My family and I immigrated to the Bay Area when I was three years old. Since then, Oakland has become home. Similar to how the symbolic Oakland tree logo captures the humble beginnings and hopeful future of the city, I, too, have grown with my community over the years.
I remember struggling to pronounce my new nickname “Vivian” at Lincoln Elementary School and studying for exams at my middle school, Downtown Charter Academy. Soon, I was proudly graduating from Oakland Technical High School. However, the pursuit of education did not end there as higher education has always been an expectation of me. This presumption was never because of a privilege for guaranteed college, but instead, I carry the hopes of my household. In Fall 2020, I was honored to have begun my second year of college as a first-generation student majoring in Communication at the University of Southern California (USC).
What I imagined to be my wildest dream has become attainable due to my support systems. During my senior year of high school, I was introduced to the Eat. Learn. Play. Foundation through the International Women's Day Scholarship from my elementary school physical education teacher, who I have come to view as a lifelong mentor and friend. His words of encouragement gave me confidence to apply, and before I knew it, my connection to the Foundation seemed inseparable, in the best way possible.
To my disbelief, I was chosen as the inaugural recipient of the International Women's Day Scholarship by the Eat. Learn. Play. Foundation. Upon hearing this incredible news, I was overwhelmed with feelings of joy and excitement because I felt recognized for my work, and more importantly, energized to continue my efforts. I am eternally grateful for Stephen and Ayesha Curry, two iconic individuals with such resolute and generous hearts, who have chosen to believe in me and support my dreams. They have made it possible for me to attend my dream college with less financial burden.
Beyond the countless words of appreciation for the Foundation, I wanted to turn my sentiments into action. While on campus at USC, I took advantage of opportunities that sparked my interest to fully savor my college experience. I joined Daily Trojan, a student-run newspaper, as a news writer and assistant news editor to explore journalism in action. I became a member of student-run clubs, including NEON Magazine, The Women’s Network USC, and Girl Up to meet new friends with shared passions. I was selected as the Assistant Director of Marketing for USC OWN IT, which hosts the university’s largest conference featuring notable female and non-binary leaders. By gaining experience and expanding my knowledge at USC, I aspire to blossom as an advocate for marginalized communities and as a storyteller of underrepresented voices.
As my first year in college wrapped up, COVID-19 changed my plans of securing a summer internship, but luckily, Eat. Learn. Play. welcomed me onto the team. This past summer, I began my role as the Foundation’s first intern, assisting in donor research, brand identity, and social media. It is super rewarding to witness the diligent efforts by a small yet powerful team, especially when the Foundation positions itself at the forefront of tackling food security relief in Oakland. I had the chance to chat with farmers, restaurant owners, students, and the elderly to capture their challenges and perseverance during the pandemic. Despite being some of the most vulnerable members of the city, they became my sparks of hope, and their stories represented my highlights from the summer.
Currently, my internship with Eat. Learn. Play. continues as I enter my second year of college. I look forward to continuing my participation in this outstanding organization and playing my part in giving back to my community. I know my dedication to the community is evergreen.
My involvement with the Eat. Learn. Play. Foundation has provided me with clarity about my passions. I plan to explore my interests in business management, marketing, public policy, and design during higher education and through various internships. In the future, I would like to be a strategic thinker in assisting and creating conscious, purposeful brands. But above all, I strive to fully embrace my own voice to express myself and uplift my community, reciprocating the care they have unconditionally provided for me.