above and beyond
Major Biological sciences
Hometown Corona, CA
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Through Michelle Zin’s involvements on our campus and in our community we can see her sincere passion to change the social injustice that plagues our world. As a Summer Multicultural Leadership Institute (SMLI) participant and staffer, a peer facilitator for Reaffirming Ethnic Awareness & Community Harmony (REACH), and as an alternative break intern for the Center for Service in Action she has facilitated dialogue to promote awareness and education. Michelle’s commitments influence past UCI as she has served at Santa Ana high schools to inspire underprivileged youth to succeed towards their academic future. Friend and advocate Carlos Lopez affirms “Michelle has not only encouraged, but empowered these students to pursue their dreams, and has been an example that people of color do belong in institutions of higher education.”
ED: What is your motivation?
MZ: I think my motivation is my family, friends and people around me. I believe that everyone in my life has some sort of influence in the way I perceive the world around me. Most of my motivation come from my beliefs my parents have taught me. My parents have always encouraged me to work hard since they came to the US in order for me and my sister to succeed. Because of this, I think I owe it to them to be successful. I also believe I’m in a position of privilege since I am in college and I should use that advantage to make some change in the world. Sometimes I think we overlook on how privileged we are and that’s why I feel I should try that much harder.
ED: What have you accomplished?
MZ: I think I’ve grown the most as a person especially these past 4 years in college. I’ve realized my true passion and what I want to do in the future. I believe I have made a positive contribution to the campus. I went though SMLI as a freshman and really learned more about diversity and social justice issues. From being involved with SMLI I knew I wanted to explore more about multicultural issues. I became a part of REACH my 3rd year and it really opened my eyes to the current problems in society. Because of REACH I knew I wanted to be an advocate towards the movement for positive change within minorities. I was a staffer for SMLI during the summer of my 4th year. Even though I went through SMLI 3 years ago, I saw how the program had changed and improved. It was different experiencing the program from a different perspective and knowing that I was now the staffer who would inspire the incoming freshmen and acting as their mentor. SMLI and REACH has shown me the importance of diversity and social issues that we must continue to fight for especially if we are in a more privileged position. In my fourth year I interned as Alternative Break intern for the Center for Service in Action at UCI. I led a group of 12 UCI students to perform community service projects during spring break at the La Jolla Indian Reservation. We planted over 600 trees, cleaned up 5 miles of their campgrounds during our 5 days there. We also learned more about the Native American culture and the current issues the tribe is facing because of their minority status. We realized the importance of not only their culture but also our own. I also taught the California High School Exit Exam in low income communities such as Santa Ana and Long Beach where the students are struggling to pass High School. It was one of the most life changing experiences for me to know how much influence you can have on teenagers just by having a positive attitude and encouragement. Even though most people might think students are struggling because they don’t care about their education, I have learned that they are motivated to succeed but they have a harder time because of their financial difficulties or their parents or teachers don’t encourage them to their full potential. I am also a member of Pi Beta Phi. I served as Recruitment Processes Chair and on the Leadership and Nominating Committee.
ED: What is your passion?
MZ: My passion is helping less privileged, minority groups and impoverish communities. I feel that it is my duty because I am a person who is more privileged that I should help make a positive impact to those who can’t. Whatever I do in the future, I want to help people and help shape the future of the world. After I graduate, I plan on applying to dental school and hopefully I can work in community medicine. I worked at Share Our Selves as a dental assistant. It’s a free clinic in Costa Mesa where they provide health services to those who do not have health insurance. I want to work somewhere like this in the future. I want to make a difference in the world and also inspire others to do the same as well. If for some reason I don’t get into dental school or change my mind, I know that I want to work somewhere helping less privileged communities. Either as being a grade school teacher in the inner city to inspire kids to pursue higher education. That’s pretty much what I see myself doing in the future. I don’t want to be just another person who acknowledges that social injustice is occurring right now in society, I want to be part of the movement that changes it. I also love talking to other people about issues like race, privilege, class and gender. I believe that continuing the dialogue and the conversation about these issues is the best way to improve them. I will also be a SPOP staffer this summer and hopefully as my role, I can inspire incoming freshman to love UCI and to make a difference on campus in some way. I love this campus and UCI was a place where I really grew as a person and learned more about myself in terms of what I want to do and what I’m passionate about. So before I leave this campus, I want to show the incoming students how UCI can also help them and really learn to love this campus as much as I have. Other than that in my free time I like to scrapbook, bake, spend time with my family and friends. I like smiling and laughing, being positive and being inspired everyday by people around me.
ED: What have you done for the Asian American/Pacific Islander community?
MZ: I’m not sure what I have done specifically for the Asian American community but I try to make a change for all minority groups in general. My ethnicity is Burmese and I came to the US from Burma when I was 9. Because of that I am very in touch with my culture. I love the Burmese culture and I want to help the situation in Burma in the culture. Currently, Burma is under a military regime and Burmese people do not have basic rights. I somehow want to help make the situation better in the country. Either by donating my time or money there. Because the country is so poor and the situation is so bad, I feel that any type of help we can get would help the people there in a great way.
ED: What do you hope to accomplish?
MZ: I think I already mentioned this in previous questions but I want to change the world. It doesn’t have to be in a big way like creating world peace, but I hope I am part of the movement that makes a difference in the world. It can be small like inspiring just one person or even bigger. But that’s what I hope to do. I am the type of person that believes that anyone can make a difference, all they need is to want to make that change. I will also be a SPOP staffer this summer and hopefully as my role, I can inspire incoming freshman to love UCI and to make a difference on campus in some way. I love this campus and UCI was a place where I really grew as a person and learned more about myself in terms of what I want to do and what I’m passionate about. So before I leave this campus, I want to show the incoming students how UCI can also help them and really learn to love it here as much as I have.