believe that the low turnout was just a lack of preparation, rather than inherent character flaws in each of the volunteer staff we had:  we didn’t have much of a relationship with students at the community college, we weren’t at the community college much if at all, we didn’t really know the community college administrators or professors.

I had never thought of myself as a leader, but somewhere along the way, sometime during college, I felt that I had the knowledge and abilities to make a large contribution.  I just felt like this organization (Pilipino Transfer Student Partnership) and its newly formed outreach project (Bayanihan) in particular could use my Anthropological sensibilities in a way that would make something “revolutionary” happen.

I remember the first meeting I tried to hold in July.

Turns out I didn’t know how to hold a meeting.  I had topics written down, but I had nothing to say.  What the eff was I trying to accomplish?!  The jerkiness and complete non-smoothness of this meeting put some immediate doubts into the minds of the people who’d selected me of my fitness for the position.

June 2012.    I am sitting at the UCLA PTSP’s annual “debut”, the organization’s end of the year celebration, flanked by my girl, and 3 people who sat on board of the organization.

We have been out of UCLA for 6 years.  We have seen each other at various points in the 6 years.  As semi-professionals and professionals, we have experienced ups and downs with our careers, but when we come together we joke about the old times, about how we would sit during meetings planning events so meticulously.

To my pleasant surprise, Bayanihan has been doing well.  My friend Dom, was a keynote speaker for an event that my old Assistant Director, Ivan Penetrante, and I branded “SEND,” Student Empowerment Networking Day, a 1-day event for community college students to connect with resources and experience parts of the UC.

In this debut celebrating the 2011-2012 school year and looking forward to the 2012-2013 school year, Bayanihan officially welcomed in new staff positions for 2 Directors, a Site Coordinator, and a few peer advisors, all stationed at El Camino College.

“Legit” is the word I was thinking of upon seeing this.

Legit.

“Legit” is what I was trying to get to through SEND back in 2006.

No one took us seriously back then.

We were all super busy students.  Everything we did was volunteer work on top of schoolwork, especially my Peer Advisor Coordinator Jel, my Academics Coordinator’s Julia and Shelly, my peer advisor Dario.

I kept thinking about how neither admins nor students at the community college took what we said seriously.  College advisors would be courteous with us, but they didn’t really know what we were doing there.  The El Camino person, Sue, was nice however and very encouraging;  turns out this is the relationship that has continued.

Throughout much of the year, target “high-risk” students were hard to reach at El Camino and Glendale through college advisors or EOP classes alone.    I did find luck outreaching to actual classrooms and student clubs particularly with an activity that included butcher paper and discussion.

Though other student leaders were sympathetic, I don’t know if many people in UCLA’s Pilipino community even knew about the project before we linked up with SPACE.  I felt a lot of blank stares on me when I passed out flyers by my lonesome about SEND planning meeting during a SPACE meeting.

On top of all this, there was a lot of trial and error and discrepancies between staff and board and even within staff itself.   There were heavy arguments, misunderstandings, silences, all of which are not so important and/or big deals now.

While I was sitting in this debut, I kept thinking about how 6 years ago, we were barely trying to keep hold of the staff we did have.  To this day, though I do regret not having a thank you dinner or thank you anything for that first year of Bayanihan.  Staff members, volunteers, they deserved it.

Amidst this year of chaos, experimentation, and illegitmacy I felt that from an organizational standpoint, a PTSP viewpoint, the SEND event would be Bayanihan’s ticket to “legitimacy”.

From the time I took up my Director position in June 2005, I knew I wanted to redeem ourselves for Bruin for a Day.  I wanted to show that we could be a positive, genuine-change-making organization ourselves.

Out of a conversation with my Assistant Director and to the initial confusion of board members and Bayanihan Staff, we came up with SEND.  Realistically, not all students at the community college would go to UCLA or even a UC.   We wanted to create an event where students felt like part of a community of students and become interested in community work.  Staff’s idea was to have community college students connect with not only the resources at UCLA, but community resources as well;  I thought one of the cooler things we did was when the community college students started talking with the high school students from SPACE. Ideally, SEND was about fostering holistic transfer students and helping them find their way into whatever institution they wanted through involvement with community.

Planning for SEND was a 3 month process.  A few phone-banking nights, outreaching to friends of friends, classrooms, student clubs.  This is where I learned and applied the mathematics of outreach particularly where we weren’t well-established;  contact over 500 or so,  confirm about 30, and end up with probably 20.

We did end up with around 20 +/- 2.  The Day of SEND was just one long winding tiring day, which started at 5 AM.  Everything was a blur until the opening activity at Bruin Plaza, lunch, some skittles game, and Tinig’s ending performance.  PTSP board as well as general members were out and volunteering as well as my staff.  The Peer Advising Coordinator and PTSP Chairperson were going to have a party afterwards;  I was too exhausted, but reached a catharsis and very relieved.

After SEND, there was a scramble to try and get people to sign up and replace us so that the project would continue for more than the 1 year we had under our belts.  Ivan and I kept going “Damnit, X is going to that organization.”   The incoming transfers already at UCLA didn’t seem to take Bayanihan that seriously either.  Thanks to god and Thevada that AJ and Nick, a grand total of 2 people, stepped up to the plate and took up the slack for Bayanihan in 2006/2007.

In this 2012 celebration, as they welcomed some new board members for PTSP, outgoing board members dubbed some of the board members and incoming Bayanihan staff members “SEND babies.”  “SEND babies” are students who came in through the SEND program, and are now board members and/or staff for Bayanihan.

I didn’t get to stay too much longer for this debut, but I did talk briefly to a few new staff members.

I told them how I thought they were “legit.”  One of the staff members commented, “Oh believe me, were legit now.”

Seeing the project be secure now was something I didn’t imagine, but it’s nice to see.

I hope that legitimacy is not an endpoint though.  I hope the solidified legitimacy is not just a means for job security and personal advancement, but a means to “making community” with community college students, furthering transfer rates, and sharing knowledge and building our “navigational”, economic, and “social” capital with each other.

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