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Meet Members of a Historic University of California Class

2020-08-05 12:53:37
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Good morning.

This year, as the University of California faces rising calls on a number of fronts to operate more equitably, it achieved a milestone: For the first time in the university’s history, Chicano or Latino students made up the greatest share of Californians admitted to the freshman class, 36 percent.

Admission offers to transfer students from California Community Colleges also increased to the largest number ever.

“The incoming class will be one of our most talented and diverse yet,” Janet Napolitano, who was president of the university, said in a statement. “U.C. is proud to invite them to join us.”

At the start of this month, Ms. Napolitano officially stepped down and was replaced by Michael V. Drake, the first Black president in the system’s history.

(Read more about Mr. Drake here.)

Those shifts all mark important progress, said Audrey Dow, senior vice president of the policy and advocacy organization Campaign for College Opportunity.

“But 36 percent of admits is far under proportional representation,” she said in an email.

That would be closer to 50 percent; more than half of high school graduates in the state are Latino.

Which means that simple demographic figures belie a huge diversity of experiences among Latino students across California.

I got a chance to talk to a few of the students about being part of a major shift at the state’s most prestigious university system and about heading to college in a pandemic.

We’ll share their stories today and tomorrow.

(And if you’re heading to a U.C. campus in the fall — remotely or in person — tell us about it at [email protected].)

When Daniela Castillo was a little girl, she would sit and leaf through books while her mother cleaned houses.

The mop weighs more than the pen, she remembered her mom telling her.

“I took it very literally,” Ms. Castillo, 18, said. But later, she realized her mother was talking about the value of an education — something her parents weren’t able to access in the same way as their children.

“That has been my biggest motivator,” she said.

Her father, Ms. Castillo said, slept near train tracks when he first arrived in the United States at age 18.

Earlier this summer, his daughter had a street named after her in a Cathedral City tradition meant to honor one of the community’s top students for a year.

“It felt very surreal,” she said.

Still, when Ms. Castillo starts at U.C. Berkeley in the fall, she won’t be without a guide. Her brother, 10 years her senior, also went to Berkeley, though his experience was different from the one Ms. Castillo hopes to have.

“He felt very singled out as the only Latino in his classes,” she said. “It was very difficult at times.”

Today, he’s one of her biggest supporters, she said.

Ms. Castillo said she’s not naïve about arriving on a campus where she will be a minority for the first time in her life. And meeting classmates through her summer bridge program has been challenging when many log in to classes with their cameras off.

But the moment is exciting, she said: “It’s been a time of realization — coming to terms with who I really am.”

Mariana Benitez Arreola wouldn’t mind the temperature checks. She would happily take classes online.

“Wearing a mask,” she said, “isn’t that hard.”

Ms. Benitez Arreola, 17, is just hungry to start her college career at U.C. Santa Barbara.

“I’m the type of person who plans heavily for the future,” she said. College, she said, has been her “aim since Day 1.”

Her choice to head to Isla Vista, rather than U.C. Irvine or U.C. Riverside or any of the several other schools she got into, was deeply researched.

She wants to study sociology — “specifically Chicanx studies,” she said — and to prepare for a career in journalism.

Throughout high school, she felt that her life on the east side of San Jose was confined to a kind of bubble.

Ms. Benitez Arreola, who identifies as Mexican-American, female and “an advocate,” said the vast majority of her classmates were Asian or Latino. Glimpses of different worlds tantalized her.

She recalled attending a program for high schoolers about civic engagement in Los Angeles. She met white students from the East Coast and was fascinated.

“It was like the movies: The cheerleaders don’t talk to the jocks, people are segregated because of class, people wouldn’t talk to people because they didn’t have money,” she said. “I didn’t think that was actually real.”

Her mother runs a day care, so in Ms. Benitez Arreola’s house, learning and work were the constants.

Now, Ms. Benitez Arreola is in limbo — but with a sense that the uncertainty is part of something bigger.

“I don’t know how things are going to go down in the history books,” she said.

She’s ready to find out.

(Read about how colleges are bracing for an uncertain fall.)


And if you missed it, here’s why it would matter if a Californian became vice president. (The New York Times)

If you missed it, Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Monday that trends appeared encouraging — but not definitive. (The New York Times)

And track the latest data in each California county with our interactive map. (The New York Times)

  • With 60 million households still uncounted, the U.S. Census Bureau said it would end the survey a month early. Critics sounded the alarm. (The New York Times)

  • Nine young service members — eight Marines and one sailor who ranged in age from 18 to 23 — were killed when their assault amphibious vessel sank near San Clemente Island last week. (The San Diego Union-Tribune)

  • Some evacuations related to the Apple Fire have been lifted. The authorities said they believe a diesel-fueled vehicle emitted burning carbon from its tailpipe and ignited the blaze. (The Desert Sun)

  • If you missed it, 13 Pac-12 Conference football players said they’d opt out of the coming season until systemic inequities in college athletics’ response to the pandemic have been addressed. (The New York Times)

Read their original letter. (The Players’ Tribune)

  • Bars, restaurants, theaters and museums are closed. Masks are known to stop help the spread of a deadly virus, but they have become the subject of fierce debate. Cities across California are enforcing the orders differently. It is the influenza pandemic of 1918 and 1919. (The New York Times)


California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: [email protected]. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here and read every edition online here.

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, went to school at U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.


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