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I was born and raised in Mira Mesa, San Diego to working-class Filipino immigrants and veterans, a woman artist who navigates the micro and macro challenges that this brings. I am the first in my family to go to college, to get a graduate degree and work as an educator.

Reaching out matters. Since my education was in predominantly white spaces, the few teachers of color I  had a profound impact as visual proof as well as mentorship. They taught me the importance of holding institutional space for students with tenuous resolve. I know firsthand how crucial outreach is for underrepresented high school students whose dream horizon might not include college. Because of this, I actively volunteer in high school recruitment on college committees, work at underserved schools, provide low cost to free classes for youth, and participate in high school outreach at San Diego City College, Reel Voices, Monarch School and Miracosta College’s Community Learning Center.

Representation matters. Although I teach my students literacy in a largely white male art canon, my goal is to create a place within it for my students. In 10 years teaching in over 20 different programs, I developed community-specific art curriculum for youth in juvenile detention, homeless teens, Syrian refugee girls, college-bound students in Barrio Logan, ESL students, and LGBTQ adults. I’m currently leading Little Saigon Stories in City Heights to archive immigrant oral histories in a neighborhood undergoing massive change, and recruited Vietnamese American artists, locals, academics and UCSD students to build with me. I have mentored over 100 students of diverse backgrounds who went on to four year colleges in Art, won film festival awards, became teachers and exhibiting artists, and started their own LGBTQ art zines and businesses. It is important for me to activate this type of accessibility.

My art practice is feminist and “transborder” with themes and partnerships that stretch into Tijuana and the Philippines, and explores historical issues of displaced identity. I teach my students about non-normative artists and media critique to unpack images and generate new modes for artmaking. As Programmer of the San Diego Asian Film Festival, I expose my students to international and domestic artists. I want my students to explore the worlds within themselves and worlds beyond.

Financial health matters, especially when dropout rates haunt economically distressed students. To address this at Miracosta College, I developed the Photography internship and work-study program, creating opportunities to work on campus, build professional skills, and lessen transportation burdens. I expanded the program’s reach from zero to 20+ photography students, who became TAs, lab techs, publication interns, and instructors through partnerships I created with San Diego Art Institute, Museum of Photographic Arts, Barrio Logan College Institute, and The AjA Project to name a few.

Lastly, diversity matters. At Miracosta College, I played a key role in the successful recruitment and retention of women and people of color for Associate Faculty positions. At City College, I encouraged Instructors to expand their curriculums, to include women and people of color while also discussing restorative practices. I started BRIDGE, a regional artist-educator network of primarily women and people of color with a workshop series for adjunct faculty and the community to provide creative rejuvenation.