Culture

The College Cheating Scandal Highlights The Different Paths Many Face Getting To College

When Denise Ocana heard the news the about the college admissions scandal, she wasn’t surprised. Ocana, 25, worked weekends at a swap meet with her parents to save enough money to attend UCLA, her dream school. Coincidentally, UCLA was one of schools embroiled in the the nation’s largest admissions scandal. Whether it’s working multiple jobs, studying long nights for the SAT or applying for endless scholarships, Ocana is one of many individuals that have to make every sacrifice possible to even have a chance of attending college.

While some were shocked to learn of reports that wealthy parents essentially paid to get their kids into elite schools, the news is a shot of reality. It’s also a glimpse into the two different playing fields people face when applying to their dream school. The scandal has started discussions about why factors such as donations and legacy status are part of the admissions process, which has traditionally benefited wealthier families.

The college admissions scandal reinforced the belief the process can be gamed by those with wealth and influence.

@karla_estrada22/Twitter

Like Ocana, Karla Estrada, 28, wasn’t surprised when she heard about the scandal. Estrada, a UCLA graduate, said it reaffirmed her belief that a portion of her classmates “got some help” in the admission process.

“It was common knowledge that some bought their way in but to have it confirmed was satisfying in a sense,” Estrada said. “But there’s some bitterness because it’s not fair to just have it handed it to them and have us have to fight for it.”

Estrada was an undocumented student which made getting any type of financial assistance nearly impossible. She worked full time to save for school and had no financial help from her parents. There was no federal aid available for her let alone enough scholarship money for her to pay tuition. For these reasons, Estrada had to find a sponsor to help her get enough money to attend school.

“We barely had enough money to eat let alone for school. I had to get sponsorship so I literally showed up to random companies to speak to their CEO to ask if someone could pay for my college,” Estrada said. “Lucas Oil and Lite Source ended up helping and because of them I was able to afford college.”

The scandal has started a discourse around affirmative action.

@EricaLG/Twitter

The admissions scandal highlights the racial and economic disparities that plague access to higher education. Yet when many students of color get access to these institutions, a stereotype follows them. The notion that affirmative action is the only reason they are there. At times they are accused of taking slots from white students just because of their ethnicity or race.

Izaak Ramirez, 27, disagrees with the notion that students of color get into college easier based on the color of their skin. Ramirez applied to seven colleges but didn’t get into UCLA, his dream school. He had to go the community college route despite having a 3.7 GPA in high school.

“It was overwhelming and I sat there and cried because of all the efforts I put forward felt wasted in a way,” Ramirez said. “Being a person of color or a Latino doesn’t automatically means you’re getting through that door.

Ramirez knows what accessing an elite school means in terms of getting a career and making a name for yourself. Grads of elite universities tend to earn annual salaries that are as much as 50 percent higher than all other college grads. That alone is worth making countless sacrifices to get themselves into these institutions.

Even during college things don’t get easier for many.

@hija_dl_trueno /Twitter

Ocana is currently in a graduate program at California State University, Northridge where she is pursuing a degree in Public Administration. Yet as she pursues the next chapter in her education, she is still reminded at times how hard it is to stand out at these institutions. Ocana says at times she feels she’s competing against the system and the admissions scandal reminds her how easy it is for some.

“No one’s surprised by the news and honestly it was just a matter of time before everyone knew,” Ocana said about the scandal. “If we all had the money to pay to get into college we’d all be here but what’s the pride in that. If my option was CSUN or USC , I’d still go to USC but that’s not how it works.”

Despite the advantages that some may have, hard work is something that will always be valued.

@latinoheritagela / Instagram

While the admissions scandal has shined a light on what’s wrong about the college application process, it’s also highlighted what’s good. For the number of those that try to cheat their way in, there’s more that are working harder just to get their chance.

Estrada is an example of this hard work. No legal status, limited financial help but a work ethic that few can match. Today, she is a immigration law & criminal defense paralegal trying to make a difference in her own community.

Despite the negativity the scandal has brought, Estrada hopes it starts a much needed conversation about the reality that so many Latinos and people of color have to endure in college.

“Sometimes we believe that we don’t belong here even though we have earned our seat in the classroom,” Estrada said “We have to constantly prove to the world we are good enough and then prove to ourselves. I say we are more than good enough.”

READ: UCLA Men’s Soccer Coach Jorge Salcedo Is One Of More Than 50 People Indicted In College Bribery Scandal

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Naya Rivera’s Dad Says ‘Glee’ Showrunner Ryan Murphy Lied About Setting Up a College Fund for Her Son, Josey

Entertainment

Naya Rivera’s Dad Says ‘Glee’ Showrunner Ryan Murphy Lied About Setting Up a College Fund for Her Son, Josey

Photos via Getty Images

Months after Naya Rivera’s untimely passing, her family is still struggling to cope with the aftermath of her death. Although there was an outpouring of well-wishes and condolences after Rivera’s tragic drowning, many people have unfortunately moved on. But Rivera’s family is still coping.

On Tuesday, Naya Rivera’s father, George Rivera, slammed “Glee” creator Ryan Murphy for making “broken promises” to Rivera’s son, Josey.

Last July, Murphy pledged to set up a college fund for Josey. In a statement, Murphy said: ““Our hearts go out to her family, especially her mom, Yolanda, who was a big part of the Glee family, and her son Josey. The three of us are currently in the process of creating a college fund for the beautiful son Naya loved most of all.”

But since then, George Rivera has vented his frustration at the media mogul via Twitter. In response to a July, 2020 tweet that praised Ryan Murphy for his generosity, George Rivera wrote: “Everyone needs to know what Ryan Murphy really did … or didn’t do !!! I’m about to blow up this story …. and make sure he’s knows that I know ….”

In subsequent tweets, George Rivera accused Ryan Murphy both of faking his grief over Naya’s death and lying about setting up a college fund for Josey.

“When you are part of the Hollywood elite, some people treat others as they are “less than” …. vocalize a good game , but it’s as shallow as the sets on stage , that they create,” Rivera wrote. “Promises made in public, only to fade with time and excuses …. even in a unexplainable tragedy …”

Soon enough, fans of Naya Rivera began to engage with George Rivera, asking him to disclose what happened behind the scenes. One zealous fan wrote “Let it out, G. Let it out,” to which Rivera responded, “Broken Promises….. fake outrage …. hollow gestures ….. no phone call.”

George Rivera’s accusations against Ryan Murphy shocked many fans who had thought that her son would be taken care of by the ultra-successful producer.

Looking for clarification, one fan asked, “Did they never open the trust fund for josey? omg,” to which George responded, “Hahaaaa.” His response the initial veiled accusation.

In response to George’s accusations, many “Glee” fans rallied around the grieving father. “If you have anything else please do share,” wrote one Naya Rivera fan account. “We’re going to listen and make sure you have the platform to share whatever that awful man said and did to you and your family, we’re with you.”

Ryan Murphy quickly took to Twitter to address the allegations and defend himself–albeit vaguely.

“Myself, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan have committed to create a college fund for Naya Rivera’s child Josey through the Naya Rivera Estate Trust,” Murphy wrote. “We have been in repeated conversations with the appropriate executors of her estate.”

Based on Murphy’s use of the word “committed”, it does, indeed, sound like he hasn’t actually started the fund yet. We hope he keeps his promise and starts that very soon.

Regardless, we’re glad that George Rivera was brave enough to call out Hollywood power players that were letting his family down.

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This Latino In His Sixties Spent Half Of His Life Behind Bars, Now He’s Graduating College With Honors

Things That Matter

This Latino In His Sixties Spent Half Of His Life Behind Bars, Now He’s Graduating College With Honors

Photo via Facebook/Miguel de la Rosa

Once in a while, a story comes along that makes you realize that the phrase “you can do anything you put your mind to”, isn’t just an old cliche. One California Latino man proved that the phrase has some truth behind it.

62-year-old Joseph Valadez just graduated with honors from Cal State Long Beach after spending the half of his adult life behind bars.

Valadez’s story went viral when one of his fellow students tweeted about the California Latino man’s incredible story. “This man accomplished something incredible AND took the coldest pic of 2021,” said that caption.

The post is a screenshot of a Facebook post Valadez wrote, accompanied by some stunning graduation photos of the 62-year-old.

“I finished my last two semester at Long Beach on the ‘President’s Honor List’ for making straight As,” wrote Valadez on the CSULB alumni Facebook group. “Was also on the Dean’s List with a GPA of 3.67. Not bad for someone who spent half his adult life in prison.”

“There’s a misconception about guys like me that I want to break,” he added. “If I can do it, anyone can.”

Since the picture went viral, Valadez opened up about the journey that took him from rock bottom to where he is now.

Like many people in the prison system, addiction fueled Valadez’s life of crime. In an interview with Long Beach Post, he revealed that he began using heroine when he first joined the army at the age of 18.

“All the crimes I did were related to trying to get drugs, selling drugs,” the California Latino man told the Long Beach Post. He would spend 38 years of his life battling addiction.

After that, his life spiraled into a cycle of addiction, homelessness, violence, and crime. In total, Valadez has been to prison 40 times. He has spent more than 30 years behind bars.

Valadez finally decided to change his life in his 50s, when he realized that if he kept living this way, he would die soon.

In 2013, Valadez checked into an adult rehab facility. He stayed there for a year while he got clean. Soon after, he enrolled in Orange Coast Community College before ultimately transferring to Cal State Long Beach. In total, it took six years of challenging coursework for him to graduate. But from the look of pride in Valadez’s face, it was worth it.

Throughout his journey in the educational system, however, Valadez has discovered all the ways that the system failed him. Despite getting good grades in high school, teachers didn’t suggest college as an option for him. Instead, they suggested he pursue landscaping or construction. Similarly, when Valadez bounced in and out of jail due to his addiction, no one ever suggested rehab as a way for him to break the cycle.

Now, Valadez wants to take the lessons he learned and give back to his community.

At CSULB, Valadez excelled in sociology, and was interested in exploring how the criminal justice system is set up to target people of color. “I know a little bit about that subject because I lived it,” he said. “I wanted to understand the ‘why?’.” As of now, he is waiting to see if he gets accepted into CSULB’s Social Work masters program.

Valadez wants to use his new degree to help young kids who are at-risk of being failed by the system, like he was. “I’m going to inspire somebody, I’m going to motivate somebody, I’m going to give somebody hope,” he said. “That’s what I’m supposed to do.”

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