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UCLA student David Ramirez earns Point Foundation’s Flagship Scholar scholarship

Pictured is David Ramirez, who has been awarded a Point Foundation flagship scholarship. (Christine Kao/Daily Bruin staff)

By Christine Kao

Aug. 4, 2023 2:58 p.m.

This post was updated Aug. 6 at 9:04 p.m.

A UCLA student earned a scholarship intended to empower LGBTQ+ leaders in higher education.

Born in the San Fernando Valley to Mexican immigrant parents, fourth-year geography/environmental studies and labor studies student David Ramirez said he attended Pasadena City College before transferring to UCLA. After spending four years in community college, on his third transferring attempt, an academic advisor told him that he wasn’t qualified for UCLA, he said.

This fall, not only will Ramirez enter his second year as a Bruin, but he was chosen by Point Foundation, the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ scholarship-granting nonprofit, as a Flagship Scholar.

Point Foundation selected its 82 Flagship Scholarship winners this year based on their community engagement, financial needs, academic performance and LGBTQ+ advocacy, according to the nonprofit’s website. In addition to financial aid, scholars gain access to career coaching and leadership training, according to the website.

“Point Foundation has done a lot of work in advocating for safe and inclusive campuses for LGBTQ students like me,” Ramirez said. “Especially now that there’s been a lot of hatred intensified toward students like us.”

Apart from his sexual identity, Ramirez said he realized that students of color at community college, such as himself, had to overcome many racial equity gaps when transferring.

Ramirez’s advocacy work for educational reform began when he served on the Pasadena Area Community College District Board of Trustees, he said. While nearly half of the student population were from Latino backgrounds, Ramirez stood as the only Mexican American student trustee and said that his role on the board made him feel responsible to call for race-conscious policymaking.

“I realized that a lot of policies in higher education are frankly racist, whether explicitly or implicitly because most of these policies are not written by people that look like us,” Ramirez said. “They impact students that look like us.”

As a first-generation student born to an immigrant family, Ramirez understands how important it is to highlight the perspectives of underserved communities, said Linda Wah, a fellow trustee who worked with Ramirez on the board for two years.

Having experienced first-hand the challenges of transferring, Ramirez endorsed Assembly Bill 928 – which sought to simplify the pathway from California community colleges to four-year universities – despite pushback from the board, Ramirez said.

“David is someone who’s not afraid to speak out, even when it’s not the most popular opinion,” Wah said. “David is really cognizant of how people are affected and why it’s important to just go ahead and take a stand.”

Since the bill passed in 2021, he was appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom to serve on the bill’s committee, Ramirez said. One of his current tasks with the committee is coordinating ways to make it easier for STEM students to transfer within two years, which helps minimize the cost and time students spend on attaining their degrees, he added.

Now, as one of the few transfer students on the board of the UC Student Association, Ramirez said he continues to fight for a more accessible transfer system for community college students.

Having Ramirez’s insight on bills surrounding transfer students has been especially valuable to a board that otherwise lacks transfer student representation, said Alia Sky, the government relations director at the UCSA.

She added that Ramirez’s previous background working for other leadership systems like the Student Senate for California Community Colleges has helped him collaborate smoothly with the student senators.

“When you meet him at first, he’s slightly introverted,” Sky said. “But when you get to know him, you realize how passionate he is about what he does. … He always seeks to get more involved with things.”

Ramirez said he represented UCSA at the Senate Education Committee in support of AB 1749, which urged the UC systems to recognize associate degrees for transfer and guarantee transfer admissions when requirements are met.

He shared with the senators the challenging administrative tasks he had to face while lacking transparent guidance, Ramirez said.

“Speaking in front of a bunch of senators can be a little intimidating sometimes,” Ramirez said. “But ultimately, I just spoke about what I personally experienced and I think that resonated with a lot of them because they don’t get to listen to students very often.”

While helping to organize Starbucks Workers United in previous years, he learned that workers have the power to make themselves heard, inspiring him to pursue labor law post-graduation, Ramirez said.

Ramirez said the Point Foundation’s scholarship will allow him to obtain housing without having to work a second job, gaining more time to focus on advocacy work. He added that he looks forward to attending the scholars’ retreat in Los Angeles this summer and learning about practices to support queer people in reaching their academic goals.

“Being a gay man in higher education, we’re not very present,” Ramirez said. “I definitely appreciate Point Foundation’s intentionality educating us about LGBTQ issues and finding ways to make sure that we’re always constantly advocating for them in higher education. … That’s what I see myself definitely focusing on in the future.”

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Christine Kao | Photographer
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