I was sitting in one of the hard, plastic seats of Center Hall during my second year at UC San Diego. My senses focused on the shuffling of everyone finding chairs, the bustle of campus as the end of some classes and the beginning of others fused together chaotically but in a way that had rhythm, and hearing myself in conversation with class acquaintances as we waited for those few awkward pre-class minutes to pass. Instead of Professor Michael Trigilio kicking off the lecture, a representative from The UCSD Guardian stood at the front and pitched the different newspaper sections and teams.
I’d always wanted to be part of a newspaper. I’d attempted to start a neighborhood newspaper at home when I was younger. I always looked up to the fictional Kit Kittredge, the American Girl character who was an aspiring journalist in the books and movie. I toured the Los Angeles Times during high school, obsessed with the buzz of the newsroom and printing empire. In a pie contest, I was judged by the late and great Johnathan Gold, former chief food critic for the LA Times. I’d taken photography classes through the years. All in all, everything pointed at joining a college newspaper. But with trying to find my place in this huge school with endless options for extracurriculars swirling around me at all times, I hadn’t found the focus or push to go for it until then when this 2-minute announcement turned into me mentally checking out of class and instead spending its entirety on my laptop filling out the UCSD Guardian application.
I applied for the Photography section because the amount of writing I was already doing for my classes made me resent writing for a while. Over the course of the next year, I covered campus events, concerts, music festivals, volleyball, and more. On site at some of these assignments, I was up close and personal, while at others, I was a complete fly on the wall. I learned what it’s like negotiating with festival security to let me stay in the pit for one more song even though people with press passes were supposed to be out by the 2nd. I learned what it was like to run (or bike) around with a camera bag on me, crossbody. I learned to ask for shows I wanted to cover even if the paper wasn’t writing on them because that electric feeling can’t be replaced.
Early in 2020 before COVID-19 struck, friend and then lifestyle editor Annika Olives asked me about joining the Lifestyle section. I applied, interviewed, and joined because joining a writing section was a goal I knew I wanted to fulfil at some point. Our team meetings and brainstorm zoom calls became something I looked forward to every week, especially during the stagnation of pandemic lockdown. From giving documentary recommendations to seeing my restaurant review printed and in stacks around campus, Lifestyle became my favorite outlet to share my local discoveries, self experiments, recipes, and more.
While all the above greatly contributed to my college experience, perhaps the greatest and most rewarding part of being part of the UCSD Guardian came when I was passed the Photo Editor torch one year ago. I knew we had amazing people and photographers on our team but lacked the structure that was conducive for team bonding. Additionally, assignments were slow since campus and all that comes with it was shut down for the most part. In order to get our team shooting assignments again, we launched the photo essay section which I am excited to see continue into the future. After the year of COVID-19 shutdowns and not being able to see each other in person as a team, I’ll never forget the magic of our first meetup which was at the iconic Scripps Pier. We took photos for fun, splashing around in the shallow water in between, watched the sunset, and made our way to Scoops for ice cream, but even then this amazing group of humans decided that our hang out wasn’t ready to be over. Before I knew it, we were piled into two of our team member’s cars and headed to Mount Soledad for a continuation of the social. On top of the mountain, we brainstormed plans for our next meeting. They begged me to make it happen soon. On the drop-off circuit home, our car ride turned into yet another brainstorming session mixed with questions they had for me on how to make the most out of this opportunity as a student journalist. Their pure excitement reminded me of why I joined the newspaper in the first place, and it was in this moment that I felt assured that the future of the photography section will be nothing short of stellar.
Another memory during my time as Photo Editor that I will always remember was when I planned a trip to Linda Vista Skate Park with the team, inspired by a field trip my high school photography teacher Cole did with my class. Although some skaters were hesitant when we first arrived with cameras in hand, even calling us out despite being in a public space, throughout the late afternoon we ended up making genuine connections with the skaters and were able to later send them what we had captured of them in their flow state. As it turned out, not many of them had ever seen images of what they look like while in their element. Feeling like I had the responsibility to always keep track of everyone, I would often look up and take a scan of the park to get a head count. I saw Clarence in a patch in the middle talking to a skater for a long enough time to hear their life story, I saw Millie on one end of the park amusing kids who were showing off for her on their skates and scooters, I saw Howard on the opposite end befriending the very group of skaters who weren’t at all pleased when we first walked in, and behind me was Irvin surveying his next mission. We created a photo family during one of the most difficult times in our lifetime to feel connected to other people, and for that I’ll always be thankful.
Irvin, I can’t wait to see what you do next as you are passed the Photo Editor torch. The section has an amazing leader with you taking the reins. Thank you to The Guardian for bringing me incredible experiences and people who have taught and continue to teach me so much. Thank you for giving me a voice, a journalism community, and the motivation to keep aiming higher no matter what.