College Reflection: Ivan Rodriguez Garcia

Ivan Rodriguez Garcia is a Peer Leader and member of the Class of 2022 at California State University, Los Angeles. Not only is Ivan set to be the first in his family to graduate college, but he will finish with an Honors Thesis and dual major in Political Science and Psychology! Read Ivan’s reflection below to find out how Ivan has persevered through the pandemic to make the most of his college experience so far.

It’s been over a year since the lockdowns began across the country and globally and we had to adapt to a “new normal.” This was the year that changed everything for everyone; this was a year that has allowed me to reflect on myself as a person but also to accomplish various opportunities that support and achieve my professional and academic goals.

The new normal was adapted into my third year at Cal State LA, where the initial idea of classes staying in person until the end of the semester was extended to the spring semester. Throughout my third year, I gained experience and knowledge to learn more about giving back to my community. Last summer, I did an internship through the county with a non-profit organization called In The Making that provides essential items and needs for the community, such as hygiene and clothing products. Even though it was a little tough because this experience was new to me and I did not have any prior skills before starting the internship, it brought positive outcomes. This experience allowed me to interact and connect with the community of East Los Angeles by attending weekly food banks with nearby non-profits and with Supervisor Hilda Solis, gaining valuable skills such as customer service and collaborative skills.

After my internship at In The Making, I started my third year at Cal State LA virtually and was able to continue my Political Science coursework as usual. I also had the opportunity to take another course with my history professor. I participated as a student curator and an exhibit planning committee member of the virtual exhibit on California State Senator Mervyn Dymally. I had the opportunity to research and analyze historical archives relating to Dymally’s work as a California State Senator and Lieutenant Governor. I wrote my research on Mervyn Dymally’s advocacy for the Casa de Fruta workers wanting to meet with Dolores Huerta due to her experience in labor activism for the grape workers. I was able to write from a feminist lens on Huerta’s upbringing and gender roles within her family and how she overcame patriarchal barriers to advocate for others. This exhibit gave me the opportunity to develop my research skills, critical thinking, and historical knowledge of California’s political and civil rights figures of which I initially was not aware. I recently participated in the event planning process and as a panelist in the grand opening of the virtual exhibit. I am very happy with how the exhibit turned out.

My third year of college allowed me to try new things. I believe in life it is important to try new experiences that will make you a better person. Ever since an incident last year regarding a professor who was not being supportive during a global public health crisis, a colleague of mine told me to join Associated Students Inc. (ASI) on campus. I joined the Legislative Affairs and Advocacy Committee, in which I review and research legislation at the federal and state levels and make recommendations to the ASI Board of Directors. In addition to this experience, I learned a lot about canvassing and advocacy experience within the political campaigning sector. I volunteered as a phone banker for the Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock campaigns during the special runoff elections for the U.S. Senate in Georgia.

I also got an on-campus job with PeerForward as a Student Peer Leader in which I give advice and mentorship to first-year students. The virtual landscape is tough for everyone, especially first year students, so I am glad to be a source to adjust to the virtual learning environment. I also had the opportunity to declare my minor in Psychology. This isolation period motivated me to minor in Psychology because I am interested in learning more about social psychology and mental health. Mental health needs to be valued and destigmatized. My coursework has allowed me to learn about how social skills are applicable towards psychology while also learning about the structuralism and definitions behind the field of psychology.

For my fourth and final year at Cal State LA, I am preparing for my Honors College Thesis and developing topics that relate to my major. So far, it looks like I am on track to graduate next year.

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