To Cinthia Flores’ family and friends, what distinguishes her from others is her compassion.
Her close friend, Patricia Alfaro, who has worked with her in MEChA de UCLA for the past four years, said Flores is always there to listen to people’s problems, no matter how busy she may be.
“She’s always there to hear you out. But what’s even more special is that she doesn’t expect that from you, she’s just there for you,” said Alfaro, a fourth-year history and Chicana and Chicano studies student.
It is because of her compassion for her community that Flores, the Students First! undergraduate student government presidential candidate has been able to connect with many people about the issues she is most passionate about: equal access to higher education, college affordability, and sustainability.
Having struggled in high school to be the first in her family to attend a four-year university, Flores has tried to make a difference in these issues in Los Angeles, ever since her first year at UCLA.
“I am committed to making changes in student lives,” she said.
“In everything I’ve worked on, I have had a vision and a goal, and I have achieved it.”
The person she credits the most for her successes is her mother.
Flores’ mother, Esperanza Monterrosa, moved to the United States from El Salvador in the mid 1980s to escape the Civil War. She raised Flores and her three siblings by herself, while working full time.
Monterrosa taught Flores that no matter how much one has, one should always work to help others in anyway one can.
“My mom is the reason that I am the person that I am,” Flores said.
As a first-year student, Flores joined Xinachtli, a MEChA outreach project in which she worked as a peer advisor. After seeing the disparities between students in different parts of Los Angeles, she said she wanted to become more involved in the project.
Flores’ desire to always contribute more, Alfaro said, is a key aspect of her personality.
“Cinthia is always a self-starter. She never waits for someone to tell her to do something, she just does it,” Alfaro said.
Flores became the access coordinator for the Student Initiated Access Committee in the Community Programs Office, the funding body for Xinachtli and other projects. She was also the chair of the UC statewide Student Initiated Academic Preparation Coalition, a collation of UC wide outreach projects and the primary organizer and spokesperson for the Latino community in the UCLA Holistic admissions campaign.
Flores could relate to these issues. Growing up in a predominantly Latino community in the Echo Park neighborhood in Los Angeles, Flores had to work hard to meet the requirements needed for admission to UCLA, she said.
She credits her mother for being very involved in her education. Monterrosa would go to all of Flores’ parents night at school even though she does not speak English. Flores’ older brother, Gilbert, would accompany her and translate.
Though Flores’ mother only has a sixth grade education, she instilled in Flores the importance of education and college, Flores said.
Flores’ high school was on the track system, and she was put in the lowest track.
In order to take advanced placement classes, she had to take classes in other tracks during her summer vacation. She credits her older brother, Gilbert Monterrosa, for convincing her that attending UCLA was attainable.
“She gives me credit for bringing her to UCLA in ninth grade, but she was the one who made it happen. If anyone was to go to college in our family, it was Cinthia. She has the dedication and the drive,” he said.
Though Flores said she knows well the issues underrepresented students face, she still felt she needed to speak to people in the Los Angeles community about their personal issues to have a more complete picture of the situation.
Flores said she worked to bring these issues to the UCLA campus by focusing on the importance of diversity and the need to fulfill UCLA’s mission in providing a public education to all eligible students.
She worked closely with Vice Chancellor Janina Montero and Rosa Pimentel, assistant director in the UCLA Undergraduate Admissions and Relations with Schools on the issue of holistic admissions, which UCLA eventually adopted in 2007.
Her brother said that he is not surprised by all her accomplishments.
“She has an unwavering optimism that if you try hard enough, you will succeed, which is very rare,” he said. “She’s never one to say “˜I can’t'”.
But even with her initial success, Flores continued to work on increasing access to higher education. This year, she was the only undergraduate representative on the UC Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools.
She was successful in lobbying the board to rescind the SAT subject tests from the UC admission requirements. This will significantly decrease the cost of applying to college for students, Flores said.
With the help of Flores translating, her mother said that Flores strongly demonstrates the values she has taught her.
“Though she has gone to UCLA, at her core, she is still the same person she always has been,” Monterrosa said in Spanish. “The fact that she can come home every weekend and work with her siblings and bring her knowledge without acting that she is better than them, it demonstrates that she is the person with the same values she always had.”