The Women’s Conference changed my life.
When I first attended in 2007, I already thought of myself as an Architect of Change, but The Women’s Conference deepened my understanding of the role. It showed me that you don't have to know all the answers; you just have to have the patience to listen, and the desire to help.
In 2008, as a senior at UCLA, I was chosen by my classmates to be Student Body President. I saw it as a way to be of service to my fellow students. Little did I realize that some of them needed help in ways I did not anticipate. But I found out. And I was shocked.
In the second quarter of my senior year, I was approached by several students asking for help. These were not the usual requests for event funding or guest speakers.
This was different. The students were homeless. They were sleeping in offices and classrooms. They went to the gym to take showers, and they ate food from student groups’ events. Many students asked if I could hire them to the student government because they had nothing to eat.
One student, Sabrina Tinsey, was profiled in the Daily Bruin for her struggles with homelessness. She spent much of her junior year going from friend’s house to friend’s house – but it was a never-ending process of looking for shelter. She explained to the Daily Bruin at the time, “Right now I’m in the process of packing all my stuff again and going. I don’t know where I will go. I don’t know where I will stay.”
Why were these students homeless? Many were homeless because their parents had lost their jobs in the recession. Some students were undocumented immigrants, who weren’t eligible for state loans or scholarships (as was the case for Tinsey). For those students who did receive financial aid, they often had to spend all of the aid just to cover school fees. There was nothing left over to pay for housing or food.
The disturbing fact that some of my fellow students were homeless inspired me to do something. I decided to host an event, inviting university students to camp out for one night on the UCLA campus. We charged each of the 350 students who attended $6, and we called the event BruINTENT. Essentially, we were Bruins in a TENT with the INTENT of helping our community. We signed up attendees to volunteer at soup kitchens; we made bag lunches to distribute on Skid Row; and we invited two homeless students to speak -- to educate the group about the issue of homelessness at UCLA.
We donated the $4000 we raised from the April 16th event to Chrysalis, a homeless shelter off campus, as well as to a private grant set up to help the homeless students. What else came of the event? The school administration vowed to help the homeless students find housing.
With BruINTENT, I wanted to demonstrate to the student body that homelessness is not only a national or urban problem, it is our problem, here on our campus.
Now that I’m leaving UCLA, I look ahead to my next challenges, my next opportunities to effect change, and to pass it on. I’m going to spend next year as a CORO leadership fellow, learning about the public affairs arena and how to translate my ideals into action for improving my community and beyond. And then? A joint degree program in law and public policy. My commitment to architecting change is for life.