#BetterMakeRoom and #reachhigher: A Q&A with Justin Uribe

“If I can have this opportunity to attend college coming from a community where the average percentage of households with a Bachelor’s Degree is 11%, anyone can.” Those are the words of Justin Uribe, an El Rancho High School graduate and freshman at UC Berkeley. Earlier this month, his message was broadcast all over social media as part of the Better Make Room college awareness campaign launched by First Lady Michelle Obama in 2015 in partnership with her Reach Higher college access initiative. We caught up with Justin during his midterms week and asked a few questions about his journey from Pico Rivera to Berkeley.

G1DPR:   In your Better Make Room “Twitter Takeover” you mentioned “I pushed through a multitude of obstacles using every opportunity afforded to me and connected with staff who have really pushed me to do well.” Describe to us the opportunities and connections that helped you get to where you are today.

Justin: Coming from a Latino background, it’s not such a prevalent thing to have generations of college graduates before me. My brother and I are the first to go to college, and we did so without the influence that’s apparent in more affluent schools where higher education is a priority. Friends who attended those affluent schools come from families where almost everyone has a college degree. In my family, I’m breaking barriers for being one of the first to go to college, and it was a challenge to get here.

Fortunately, programs through Generation 1st Degree, like Be A Leader and College Blue Print built me up and pushed me to go to college. It was my junior year in high school when I found out about these programs. Attending summer sessions, college tours and meetings helped me build my “how to” for going to college. That’s when I focused on college applications and the logistics of financial applications, and Be A Leader was on top of it…always reminding us of deadlines.

G1DPR: We asked Better Make Room to share with us some of the social media insights and your story reached more than 700 people on Facebook, 500 on Instagram and had more than 40,000 impressions on Twitter. What do you think about that?

Justin: Wow, really humbling that people saw and read it! I appreciate it all because I didn’t think I would get this far. When I saw a retweet from the U.S. Department of Education and my face was on their news feed I thought, “Whoa!”

G1DPR Fill in the blanks: “If it weren’t for _____ I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Justin: My teachers, especially my family and all of the opportunities provided to me over the years… and G1DPR.

G1DPR: If you were to host a lecture back at ERHS about your pathway through high school to college, what words of wisdom would you share with your fellow DONS?

Justin: I would say I was in the same seat. I had the same teachers, the same classes and the same difficulties and environment they are growing up in. Where I am right now, it’s a great place and you can totally reach where I am. But I want you to surpass me. I mean, it’s a great place where I am, but aim for more. Be persistent and don’t take no for an answer.