If you know my face or byline, you would know that I am a first-generation college student born to Mexican immigrants. You would know that I am bisexual and a feminist who loves the Earth. And you would know that I wear these identities proudly.
What you wouldn’t know is how I got to this point, and to be honest, I did not know how I got here either. Not until I found myself here, as a graduating fourth-year student looking to take on the world, and stopped to look around.
When I applied to UCLA, I wrote in my personal statement about my intention to grow. I explained my identity as an American girl named Jasmine – independent, intelligent and indestructible, and the name of a fragrant climbing plant with white flowers. I expressed my identity as a Mexican girl named Lucero: a proud nurturing niña que contesta “Mande?” when anyone calls my name – derived from the Spanish word “luz” for “light.”
I titled the piece “Photosynthesis”, because I was caught in between two different identities that needed the other in order to survive; the light to my flower.
What I failed to realize then were all the other ingredients that go into blooming a flower: water, nutrients, earth, even love and care. And though I did not see the process, I definitely felt myself bloom thanks to my life on this campus these past four years.
I have met people and struggled with them. I have discovered groups and thrived with them. I have connected with the roots of my culture and danced in the pouring pride of the community that celebrates my genuine love.
Growth is not an individual task. Rather, it is done in connection with others.
UCLA propelled this action in my life.
Aquino was a News contributor 2013-2015, an Opinion columnist 2015-2016 and an assistant Opinion editor 2016-2017.