In the latest installment of First Things First, Gretta Ozuna and Leon Masuda respond to the question “How has COVID and the political unrest in the country impacted you as a student and as a person?” 

Gretta explains that, between the uncertainty of the pandemic and the craziness of the recent political unrest, life almost feels like an “experiment.” She also shares her belief that the best way to combat feelings of hopelessness is by striving to be a good person who actively chooses positivity. In her response, Prof. Casavantes Bradford agrees with Gretta and adds that it’s important to find things to be grateful for. She also discusses how first-gen students might be feeling a disconnect from their loved ones during this time. However, she urges students to focus on the values they share with their families and communities, reminding that sometimes love is more important than being “right.”

In her video, Leon discusses how the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted many exciting life events such as her high school graduation and her first year of college. While she admits that this was disappointing for her, she reminds herself that everyone is facing challenges right now. Rather than focusing on individual feelings of loss, it’s important that we all come together. In his response, Prof. Kadandale wholeheartedly agrees with Leon’s message of empathy and shares his hope that things will soon be back to normal.

Gretta Ozuna

In her First Things First update, Gretta reveals how the global pandemic and recent political unrest feels almost surreal. She discusses how, amidst all the uncertainty and hopelessness in the world right now, she strives to be a positive member of society who promotes good values.

Prof. Casavantes Bradford Responds to Gretta

In her response to Gretta, Prof. Casavantes Bradford explains why it’s vital to be grateful for what we have amidst such a turbulent time. She also dives deeper and discusses how first-gen students can struggle when they’re off at college learning new things while their families and communities are not changing at the same time. However, she reminds that sometimes love and human connection are more important than being “right,” and she urges first-gen students to appreciate the shared values between themselves and their loved ones.

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Leon Masuda

 In her First Things First update, Leon explains how the COVID-19 pandemic affected her high school graduation and her first year at UCI. She says that one of the biggest challenges she’s facing now is finding ways to communicate with her professors. However, she ends on a positive note, reminding everyone that while things are tough now, we will get through it together.

Prof. Kadandale Responds to Leon

In his response to Leon, Prof. Kadandale sympathizes with her and the many other UCI students who have suffered as a result of COVID. He also encourages others to follow Leon’s message of empathy and unity. With the vaccine on the horizon, Prof. Kadandale also shares his belief that we will soon resume life as usual.

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The First Things First project is an evolution of UCI’s First-Generation Faculty Initiative, designed to help first-gen students overcome the challenges brought about by the pandemic. This new “virtual” mentorship program pairs two incoming UCI first-gen students with first-gen faculty members for a year-long, social-media-distributed conversation about the transition to university life. The goal of First Things First is to help UCI’s entire first-gen population, as well as first-gen students throughout higher education, build a sense of community—even in this remote college environment. To further this project, we invite you to share this article on your social media channels and with your network.