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Class of 2008: Paying it Forward

May 23, 2008

Class of 2008: Paying it Forward

If you had to sum up
Sonia Salazar’sadvice to her fellow graduates, it would be simple: Pay it Forward.

“We need to take what we’ve learned here at UC Merced and take it with us wherever we go,” she said during a recent interview. “We are UC Merced’s legacy.”

Salazar, who has earned her
bachelor’s degreein
literature, has been at UC Merced since the beginning. And that is something of which the Southern California native is quite proud.

“I had been in the city my whole life; I wanted something different and to be part of something new.”

She got her wish. Salazar was a member of the inaugural student government, serving as senator of the Associated Students of UC Merced for the 2006-07 term. As a senator, she helped draft the university constitution. She also sat on the Greek Life Council and helped to found a few of the campus first student groups, such as Dance Coalition and Kappa Delta Chi.

However, Salazar didn’t devote her entire career at UC Merced to being a social butterfly. She got a taste of just about everything a college student could possibly imagine. She interned at the Washington, D.C. public defender’s office as part of the UCDC internship program; she researched Chicano literature; she even worked two jobs on campus while balancing a full academic course load.

One could say the
commencement speakerimmersed herself in the UC Merced experience, and she doesn’t have any regrets.

“The UCDC program was challenging, but it was more than I could have ever asked for in an internship,” she said. “I was able to do lots of investigative work - not low-level busy work.”

Her work in the
School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Artswith
Professor Manuel Martin-Rodriguezbroadened her definition of what research entailed.

“I thought
researchwas all about science, but I learned that every field has its own type of research,” she said. “And it one more opportunity to get to know professors on a personal level.”

Like many of UC Merced’s graduates, Salazar pledges not to forget her experiences here or the lessons she’s learned. She’s representing UC Merced this summer as an intern for the Library of Congress, where she’ll be working on the Veterans History project in Los Angeles. In the fall, she’ll go to law school.

“We owe it to ourselves and to future UC Merced graduates to share our pioneering spirit, to help our university make a name for itself, to pay it forward.”