#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.

The #BetterMakeRoom Takeover

By: Monica Ochoa — G1DPR Alum & Notre Dame University Sophomore

There’s a saying that goes like this: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

And that’s just what Better Make Room is doing as they’ve partnered with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher initiative, to spread the message about the Better Make Room campaign that’s directed at Generation Z (14-19 year olds).

The Better Make Room campaign was created to celebrate education, change the national conversation, and give students the tools they need to reach higher for college. It highlights the possibility of a better education, a better career, and a better future. It also ensures that young people understand the steps, tools and resources available to help them Reach Higher, such as registering for the SAT and ACT, visiting a college campus, filling out FAFSA, and completing at least four college applications.

This month, I took over Better Make Room’s Twitter for a week– here’s what this incredible opportunity showed me.

Better Make Room is empowering as it reaches thousands of aspiring and current college students around the country. It’s all about sharing students’ experiences with others in the hopes of motivating them to pursue an education and lead a successful life.

I immediately felt a personal connection with many of the students sharing on the Better Make Room social media sites. So many of them have been through similar experiences that I’ve been through.

Personally, I love to share my story and help others. Whether it’s about the process of applying to college, financial aid or just sharing a motivating phrase. Having the opportunity and privilege to be a part of Better Make Room allowed me to do what I love – at an even greater magnitude than I ever imagined.

It was such a great experience to see people react positively to my posts. I felt that my voice was being heard around the country. The most valuable lesson I learned in doing this is to remember that I can help others reach the point where I’m at today.

Some students really just need a couple of words of encouragement to hit those ‘Submit’ buttons on their college applications. As a current college student, I feel a responsibility to help students understand that it’s more than worth it to reach for their dreams.

As my fellow El Rancho High School Dons head back to school, I say this: Always keep your goals in mind and fight for them, especially when you’re going through a rough patch. The phrase, “After every storm, there is a rainbow” really is true, no matter how insignificant it may sound. So keep going. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something.

I understand that applying for colleges and scholarships can be strenuous, but I promise everyone that an education is absolutely worth it. Don’t stop until you reach your goals, even if it takes one try or a hundred tries.

As I travel back to Notre Dame University for my sophomore year, I can tell you that the reason it’s important for me to still be a part of G1DPR is because I love my community. I love where I come from and I want every single student in Pico Rivera to go to college and have the same opportunities I’ve had. We’re not alone in the struggles we face. I was in your same exact position just a couple of years ago and if I can continue on to college, so can you!

For more information, please go to BetterMakeRoom.org