‘Filipino Empowerment Day’ provides guidance, celebration for Pilipinx students

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UC Berkeley’s Pilipinx Academic Student Services, or PASS, held “Filipino Empowerment Day,” a conference providing academic guidance for Pilipinx students in Northern California, on Sunday.

The conference welcomed attendees from Bay Area high schools and community colleges who are interested in applying to California universities, according to PASS member and campus junior Jonathan Jimenez. He said conference leaders and panelists came to campus from other schools, including San Francisco State University, UC Davis and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

The conference is part of an effort to increase the recruitment and retention rates of underrepresented communities on campus. The conference provided high school students with financial and academic advice while celebrating how far current Pilipinx college students have come, according to PASS recruitment director and campus senior Kevin Bradley Paule.

“Seeing other people and other Filipinos thriving in their community  it’s a great way to show students, ‘Hey, this is higher education. This is something for us,’ ” Jimenez said. “This whole program was students balancing being here at Berkeley but also doing this amazing work for other students.”

PASS held workshops on migration, colorism and sexuality, among other topics, within the Pilipinx community. Jimenez said these conversations are important, but he also enjoyed the celebration of culture and heritage at the conference.

UC Berkeley alumnus Ben de Guzman, who now works in the Washington, D.C. Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs and is a part of the Pilipinx community, was the conference’s guest speaker. Paule said he hoped de Guzman would energize the students in attendance.

Paule also said he hoped the conference’s dinner and open mic-style talent show would contribute to this celebration while placing an emphasis on the role of art in the progression of Pilipinx success.

Pilipinx freshman enrollment at UC Berkeley has remained at about 3 percent for the past three years, although the Pilipinx community makes up a large percentage of California’s Asian population.

“I wish the university supported students of color more and focused more on retention,” Paule said. “That’s why I think this work that PASS does is so important. I think (PASS members) believe in the mission statement and this movement.”

During the conference, attendees broke off into individual sessions with mentors for about 20 minutes to receive personal advice.

Milpitas High School sophomore Jerille Bugayong said the mentors discussed topics ranging from current class schedules to the general college experience. Other Milpitas High School sophomores Alison Lorenzo and Jazz Calilung said they received answers to questions about financing college.

“It’s hard to manage your money if you have a big family,” Calilung said. “But today is really more about celebrating our culture, just to be more close with our fellow Filipinos.”

Contact Rachel Barber at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @rachelbarber_.