Tell us about a talent, experience, contribution or personal quality you will bring to the University of California.
I was out of my element. Alcoholic fathers and abusive mothers? Gangs and drugs?! I had been thrust, suddenly, into the real world, exposed to all its horrors.It was two years ago, and I had entered the Confirmation program at my church. The two-year program was designed to prepare me for the religious ceremony that would officially confirm my faith.But it did much more than that. Through interaction with one hundred and fifty other teenagers, I became exposed to people who grew up in vastly different circumstances–from agreeable pacifists to raging belligerents, pious Bible thumpers to juvenile delinquents, gangsters to drug addicts.I had grown up in a conservative Christian family, fostered by the values of traditional Vietnamese culture. Unsurprisingly, when first thrown into my startlingly new environment, I distanced myself from those who were different. However, as the course progressed, relationships developed between me and my peers. I discovered that though we were raised in different ways, we all could benefit from the program. Firsthand interaction with juvenile delinquents, gangsters, and drug addicts showed me the repercussions of bad decisions. Stealing shoes or smoking marijuana may never have been on my list of things to do, but meeting these people and recognizing their circumstances deterred me from even thinking about it. Yet even as I learned the necessity of making wise decisions, I learned to transcend the stigma associated with them and managed to forge close relationships with those I helped. I no longer saw the criminal records and rehabilitation patients; I saw friends who taught me more than I could ever learn in a classroom.By the end of the two-year program, I was too changed-too moved-to not do anything. I returned to the program and am now volunteering as a youth leader. Through my prayer and actions, I have become a model of piety for my students. I facilitate the journey that the students take to find Christ–but I also facilitate the journey that the students take to find themselves. Presently, twelve students under my guidance look to me as a source of solace and emotional stability. In confidence and submission, they speak to me about their hardships and burdens, finding comfort in the fact that there will always be someone to listen. Whether it is internal calamity or adversity with family, friends, or peers, I am their interlocutor. Offering advice when I can, and administering wisdom where suitable, I am someone my students can rely on, someone who refuses to judge them. They need a place to go where they can escape their circumstances and relieve their frustrations. They need a person to listen and care when their parents are too drunk or when their friends are preoccupied with boyfriends and shopping. Rather than turning to drugs or other alternative forms of stress relief, these students turn to me. The University of California is characterized by diversity among students who can thrive in an atmosphere that facilitates development and learning, not only in academics, but in society. My experience as a student in the Confirmation program has prepared me to find the people behind the stereotypes. My experience as a youth leader has taught me to care and find unity among differences. And, lastly, my experience as a student at the University of California would allow me to use my ability to harness diversity and mold it as a vessel to expedite growth and prosperity among students.