An Interview with Dream Center Director Angela Chuan-Ru Chen and Basic Needs Director Andrea Mora

Helen Barahona

with Rachael Collins

Lucid’s Issue 4 Managing Editor, Helen Barahona, talked with Angela and Andrea about the history of their centers and the role that campus student activism played in their development. Herself a DACA recipient, Dream Project Fellow, and volunteer at Basic Needs, Helen took great inspiration throughout her college career from these two powerful student advocates (and women!).  A fangirl, Rachael tagged along. 


I've been doing the Dream Project fellowship for 3 years—first through the Sustainability Resource Center and now Lucid. I also work at UCI’s Basic Needs Center as a student assistant. Can you each tell us about the work you do in your respective centers and how you got started?


Basic Needs really stems from student leadership and student advocacy. Before we had a campus pantry, students, especially students of color and low-income students, always talked about the challenges in affording the living costs for college, especially food and housing. Ten years ago students started becoming more vocal about food insecurity and hunger. Specifically at UCI, students from the Muslim Student Union, ASUCI, and the SOAR Center started talking about other campuses that had a campus pantry and they really wanted to push for UCI to have its own pantry, too.

Around the same time in the system there was a Global Food Initiative (GFI) being pushed by then UC president Janet Napolitano. And we happened to be very lucky that Sadia Saifuddin, the student regent at the time who was involved in Berkeley’s advocacy efforts to start a pantry, was able to connect the Global Food Initiative that was asking educators to think about sustainability and food systems issues to ask about the students on our own UC campuses. And so she really pushed for the initiative to kind of expand and create an additional kind of work group around the idea of food security and food pantries to be established in all the UCs.

In the summer of 2015, UC President and UCOP provided some seed funding to each UC campus to either start a pantry or expand their food pantry offerings. UCI decided that they needed to hire somebody to create and run the food pantry.

That's how I came into the picture.

I had just graduated from UCI and this was a really good opportunity to realize the vision of students who had been asking for the services for so long.

With the limited funding we had that first year, we established a food pantry at the SOAR Center. The mission really resonated with students and student leadership decided to run a referendum to decide if they should pay more money to the university to expand the pantry. The referendum passed and the office of the President also gave us 2 more years of funds, which allowed us to hire staff and move to a bigger space.


And you were known then simply as “Fresh.”


Yes! We decided that with the renovations complete on our new location, it was also time to change our name. We actually really loved the name “Fresh” and it was hard to let go of it. But throughout the years we noticed that, even as our services expanded, that students would think about FRESH only as a place to get food. In higher education, basic needs support continues to expand so we felt it was time to reinvent ourselves with a new name.


I came across an interview you did in the New University and they mentioned your coordination of the California Higher Education food summit in 2017. What was the purpose of the summit?


At that time, folks leading the food security efforts across the UCs just wanted to get together and try to collaborate with the other segments of higher ed. We envisioned an annual summit where we could bring people together to talk about the challenges and to hear from students. We wanted students and leaders in higher ed to strategize together; we wanted to make sure that this was a community effort and that as we were building pantries and establishing staff positions that we would never lose sight of our student advocacy and student voices.

The first summit actually happened in Santa Barbara. When we held it here at UCI it marked a real shift from thinking about food security to basic needs–housing, family support,transportation, health services. The leadership of the UCs, CSUs and community colleges created what's called now CHEBNA, the California Higher Ed basic needs alliance. The pandemic forced us to scale back from a summit to a learning series, but it is supposed to come back next year. Prior to the pandemic, though, it was actually very important to host the summit on campus because it helped us get a lot of attention. I always think about how that conference actually really motivated our student leaders to then pass the student fee referendum within the next year.


Wow, thank you! Angela can you tell us about the DREAM center and the Dream Project Fellowship?


Yes! I always love Andrea's storytelling. The history and the involvement is so rich. I think it's fair to say that both Andrea and I have been deeply committed to these areas in higher education before anything formal ever happened. I knew Andrea as a student when I was working as staff and I was at UCLA. Andrea was here at Irvine. We are both alumni of UCI and both of our personal experiences as students here really helped us see the gaps in student support and we have invested so much of our personal, academic, and professional efforts to address those things.

So our Centers, both of our Centers, I would say, are relatively new. The DREAM center and the FRESH Basic Needs Center grew out of SOAR [Student Outreach and Retention]. Both had very humble beginnings with no money, no physical space, no budget, no staff.

UCI has had a long history, and maybe even a lot of ups and downs in terms of student organizing for space and resources for undocumented students, and that has not been an easy journey for this community. A decade ago, UCI had the highest enrollment of undocumented students of all the UCs but it was still one of the campuses that didn't have any formal resources, and because we lacked resources we saw those enrollment numbers go down. Now we're back up there as one of the campuses with the highest enrollment of undocumented students in the UC System.

Like Basic Needs, the Dream Center is very much here because students demanded a space. I think what is really beautiful about the origins of both of our Centers and the roles we get to play, as alumni, in helping realize their visions really comes down to the student activism and organizing that built these Centers up to what they are today.

The first iteration of undocumented student organizing was a student organization called “Dreams to be Heard” right Andrea?


It started as “Dreams to be Heard” and then that fizzled out. When I was a student, we brought it back as “Dreams at UCI."


Right. Then “Dreams at UCI” also fizzled out and now we have SAFIRE [Students Advocating for Immigrant Rights and Equity], so there is always a student organization behind undocumented advocacy trying to hold the University accountable.

In 2015 there were only 2 centers in existence in the UC System–one at UCLA and the other at UC Berkeley. UCOP was under Janet Napolitano and she wanted to create seed funding for all 10 UC campuses to create similar, institutionalized resources on every campus. It was really exciting to see that this funding was going to be made available to all UC campuses, and that was the first time UCI received funding to bring on one full time staff.

Think about this: one full time staff member create, build, and run a program, to negotiate space, negotiate a budget. It's a huge undertaking and it was first led by Anna Miriam. So we had student demands and we got seed funding and continued to raise money to help grow it to what it is now. Now we have 3 full time staff and with the new hire of our Assistant Director, we will have 4 full time professional staff. We have 20 student staff on our team now.


What is the work that you do?


The range of services and programs we do is quite extensive, and like Basic Needs we've also been evolving. I think something to realize is that the work is always evolving and in conversation with trends. Students’ needs change, the community changes, the language changes, the approach changes so we're always trying to grow and be relevant and up to date with what we need to do.

And you know the politics are always changing around immigration so we're also kind of always trying to look a little bit into the future and see “Okay, what are the potential challenges down the road? And how can we shift what we do now to match that?” And you know, in higher education—I think I heard this analogy once, It's like you're steering a cruise ship, you know, it's like a giant ship and to even make small changes to pivot, to meet those new needs it takes time, and it takes lots of effort just to shift it. So we're always kind of like steering this giant cruise ship, so that we're meeting student needs that are also meeting the politics.

One of the biggest recent shifts has been to support all students impacted by immigration policy, so that would include students from mixed-status families—students who may not themselves be undocumented but have a partner or parents or siblings who are undocumented. We've also expanded our services to asylum refugee students with temporary protective status. Because there are so many gray areas of immigration, and these folks already come to us—not just students, but staff and community members—we really try to be as inclusive as possible.


And you have also had multiple location changes.


Every space on campus is political, right? The conversation about where you get to be, what kind of space, how much space and I think students really saw that, too. When the Dream Center was literally located on the outskirts of the University in the Lot 5 trailers, students saw their experience as being under-resourced and marginalized. We saw more wildlife out there than people! Sometimes we had ducks, rabbits, and literally students, would look across the street and you're on the edge of campus. I think it symbolically just sort of mirrored the marginalization of our students. It was also very hard to get to. I think if you lived in Mesa Court it was close by, but for students living anywhere else it felt very isolated and therefore inaccessible.

Also we were in a temporary structure and I think that was also symbolically something students really felt. There was an opportunity to move to the student center, so now we're up on the fourth floor of the student center called the RISE Suite and we co-share this space with a lot of our campus partners, and it's been a very communal collaborative space.

The foot traffic here has increased significantly. In comparison to Fall, 2021 when we had about 300 students come through our space, the Fall, 22 quarter had over 1,000 students come through. Our numbers have already tripled and I think it's because now we're centralized, and it’s a nice space. I think we've had a lot of benefits in that transition. But last year was our first year here, this is our second year and there's already conversations about where we're going to move next, so we'll keep you all updated as that next iteration of the Dream Center happens.


And how is the new renovated space for Basic Needs working out?


We are currently located at 800 West Peltason Dr. Right behind the Science Library there is a bridge and students come over through that bridge. That little path takes students right into our center. If you are coming in at the ground level–walking or driving–we are basically on the corner of Peltason and Academy. Many students know there's a shuttle stop on that corner. It's a really beautiful space. We have windows!

The plan for the next year is to get a parking lot built right outside our center. There's a proposal for a 37 spot parking lot that looks like it's getting approved and I've been told it should be ready to go by next fall, so that will definitely be a gamechanger for us, once our parking lot is there–just being able to have more access for our students.

But so far, so good.

I think one of the major differences between the Dream Center and Basic Needs is that the Dream Center is an identity center and therefore a community-building space that really needs to be centrally located on campus, but most of the students who come to the Basic Needs brick and mortar location are coming here to grab groceries, they're coming for an application appointment with CalFresh, they're coming to meet the social workers. Even if our location isn’t in the Student Center, they’re going to show up.

We’ve only been here a short time, but similar to what Angela mentioned, the old location was supposed to be temporary. It was a trailer; it was deteriorating; we had plumbing issues, the floor was giving out.


As a student myself, I want to say that it does definitely feel more accessible. The shuttle line that you're talking about–we call it the M line–stops right outside the building. I'm going to shift gears a little bit to ask Angela about the recent Supreme Court decision in Texas v. U.S.


Whenever these decisions come down, our primary concern is always for the well being of our students. It's really hard to plan your life, and live your life when these legal battles can greatly impact your livelihood, ability to go to school, ability to work, ability to meet basic needs, and even just realize your academic or professional goals. So it's very taxing.

It creates a lot of stress and worry and we're always very selective in how much attention we give the legal landscape. What is important for us is that USCIS is still accepting DACA renewals; that they are [still] not adjudicating new DACA applications and advance parole, and that, for the time being, DACA students have the opportunity to travel outside the country for humanitarian employment and educational purposes. Despite support for DACA from the Biden Administration, we are still in the Trump period: fewer and fewer and fewer of our students here at UCI have DACA. When we look at the Dream Project Fellowship, for example, 70% of our Dream Project Fellows do not have DACA, they do not have employment authorization, which means they don't have other professional opportunities to work on campus and work at UTC and to serve as a TA. And we're seeing the percentage of Non-DACA students grow and grow and grow so next year we believe that the number of DACA students will be even smaller, maybe 25% maybe 15% of undocumented students. That situation is forcing the Dream Center program to expand our Dream Project Fellowship program because of the need for student support. Our program grew by almost 50% this year because of demand, and we always aim for 100% placement. This year we had 87% placement. But the DREAM center is going to need more staffing and more funding to continue to meet the demands, and I think that's where we are seeing some challenges.

There are currently conversations in a movement by students called “Opportunity for All” and this is based on legal arguments made by law professors across the UC System and outside of the UC systems. These are immigration and labor law professors, scholars and they are arguing that the states are not required to require employment authorization for employment purposes. So they are basically arguing that as a state entity that there is no law in place currently that requires employment authorization, They're saying that state entities are making a choice to follow federal policies, even though those policies are not imposed onto the states. So this is a legal argument that's currently being considered by UCOP and if they agree with these legal scholars that means in the future undocumented students or just undocumented employees can work within any state entity without requiring work authorization. [May 18, 2023 update: UC Announces its support to remove hiring restrictions.]


Thank you for that. I actually wanted to ask you both about the developing role of faculty in student support. In my own role as a Unit-18 lecturer who teaches 8 courses a year, it would be easy to overlook the individual lives of my students. How do each of you think those of us who teach can be a better support to our students?


This is a wonderful question, and I think I can answer it from my own experience. I think the role of faculty is fundamental to the survival, the success, and the retention of students. I feel very lucky to have had one really supportive faculty member who did things like walk me to the counseling center when I was in crisis, that referred me to a social worker, that put support services on their syllabus and emphasized asking for support in their teaching. That faculty support really helped me, as a first gen student, understand that it was okay to ask for help.

And it was also a faculty member who, when I expressed that I didn’t want to pursue a PhD, asked if I had thought about working on a college campus in student support. I feel like because faculty spend the most time with students, they have the most opportunities to build rapport and trust and to provide advice as well as connections. Basic Needs doesn’t have that kind of exposure to students.

But I’ve experienced the flip side, too: when I would reveal I was going through a deportation case and I needed an extension on a paper I’ve been told more than once, “tough luck!”

When faculty invite us to do a quick pitch and give us 5 min of their time, or put a statement on their syllabus that there are support services available, that makes all of our services more accessible, and it helps empower students to seek and expect support. Faculty have the power to help normalize the need for support and that is crucial.


As much as I want to eventually feel like we're at the point where we can achieve more lofty goals, I think still a bulk of the work at the Dream Center and I'm sure at Basic Needs is to make sure our students are getting through their experiences, and be able to persist as a student.

So there are very tangible needs. Most of our students have a heavy, sizable out of pocket expense because of their status as undocumented students, meaning they can't qualify for a lot of federal benefits, and by being part of the DREAM Project Fellowship they are able to at least cover the cost of coming here.

Not to put you on the spot but I know you went out of your way to try to find funding to be part of this program. You got a professional development award for the work that you do and you applied that to the fellowship program and we see other mentors who do this kind of work–trying to raise money to support undocumented students.

Andrea is one of our most critical partners in this, too. Andrea has grown her DPF team, like every year. Half of our cohort is in Andrea’s Center!

So I think being active not just at the top, but applying your time, resources. What I've seen is a lot of our faculty who work with us and working with the students are now seeing that there is a whole other reality that they had no idea about until they were working with the students. They're starting to see that this barrier is really ridiculous, why do we have this arbitrary being that prevents, you know, a whole segment of the UCI community from participating? And they start to re-evaluate those things.

So I think really taking action and applying those resources and helping in those efforts. The other thing is that faculty just have such an opportunity to amplify these issues, to amplify the need, to elevate. And so having faculty partners who are willing to say that these are critical things we need to focus on, I think this is super critical. I think that's always appreciated, and not every faculty member is taking that on.


Well it is a challenge. You know it has been very hard for me personally to engage in the work–I am a lecturer with a heavy teaching load and I face many institutional obstacles to my own project building goals. Some of those obstacles are related to accessibility: because I am not senate faculty, there are opportunities for support that I do not even qualify to apply for, but it’s also cultural: because I am not your typical academic success story–I’ve just devoted my life to teaching–I am met with resistance all the time.  When I first started this work during the pandemic, I didn’t think I would be met with any resistance. With the intensity of that emotional experience of the pandemic, I was like everybody's gonna understand the importance of this work and be supportive of it and you know, of course, that's not how the world works!

But in terms of lofty goals, for me Lucid is about participating in a post-Covid culture change in higher education by amplifying underrepresented student voices, helping to empower first gen students–who comprise half of all incoming students this year alone–both in and outside the classroom, and to give them opportunities when they don’t feel seen or heard to communicate, whether that is through art and poetry or journalism or something else. If we are to have a truly healthy and robust culture in higher education, we all have to have a more receptive attitude about the promises and possibilities of real change, even and perhaps especially when we have benefited from the status quo. 


Can you tell us a little bit more about the funding challenges for your Centers and how you navigated around those changes?


I will say that I am grateful for the leadership of student affairs, because when the news of budget cuts came down, initially the Budget Office was asking for us to make cuts and Student Affairs made an internal decision to protect our state funds and take a bigger cut themselves.

So that was a big deal. It could have been a very different year for us. We did end up taking a small cut in our permanent campus funds, which is a portion of our operating budget. It was an interesting year to experience a cut and we are hearing that the cuts may continue to come for the next couple of years. Because we were experiencing all the added costs of the renovation in addition to just the inflation —our food purchases have gone up, our toiletry prices have gone up, everything has gone up. It was kind of like the worst case scenario, having to combine that with smaller budget cuts that we faced. We have been able to kind of sustain everything at the level that we had last year, and I'm really proud of that.

There is concern, too, of course. Like what does this mean if the cuts continue to happen, or they impact us further. And to be able to  combat that, we’ve been applying to additional community grants. We're developing a more thorough fundraising strategy. We're basically trying to do anything we can to try to figure out how to still have a safety net in case things continue to evolve so that we don't have to reduce the level of services. There were a couple of reductions we couldn't prevent. So, for example, or emergency grants, we could award up to $3,000 per student. Last year we gave out, I think it was close to 250 K in emergency grants. And so this year, because the demand continues to grow, we were not able to continue it at that level so we had to come back down to 2,000 max just to make sure that we could fund the emergency grants as well as all the other resources that we're providing to students. But I will say I, I'll give props to our internal leadership that protected us in many ways.


I want to be able to dream a little bit with you here. What is your vision for the futures of Basic Needs and the Dream Center?


When we established the center, and when students helped to establish us, the vision was for us to not exist anymore. We were and still are hoping we can get to a place where students don’t have to access emergency services because financial aid and campus support are enough. I think before the pandemic, that vision still seemed doable; after the pandemic, we are actually seeing more demand for services than ever before. We're seeing students who are faced with more challenges than ever. I want us to get to a place where our services can be more preventative rather than like crisis resolution.

Students right now continue to utilize our pantry services in high numbers. They're always kind of living through these emergencies, and we want to get to a place of sustainability.

This is part of the reason why we are working to help students apply for public benefits and other more sustainable support.

We want to continue to be able to also grow the budget, to be able to do more, and not have to be faced with difficult decisions about staffing. If we have ample staff, we are able to respond more quickly.

And if I can really dream big, it would be ideal for us to have a second Basic Needs Location, near the ARC because then we could service a lot of the students who live on campus from there while serving our commuters from our second location.

Students are always going to need access to food, right? We've been working on trying to get a pantry on Wheels model. We've actually already purchased the vehicle and are waiting for it to arrive! Our idea is to be able to take the food out to the different spaces on campus to have more access points for students.

So those are some of the things that we want to continue to work on, and just being able to continue serving students appropriately, and make sure that they are at the same time—and this is part of the culture change you spoke of—aware that they deserve to eat, to be housed. This is not charity; it’s a human right. Helping students feel empowered to expect and demand food and shelter from their University is part of the culture change you spoke of, and it is a system change, too.


Wow! I hope that those dreams come true.


Angela could not answer this question because we went over time and she had to leave for another meeting. We think that the circumstance of not being able to answer a question about the future in order to attend to the present also speaks volumes about the real challenges in which these two inspiring leaders do their work. 


Basic Needs

DREAM Center


UCLA starts Community Programs Office Food Closet, anonymous space to get food and other essential items.


UCLA students start Swipe Out Hunger, a club dedicated to raising awareness about student hunger and making changes in campus food policies that include using leftover meal swipes for hungry students and families.


UC Davis opens The Pantry, an anonymous, student-run food bank


Dream Act introduced.


Obama administration creates the DACA program.


Undocumented Student Services begins at UCI

July 1


President Janet Napolitano announces launch of the UC Global Food Initiative at the Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, CA


Each UC campus is asked to form a food security working group that includes undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff, administration, and community experts. These working groups formalized ongoing campus efforts on all nine undergraduate campuses to establish food pantries for emergency relief and to develop plans to expand the Swipe Out Hunger programs


Napolitano provides UC seed funding for several student services


SOAR Food Pantry opens at UCI with Andrea at the helm


California Higher Education Food Summit at UC Santa Barbara


undergraduate survey at UCI finds that 45 percent of Anteaters endured food insecurity in the previous year.


CalFresh applications were coordinated at all campuses for the first time.


UC’s Student Food Access & Security Study reveals that 42 percent of students had experienced a reduced quality of diet or decreased food intake in the previous 12 months.


UCI Dream Center created by CFEP


California Higher Education Food Summit at UC Irvine

September 27


UCI’s FRESH Basic Needs Hub Opens



Trump Administration takes action to terminate DACA


DREAM Center moved out of CFEP and now part of Student Life & Leadership


DACA Reinstated by Supreme Court against Trump Administration


UCOP grants campuses $4.6 million in over-enrollment funds reallocated for student basic needs, generated from Nonresident Supplemental Tuition (NRST) revenue. These funds are to be expended fully by 2024–25.


Change of Location to Rise Suite in Student Services building


DACA Applications halted

April 11


Basic Needs opens its permanent home.



Opportunity for All is passed by UC Regents



Supreme Court rules on Texas v. US


Growth of Dream Center Programs & Services

Helen's Last Week

In her very last week before graduation, Helen took the Polaroid camera to document her working life at Basic Needs!
Polaroid of Helen Barahona at the Basic Needs Center. Caption: "How can I help you today?"
Alberto Lule

Alberto Lule uses readymades, mixed media installations, video, performance, and
tools used by agencies of authority to examine and critique the prison industrial
complex in the United States, particularly the California carceral state. Using his
own experiences, he aims to tie the prison industrial complex to other American
political issues such as immigration, homelessness, drug addiction, and mental
health. Lule creates artworks that explore institutional roles as gatekeepers of
knowledge, authorities of culture, administrators of discipline, and executors of
punishment. He is the recipient of the Public Impact Fellowship, Claire Trevor
School of the Arts, UC Irvine, 2022-2023. The 2020 Kay Nielsen Memorial
Drawing Award, The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Alberto received a BA in Art
from The University of California Los Angeles, and is currently pursuing his MFA
from the Claire Trevor School of the Arts at UC Irvine.

Cassandra Flores

Hello! My name is Cassandra Flores and I was raised in South El Monte after my parents’ immigrated from Nayarit, México to East LA. I spent my summers in high school exploring politics and multicultural literature. This is where I began to dissect my own cultural identity through the works of writers like Gloria Anzaldúa and Oscar Zeta Acosta. I find power in vulnerability and confrontation in all types of writing, including music. The lyricism of artists such as Clairo, Natalia Lafourcade, and Lorde foster an intimacy I hope to capture in my own writing. Things that bring me joy include my cat, Kiwi, dancing, concerts, and crafts that stimulate my creativity! As a student at UC Irvine, I study Social Policy and Public Service and I’ve been dancing with Ballet Folklorico de UCI for two years. My favorite poet at the moment is Yesika Salgado. I resonate with her experiences, the bilingualism in her writing, and aim to one day publish my own poetry book.

Tatyana Hazelwood

Tatyana grew up as a low-income, first-gen, African-American, Panamanian and Mexican student in both Orange County and San Diego, CA. She works as a System-Impacted Peer Mentor and an intern for the LIFTED Program. At UC Irvine, she is a Psychological Science (B.A.) and Criminology, Law & Society (B.A.) double major. Being a system-impacted student herself, she had a difficult upbringing and strives to find healing through success in education to end generational sacrifices. She began writing personal poems in her creative writing course in high school but often felt restricted to the conventional rules of poetry. Her works shared in Issue 4 are her most personal and meaningful poems.

Janellee Hernandez

Hello! My name is Janellee and I am a first-generation college student who was raised in a Guatemalan household. I have always loved how art has been a medium (in any form) that allows people to say something without actually speaking. Whether it’s to communicate a deeper meaning or is just there to simply exist. Photography has been something that I have always enjoyed and found that it is my way of self expression.

John Dayot

John Silvan Dayot is a rising senior at UCI studying English. He recently became an alumni of the award-winning nonprofit program Ghetto Film School (GFS). With a background in film, John wants to grow as a storyteller and develop projects with his community of talented friends. He believes art is always growing and is currently inspired by visual arts and capturing real life/people.

Daniel Le

Daniel Le is a third year student studying psychology with a minor in digital arts. Originally from Cerritos, CA, he enjoys exploring new things with friends, making spotify playlists, getting tattoos, and immersing himself in his Vietnamese culture.

Dontaye Henderson

Dontaye Henderson was raised in Atlanta Georgia and now resides in San Diego, California. He attends UCI studying to earn his BA degree in Sociology. His inspiration comes from his children and loving mother. He desires to use his education to help aid the struggling youth in society as a mentor. He enjoys writing poetry, reading, drawing, and cooking. He is grateful for this opportunity with furthering his education with UCI and plans to be the best version of himself towards everyone he meets.

Victor Lopez

My name is Victor Lopez. I am an incarcerated student at Richard J. Donovan State Prison. Serving a life sentence does not give a father much room to be a positive role model. Educating myself to motivate my daughter Arriana was the best that I could do. My past actions does not define who I am, with or without my freedom, I will contrive to be a better man.

Martha Trujillo

Martha Coral Trujillo is a 28-year-old currently attending Fullerton College to obtain a Paralegal Certificate after having completed a Master's Degree in Criminology, Law and Society. Martha's goal is to become a Criminal Lawyer and to continue to work with supporting youth at risk. Martha continues to write in journals and is currently working on Journal 33. Martha's passion for assisting and serving underrepresented youth has been the motivation for her to continue to reach higher and do more in the Justice System.

Patrick Acuña

Patrick was born in San Gabriel, California but was raised by the carceral system. After three decades of incarceration, he is the first member of UCI’s LIFTED (Leveraging Inspiring Futures Through Educational Degrees) to transition to campus as a first-generation senior with an emphasis in Psychological Science and Criminology, Law, and Society. When Patrick isn’t on campus, he volunteers with Guide Dogs of America where he trains dogs for children on the autism spectrum and veterans managing PTSD and/or overcoming combat related mobility impairment. His other passions include backcountry hiking, working out, and traveling. He’s recently returned from a 30-day cross country road trip where he slept on the sidewalk of New York’s Time Square, a back-alley doorway in DC, and the parking lot of a Las Vegas Cracker Barrel.

Yuzhou Michael Ju

Yuzhou Michael Ju, a second-year Sociology major at UCI, is an international student who was born and raised in Chongqing, China. He completed his entire K-12 education in China before coming to the U.S. for college. Yuzhou is particularly interested in immigration studies, with a focus on Chinese Americans. Whenever he visits a Chinatown, he feels curious about the people there: what motivates them to move to a distant place, and how do they establish new homes in an unfamiliar country? First-generation immigrants, in particular, must have made significant commitments to their entire families in order to support the future of their offspring. In his free time, Yuzhou dedicates most of his time to volunteering as a tour guide at art exhibitions or historical relics museums in Chongqing. He guides visitors through exhibitions showcasing Dunhuang Buddhist murals and shares the history of Chongqing's role as the War Capital of China during WWII.

Feliz Aguilar

Feliz is a disabled, non-binary, first-generation, Latinx creator proudly hailing from the East Side of Salinas, CA. They recently graduated from UC Irvine in June 2023, double majoring in Literary Journalism and International Studies. Their passion for learning and experiences as a first-generation student inspired them to question the accessibility of post-undergraduate higher education, leading to the piece featured in this issue. The people fighting injustice around the world are their greatest inspiration, and they hope to continue standing in solidarity with those resisting oppression globally — whether in writing or on the ground.

Helena San Roque

My name is Helena San Roque. I’m a third year Literary Journalism major at UCI. I wrote my piece “Azat Artsakh, Free Us All'' as a nod to my Armenian heritage. However, it’s more than that— it wasn’t until college that I learned about the broad anti-imperialist struggle across various nations in Latin America, Palestine, Armenia, the Philippines, India, etc… In this piece, I talk about Armenia and Palestine: in 2020 the Artsakh war broke out after a decades long armistice between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Israel, which has committed grave atrocities against Palestine, continued to support Azerbaijan in their unjust war against Armenia, resulting in capturing Armenian territory in a trial of human rights abuses. But when your father’s homeland is attacked, what can I, an “American” college student, do? For me, to truly help emancipate my people, the answer was to get educated and organize.

Guadalupe Parra

Guadalupe is a first-generation student majoring in History with the goal of becoming a teacher. She was born in a tiny town in Jalisco, Mexico, and moved to the US with her parents when she was three. She grew up in the San Fernando Valley, surrounded by Mexican culture, and uses that as inspiration in her poetry.

Mariah Rosario

My name is Mariah Rosario and I am a UCI 2022 graduate and alumni. The following portfolio I submitted is my college senior thesis I submitted for my final. It depicts my story of self-emancipation and finding myself through independence and trauma.

Makyla McLeod

Makyla is a Black, first-generation student born and raised in North Carolina. She is currently entering her 3rd year in undergrad with a double major in International Studies and Literary Journalism. As the author of "I Educate", Makyla looked to voice not only her personal experience as the oldest child in a southern Black household looking to further her education, but to also pay homage and express gratitude to the village that continues to help her get there. In her free time, besides writing, she enjoys listening to music, reading, playing video games, and watching horror movies.

Serenity Thu Ritchey

Serenity is a third-year English major from Garden Grove, CA. She has a soft spot for poetry, among other things, like honeycombs, and the color green. She thinks words are pretty sweet and wants to believe in them. (Sometimes she does).

Josie Bitnes

Originally from Washington, Josie is a second year criminology, law, and society major seeking a literary journalism minor. She plans on attending law school to become a criminal defense attorney. In her free time, she skis with UCI’s Ski and Snowboard club and enjoys playing guitar, reading, and being outside in nature.

Corbin Li

Corbin is a first-generation college student studying Civil Engineering at UC Irvine. Growing up in California, they fell in love alongside Pacific air, late night guitar, and bonfires at the beach. Corbin’s passions lie in the intersection between engineering, art, and society, and they look forward to further exploring these topics in future years.

Erik Perez

First and foremost my name is Erik Perez and I am 20 years young. I am an artistic expressionist and Chicano artist. I’m from Southern California where we dream big and plant seeds for the world to flourish.

Francisco Vazquez

My name is Francisco Vazquez and I am 20 years old from the city of Santa Ana–that’s the place I call home. I’ve been in and out of the Orange County Juvenile Hall since the age of 14. I’m on my way to prison and I’m in a different mindset than the one I had 2 years ago when I first got here. In here I like to read, draw, and work out. I got a hidden talent which is to sing and I would like to pursue that upon release. I attend college here and I try to be a role model for my peers. In the future I hope to give back to my community, which I used to terrorize at some point.

Helen Barahona

Helen Barahona recently graduated from the University of California, Irvine (‘23). She double-majored in Political Science (Honors) & Sociology and over the summer she interned in DC with the Shadow Topics team as a research intern at the Political Violence Lab. Prior to working with the lab she served as a student assistant at the UCI Basic Needs Center, and as the managing editor for LUCID through the Dream Project Fellowship. During her free-time she likes to read, write, paint, rate movies on letterboxd and go bike-riding!

Jaaziel de la Luz

I am from Veracruz, Mexico and currently a second year math PhD student at UCI. I enjoy writing, reading philosophy, skateboarding, learning languages, traveling, hiking, jogging, sketching, and doing research. I am passionate about community building and exploring the world.

Juan Jimenez

My name is juan jimenez. 
I’ve been incarcerated for 
just about 5 yrs. In the 
midst of this quest, I’ve 
developed a hobby!
             I’m a writer 
from the ghetto! Don’t you 
disregard my message . . .
Told them all that made me 
feel like I was less than: 
             Here’s a little bout my story. Not a boy. I know 
             I’m destined

Pablo Ramirez

My name is Pablo. They also call me Pablito. At this moment Im placed in JH. In here I’ve learned many things about myself and my surroundings. I’ve learned how the brain works and how trauma affects your thinking. Right now I’m going to high school at the moment. Ima graduate in December. Im excited because I want to go to college. I used to be wild. I didn’t care about life Itself. All I cared about was putting in work for my hood and shit like that. that was me out there. In here Im more calm kick back. I’m changing. This change Im doing is mostly for my family. They need me out there to support them emotionally and financially. I [used to be] the man of the house. At a young age I would work hard and pay my jefa for rent. [My mom] would struggle and that bummed me out, but there were also times where I shit where I slept. Now Im focused on getting my education and learning new stuff every day. Im more open minded. When I get out me voy a poner las pellas to work hard to buy a house for my lil family. I want to be a welder. I wanna learn the art of welding. Im a hands on person. Im thankful for everything I’ve been through. It taught me a lot.

Samog-J Lemon

I am a current student at Irvine Valley College and I'm majoring in communicative disorders. I was born in Anaheim. I love spending time with family and friends; as I got older I realized how important that was. I am a Christian and go to church with my great grandma every Sunday. I like to write poems on the beach; it’s my new way of clearing my mind. I actually do write now to clear my head, something I would’ve never knew I liked but I find therapeutic.

Allan Plata

Born in City of Orange, Ca., my family and I have moved from room to room. Eventually my mother was able to afford an apartment of her own. I always lived in rural areas in the same city then eventually I would get involved with the people in my environment. Father was in and out the picture due to negative habits and mother was either busy or would put her priorities before her own children. My sister was a second mother and also a friend that would try to guide me to do better things for myself, though I was stubborn and didn’t want to listen to what others had to say.

Rachael Collins

Rachael has been an educator and teacher of writing in the California Community College system and at UCI since 2005. A proud homeschooled student, CCC transfer and UC graduate twice over with a PhD in early modern poetry, Rachael is committed to curriculum design that focuses on providing high quality, innovative, and democratically-centered writing instruction to disadvantaged learners, including those who are limited to online learning environments. Drawing upon the multidisciplinary, multimedia work published in Lucid, Rachael's courses focus on the transformative potential of personal writing in higher education. She thinks that when students are given the space and the tools to express themselves, they write beautifully.

Ryan "Flaco" Rising

Ryan Flaco Rising, West Coast Credible Messengers Director and PhD candidate in Criminology Law and Society at the University of California, Irvine, leverages his personal experience as a formerly incarcerated individual to assist others transitioning into higher education at UCI. His research focuses on creating pathways for formerly incarcerated individuals in higher education and analyzing the evolution of related programs. Ryan's advocacy, including founding the Gaucho Underground Scholars Program at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has played a pivotal role in expanding similar programs across UC campuses. He has received prestigious awards for his work and authored pieces in various publications, showcasing the power of formerly incarcerated individuals in producing innovative solutions and sustainable pathways for their communities, encapsulated in his 'Organic Leadership' theory.

Lisandra Rising

Lisandra is an Undergraduate at the University of California, Irvine majoring in Social Policy and Public Service with a focus on Education. Lisandra serves as the Recruitment Coordinator for the Underground Scholars program at UCI. She is also part of a blended family and lives with her son and daughter who are both 14.

Mia Voloshin

Mia is a Freshman at University High and plays indoor volleyball. On her free time, she enjoys being with her friends, shopping, and going to the beach. She eventually wants to pursue college courses before and after she graduates high school.

Riley Rising

Riley is originally from Montana and moved to CA last year in eighth grade. He is now a Freshman at University High and is involved with jiu jitsu and wrestling at his high school. Riley enjoys skateboarding and free-styling on his free time. He wants to join the marines after he graduates.

Pedro Nieves

Pedro Nieves is a UCI alumni who graduated with a Bachelor's degree in the Arts. Born in Puebla Mexico, he immigrated to the U.S. at 2 years old. After getting involved with the Dream Center and Underground Scholars Initiative, he’s now passionate about advocating for underrepresented communities by using his photography and video production skills. He hopes to become a skilled photographer and creative and looks forward to applying to graduate school to further hone his artistic abilities and create a name for himself in the art world.