Some may say it was purely coincidence that Alijah Rivera ended up at UC Santa Barbara; others may say it was fate. Driving from his hometown of Cerritos, up the California coast, through Henley Gate, and onto campus for the first time, Alijah had a gut feeling that told him that he was in the right place. Taking in the ocean views, he knew that he wanted to call UCSB home for the next four years.
The same day, Alijah ran into a former high school classmate, now studying at UCSB, who sparked his interest in campus involvement and expanded his passion for cultural diversity. She was the president of Kapatirang Pilipino, a Filipino/Filipino-American cultural club with a goal of promoting ethnic awareness and academic excellence at UCSB. After joining the club as a freshman, Alijah went on to take responsibility over the years as the assistant director of Pilipino Cultural Night and co-chair of Pilipino Graduation. In addition, Alijah led efforts to rebrand and refocus the Filipino student community on diversity, empowerment, and voice through opportunities such as the Kapatirang Pilipino Network and KP Alumni Association.
Working with Joe Sabado, the chief information officer of student affairs, Alijah has embraced his leadership roles and has taken them as an opportunity to learn more about himself and others. He has embraced his leadership roles and taken them to new heights, culminating in his collaboration with Vice Chancellor Margaret Klawunn on issues like Asian American mental health. He credits Sabado for pushing him to aim higher and be better, noting that many students in the Asian Pacific Islander (API) community look up to Sabado for his work ethic and faith in his students.
Just as Alijah’s heritage and culture have been a driving factor in his extracurriculars, they also inspired the choices he would make academically. As a communication and global studies double major, Alijah was not planning to take a minor until the Asian-American studies minor eventually fell into his lap. Taking these classes with friends, he realized how relevant these topics were to his own life and he looked to find outlets for his newfound knowledge to. Diving into courses taught by professors Diane Fujino and Ben Zulueta in the Asian American studies department, Alijah was inspired to not only read about these cultures, but experience them for himself. His study abroad experience in Singapore was one he would never forget; in fact, Alijah says he could easily picture himself living and working in the vibrant and bustling city.
Alijah’s dream job would be a position that allows him to serve as a liaison between the United States and Southeast Asia, putting his diverse experience and perspective to work. Currently, he is pursuing a career in digital marketing, but he lso wants to continue working within his community by teaching at the Filipino Cultural School in Los Angeles. While he looks to the future with great positivity, Alijah knows that there is much he will miss about UC Santa Barbara. What will he miss the most? “This might sound nerdy,” he said, laughing, “but I am going to miss all of the learning that I've done here! Each year, I feel like I find a new class or program or resource that opens up a whole new realm of things to learn!”
Good luck Alijah and never stop learning!
Written by Miranda Chan