Courtesy: Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post
President Barack Obama takes the stage, with daughters Sasha and Malia and wife Michelle at his side, at Grant Park in Chicago on Nov. 4, 2008.

“Columbia has a rich oral history tradition and they’ve assembled an impressive group of scholars — I’m excited to start that work later this year.” -Dr. Karida Brown

These words come from our very own Dr. Karida Brown, Assistant professor in the Sociology and African American Studies departments here at UCLA. Dr. Brown earned her doctorate degree in Sociology from Brown University. Her research and teaching interests focus around historical sociology, oral history, race and ethnicity, social theory, migration, education, W.E.B. Du Bois, community archives and public arts. Because of Dr. Brown’s extensive background and expertise, we are honored to share that she has been appointed by the Obama Foundation and Columbia University to be on the Advisory Board to the official Obama Presidency Oral History Project.

This exciting news was made public on Thursday, May 16th, 2019. Columbia News officially stated, “Columbia University and the Obama Foundation are pleased to announce that the Columbia Center for Oral History Research has been selected to produce the official oral history of the presidency of Barack Obama (CC ’83). This project will provide a comprehensive, enduring record of the decisions, actions, and effects of his historic terms in office. The University of Hawaiʻi and the University of Chicago will partner with Columbia in this project. The University of Hawaiʻi will focus on President Obama’s early life, and the University of Chicago will concentrate on the Obamas’ lives in Chicago.” The plans to commence with this project will take place in July.

Certainly, the Obama Presidency Oral History Project will be a huge undertaking. Over the next five years, the team of appointed experts, including Dr. Brown, will help contribute to the compilation of President Barack Obama’s and Michelle Obama’s life history. They will be tasked with gathering over 400 interviews from a diverse group of individuals who will offer valuable insights and anecdotes of their personal accounts with the Obama family.

Kimberly Springer who is Columbia’s Oral History Archives’ Curator on the project offered words of wisdom about how history is “…preserving our past for use in the future…so that current and future generations of historians and citizens can learn lessons from our times.” Undoubtedly, the rich stories and details gathered from the Obamas and countless others, will leave a powerful impact. There is so much we can learn from, be inspired by, and appreciate from their lived experiences. Moreover, it will be a privilege to read about the nuances, challenges, and triumphs of the man who made history as the first African American President of the United States and his journey with his family while leading our nation.

Taking a photo outside of the restaurant where we discussed the advent of graduate school and the best way to use our time during Undergrad. (From left to right: Gilberto Mendoza. Amado Castillo, Celina Avalos, Vianney Gomez, Julio Mendez Vargas, and Eduardo Solis)

By Amado Castillo and Eduardo Solis

With over 1,000 organizations at UCLA, it is difficult for undergraduates to carve out a place and establish a presence on campus. In 2017, UCLA’s Division of Social Sciences and the Luskin School of Public Affairs incubated a new avenue for undergraduates to engage with faculty on community-facing policy issues–the Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI).

“From the first LPPI event I ever attended, a lunchtime conversation with my Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, I felt that it was an important organization as it connected policymakers with the academics who are studying the community conditions that they are trying to remedy. The idea of working at a rapid-pace think tank was daunting at first, but after my initial meeting with Sonja Diaz, I found that while there is an expectation for professionalism and a strong work ethic, there is a definite sense of community. I am very grateful to get to work with and learn from peers of mine who are definitive forces of change on our campus.” -Amado

“Throughout my first two years at UCLA, I was uncertain on what career I wanted to pursue. However, having taken a course on immigration policy made me aware to the fact that policy is what affects marginalized communities the most. During my interview to be a policy fellow, I was greeted by Sonja’s dog, Junot, and then later, Senate pro Tempore Kevin de León! This is emblematic of the space that LPPI convenes; something both accessible and powerful.” -Eduardo

As new policy fellows, we spent the first few weeks transitioning into our roles through the mentorship and guidance of current undergraduate and graduate policy fellows. We gained invaluable knowledge during the first half of spring quarter and became accustomed to working as a collective in a professional setting. During the third week, Sonja Diaz (LPPI’s Founding Executive Director) invited us to participate in a professional development opportunity with Bay Area professionals. We met with professionals of color from a handful of important sectors who imbued us with the knowledge of what it meant to lead with a social justice mindset. Diaz explained to us that the people we were going to meet with all worked in different sectors, all of which are woefully lagging on issues of diversity and inclusion. These sectors include the philanthropy, tech, and healthcare industry.

Policy Fellows gaining insight and taking notes while JC discusses how philanthropy can be utilized to uplift communities of color (From left to right: Julio Mendez Vargas, Eduardo Solis, Vianney Gomez, Amado Castillo and JC De Vera)

When we got to our first meeting, we met JC De Vera who works as a Program Grantmaker at the San Francisco Foundation in the Embarcadero building. He explained to us how fulfilling his job is, working within the philanthropy sector to mobilize and move resources to fuel advocacy. De Vera explained the importance of the intersections of advocacy and philanthropy, specifically how grant allocations have a significant impact on which organizations flourish and which die. He described to us how many people do not enjoy working in philanthropy because they anticipate having to go through a lot of bureaucratic red tape. However, De Vera is grateful that he gets to manage a rapid response power fund. He expressed, “I need to have an impact in my life and my career. If not, it’s not the job for me.” De Vera concluded our meeting by reiterating how for him, work has always been about lifting up people from the margins and giving them the financial assistance to do so.

At our next stop we connected with Hector Preciado at his Hired office, which looked and felt like the way tech companies are portrayed in television and film. He provided a different/contrary approach, inviting us to think about doing business school. He explained the importance of having executives in tech companies with a socio-political consciousness, as it is integral that Latinos become a part of the next wave of moguls if we want to ensure success within our community. Preciado also emphasized the importance of networking, describing how many doors had been opened for him and how many he has had the opportunity to open for others. Still, he cautioned us that networking was not a volume game, but rather a value game, and the worth is in its diversity.

Group photo taken after our meeting with Hector Preciado at Hired where he emphasized the importance of having socially-conscious Latinos in positions of power at influential corporations. (From left to right: Rosie Serrato Lomeli, Vianney Gomez, Amado Castillo, Julio Mendez Vargas, Sonja Diaz, and Hector Preciado)

Our final meeting took place over dinner near Oakland’s City Center where we met with Gilberto Soria Mendoza, a previous mentee of Diaz from her days at UCLA. He offered us suggestions about graduate school and described his journey from East Palo Alto high school to Washington, D.C. and back. Mendoza was incredibly personable and gave us guidance about how we could best use our experiences at UCLA to benefit our professional and academic futures. He described to us how he managed to complete his master’s degree nearly debt-free and encouraged us to apply to professional programs that focus on helping students of color prepare for graduate school.

In all, these meetings provided a sense of security and inspiration for what our futures could entail. The sectors that De Vera, Preciado, and Mendoza occupy weren’t made for them or us. As such, seeing people of color taking up positions in these sectors that have been historically dominated by white people sparked a sense of motivation within us to follow their footsteps. It gives us hope that we too will accomplish our career goals in taking up leadership positions in sectors that were not structured for people that look like us.

Earlier this year, in collaboration with Dr. Melissa Chinchilla, PhD, MCP, the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) presented a critical look at the unique experience of Latino homelessness in Los Angeles County, the jurisdiction with the largest homeless population in the U.S. Stemming the Rise of Latino Homelessness: Lessons from Los Angeles County, identifies the social, political, and policy challenges facing Latinos. This report draws on two-dozen interviews with a cross-sector cadre of housing stakeholders to dissect the systemic issues that contribute to Latino housing insecurity and identify evidence-based policy solutions to improve opportunity and mobility for Latino families.

LPPI’s report finds that service providers struggle to serve limited English proficient populations and the current racially charged political landscape further discourages those most in need. “The issues affecting Latino homelessness mirror the societal issues affecting all but also are distinct to Latinos,” says Marco Santana, director of engagement at L.A. Family Housing. “There is the barrier of being a proud Latino and wanting to figure it out on your own, and the few times they reach out to access these societal safety nets, they’re met with the barrier of our current government and the fear of deportation or potentially being discriminated against by law enforcement.”

Latinos make up 48 percent of Los Angeles County’s population and 35 percent of the homeless population. Research and literature around homelessness finds that Latinos are likely to be undercounted in homeless counts because they rely on social networks rather than homeless services, are more likely to live in unstable and overcrowded households, and when living on the streets will settle in remote areas that are hard for service workers to reach. “The Latino Homeless community is one of the most vulnerable populations in Los Angeles that is often in the shadows and has not been a priority for many years,” says Raquel Román, program director at the Guadalupe Homeless Project of Dolores Mission in Los Angeles.

“Holding true to its mission to inform and improve the economic, political, and social landscape for Latinos, UCLA’s Latino Policy & Politics Initiative’s new report – Stemming the Rise of Latino Homelessness: Lessons from Los Angeles County – is sure to spark conversation, research, and coalition-building. In the face of a pressing affordable housing crisis and unprecedented federal hostility towards immigrants, this report provides a first look at an under-studied issue and offers targeted recommendations for future action and policy interventions in the field,” shares Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Leveraging the knowledge and experience of experts in the field, LPPI recommends both short and long-term policy solutions to address the unique cultural, linguistic, and socioeconomic needs of housing insecure Latinos. “There has been increasing recognition in recent years that in working to prevent and end homelessness, we must address the systems that perpetuate racial inequity,” stated Bill Pitkin, director of Domestic Programs for the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. Pitkin adds, “This report provides an important contribution to those efforts by highlighting the particular causes of housing instability and homelessness among Latinos.”

Read the full report at: latino.ucla.edu/housing

About the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative:

The Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI) is a comprehensive think tank that addresses the most critical domestic policy challenges facing communities of color in states and localities across the U.S. LPPI fosters innovative research, leverages policy-relevant expertise, drives civic engagement, and nurtures a leadership pipeline to propel viable policy reforms that expand opportunity for all Americans. Learn more at: latino.ucla.edu

 

  • UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative study finds that Latino students pursuing a medical career in California must overcome significant barriers to successfully become physicians. The main barriers identified are: financial and opportunity cost, academic disadvantages, navigation, underrepresentation and citizenship.
  • Barriers to the medical profession further exasperate the Latino physician shortage in California. Policymakers, advocates and stakeholders must address the barriers encountered by Latinos in the medical profession to meet the health care needs of all residents.

The UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI), in collaboration with the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, recently released its fourth installation of policy reports addressing California’s Latino Physician Shortage. Authored by LPPI Faculty Research Expert Dr. Arturo Vargas-Bustamante and Lucía Félix Beltrán, Latino Physician Shortage in California: The Provider Prospective discusses the main barriers and sources of support identified by a sample of Latino pre-med students, medical school applicants, Latino medical students, and recently graduated Latino physicians.

This report finds that, “the medical profession is de facto not open to everyone.” Specifically, unequal backgrounds and opportunities, diverse career trajectories, and various barriers in the medical profession, such as underrepresentation of Latinos in the medical field or academic disadvantages, are creating major difficulties for Latino students seeking careers as physicians.

“This analysis by Bustamante and Beltran provides a critically needed and comprehensive examination of the pipeline from high school, through college, and into medical school faced by Latinx students.  Importantly, it examines the multiple causes of leaks from that pipeline using an innovative methodology incorporating the experiences of those students.  It is these leaks that impair California’s ability to generate the diverse physician workforce needed to care for the State’s increasingly diverse population.” says Dr. David Carlisle, President of Charles Drew University, a private, nonprofit University committed to cultivating diverse health professional leaders who are dedicated to social justice and health equity for underserved populations.

In 2015, Latinos became California’s plurality population with approximately 15.2 million Latinos residing in the state. By 2050, Latinos are estimated to represent 44.5% of the state’s population.[1] While the Latino population continues to grow, the supply of Latino physicians has not caught up.[2] The scarcity of Latino physicians in California has led to a deficit of 54,655 Latino physicians that are required to achieve parity with Non-Hispanic Whites.[3]

Pipeline programs and mentorship platforms partly address the barriers Latino students face to become physicians with support such as tutoring, mentorship, and exposure to the medical profession. However, these programs alone are unable to substantially change the low representation of Latinos in the medical profession.

Therefore, California must reduce the barriers faced by Latino physician hopefuls throughout the state. The report includes policy recommendations that directly address the barriers that unnecessarily complicate the navigation of medical education for Latinos. Policy recommendations outlined in the report include, increasing financial resources available to students who do not qualify for existing programs, such as those that require citizenship, or addressing academic disadvantages by coordinating and expanding pipeline programs that support students from middle school until medical school.

The need to address this deficit is increasingly pressing as the share of the Latino population increases in California, and as the demand for health care increases with population aging. Every year that California does not work to increase access of the medical education for Latino students, already inadequate access to high quality care worsens, ultimately impacting the overall healthcare outcomes of the state.

 

This research was made possible by a generous grant from AltaMed Health Services Corporation.

Read the full report at: latino.ucla.edu/health

About the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative:

The Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI) is a comprehensive think tank that addresses the most critical domestic policy challenges facing communities of color in states and localities across the U.S. LPPI fosters innovative research, leverages policy-relevant expertise, drives civic engagement, and nurtures a leadership pipeline to propel viable policy reforms that expand opportunity for all Americans. Learn more at: latino.ucla.edu

___________________________________________________________________

[1] DOF. Projections. 2018; http://www.dof.ca.gov/Forecasting/Demographics/Projections/.

[2] Sanchez G., Nevarez T., Schink W., Hayes-Bautista D. E. Latino Physicians in the United States, 1980-2010: A Thirty-Year Overview From the Censuses. 2015(1938-808X (Electronic)).

[3] Hsu P, Balderas-Medina Anaya Y, Hayes-Bautista D. E. 5 Centuries to Reach Parity: An Analysis of How Long it Will Take to Address California’s Latino Physician Shortage. Los Angeles, CA: Latino Policy & Politic Initiative; October 2018 2018.

INSEAD, The Business School for the World, “brings together people, cultures, and ideas to develop responsible leaders who transform business and society” (INSEAD Mission Statement). In March, INSEAD hosted the Women at Work Research Conference in Singapore. This conference offered a space for researchers across the world to come together to share their findings on gender. Specifically, on the experience of women in the workforce and possible solutions to cultivate gender balance.

Among the presenters was Dr. Kerri L. Johnson, a UCLA professor in the Departments of Communication and Psychology. Additionally, Dr. Johnson serves as the Chair for the Department of Communication and as the Director of UCLA’s Social Vision Lab. Her research uses innovative methods of communication science that allows her to uncover unique nonverbal ways of communication and understanding between individuals and groups.

Dr. Johnson’s conference presentation discussed her research around visual representation and gender fit. Many of us have unconscious gender biases that can affect the way we may respond towards others. She found in her research that the response to men and women who appeared to be more masculine were assumed to have more work and STEM success compared to those who displayed more femininity. To combat these biases, Dr. Johnson suggested that organizations should diversify their workplace with influential role models that represent all genders, occupational positions (including leadership roles), and physical appearances. By changing the way we are normalized to visualize associations, we can break the unconscious biases that are connected to gender, fit, and capability.

If you want to learn more about the important research about women at work, click HERE.

Credit: Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

UCLA lecturer and co-director of the UCLA Voting Rights Center, Chad Dunn, secures a settlement with the State of Texas requiring it rescind a voter purge of newly naturalized citizens. The settlement agreement can be found HERE, and it requires Texas to withdraw their earlier advisory claiming there were 95,000 illegally registered non-citizen voters in Texas. The 95,000 figure, which is wrong and has now, as part of the settlement, been withdrawn, was retweeted by President Trump. Texas must now institute a much smaller and more targeted program to investigate non-citizen registrants.

In the Fall 2018, UCLA launched a Voting Rights Center with Mr. Dunn and Political Science and Chicana/o Studies Professor Matt Barreto.  Undergraduate, graduate and law students now have the opportunity to learn and train under some of the pre-eminent voting rights experts and civil rights lawyers in the country.

More about the Texas case can be learned at the following links:

Texas agrees to rescind voter citizenship investigation – News – Austin American-Statesman – Austin, TX

Texas will end its botched voter citizenship review and rescind its list of flagged voters | The Texas Tribune

Texas rescinding list of possible noncitizen voters, ending botched review | The Texas Tribune

For previous coverage of this case in LA Social Science, click HERE.

Credit: https://www.theladders.com/career-advice/how-to-respectfully-use-gender-neutral-pronouns-in-the-office

UCLA Professors Abigail C. Saguy and Juliet A. Williams from Sociology and Gender Studies, respectively, are co-authoring a book that focuses on the notion of gender neutrality specifically, its use in three areas: the law, news media, and political activism. They share some of their thoughts surrounding this topic for their book in an article they wrote for Scientific American. The article is titled, “Why We Should All Use They/Them Pronouns.” Drs. Saguy and Williams discuss the changes that are happening in degendering today. More and more individuals and companies are taking action to move away from binary gender categories. For example, United Airlines has made available the salutation Mx., an option on their drop-down menu for individuals who choose to be gender-neutral. In addition, it is more common to state one’s preferred pronouns in various public professional spaces as well as via email signature. Drs. Saguy and Williams further examine this current practice of announcing one’s preferred pronouns. Do gendered identifiers cause more bias and discrimination? Is it better for everyone to be gender neutral and use the pronouns they/them? To learn more about the conversation happening around these questions, check out the full article HERE.

Monica L. Smith is a UCLA professor in the Department of Anthropology. In addition to teaching and mentoring students, Smith is the Navin and Pratima Doshi Chair in Indian Studies and the Director of South Asian Archaeology Laboratory in the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology. Her principal research interests have three main focuses: the human interaction with material culture, urbanism as a long-term human phenomenon, and the development of social complexity. Most recently, Smith has spent time on a research project in eastern India, but her scope of work covers various parts of the world including Madagascar, Turkey, Bangladesh, Italy, Tunisia, Egypt, and the United States to name a few. Smith has combined her years of rich research and experience to share the history of cities in her newly published book that was released this month titled, Cities: The First 6,000 Years. In a recent correspondence with Smith she describes in her own words a brief comment about her book. She explains:

“This book explores what makes cities a compelling part of human life, and how over the past six thousand years they have become the dominant form of human settlement. The growth of cities wasn’t an easy process and those who live in cities find them challenging and exciting in equal measure. There is crowding, pollution, high prices, and traffic, but at the same time there are amazing job opportunities, educational and medical facilities, and the possibilities of entertainment ranging from major sports teams to museums, art galleries, and theaters. Cities are also places of much greater diversity, whether that’s ethnic diversity, migrant neighborhoods, or LGBTQ communities. Cities are places of great economic growth and they’re linked together into a global network of connected places.”

Dr. Smith offered additional insights and words of wisdom in a short series of questions about her book.

What inspired you to write your book, Cities: The First 6,000 Years?

I really enjoy teaching my classes “Cities Past and Present” and “Religion and Urbanism” within the Anthropology Department here at UCLA. And I am also an archaeologist who works on ancient urban centers in the Indian subcontinent. Those experiences, as well as my interest in contemporary cities (including our great city of LA!) provided the inspiration for the book. There are a lot of things about cities that we find challenging, but cities are growing larger and larger. My interest was in exploring the long continuity of city life from the very beginnings of urbanism starting six thousand years ago right through to the present and future.

How long did the process take to complete your book?

The Cities book was a sequel to a previous book that I wrote, A Prehistory of Ordinary People, which was published in 2010. Like most academic projects, there’s a kernel of an idea that starts long before we sit down to write a new book. But this one took a couple of years, which in terms of increments is not that much work – about a page a day, really, although some of those pages were rewritten many times to try and get it just right.

What were some of the challenges of writing and publishing?

I was very fortunate in having good prior experiences in public engagement such as through the UCLA Cotsen Institute of Archaeology’s annual Backdirt publication. And my colleague Jared Diamond (UCLA Geography) was very helpful in providing encouragement and suggestions. The publication staff and editors at Viking Press were amazing in their dedication to the book and in support of me as an author.

What was most enjoyable about writing this book?

As I wrote in the book’s acknowledgements, this book was really a pleasure to work on and something that I truly enjoyed doing. I’ve always been interested in examining archaeology beyond the perspective of palaces, kings, and queens, so it was an opportunity to think about how we can take evidence in the form of potsherds and ancient buildings to understand how ancient people felt about their cities and how those feelings are still part of our own urban lives.

What do you hope readers take from your book?

I enjoyed the idea of walking people through their own cities, so that they can be archaeologists too. There are the physical remains of our ancestors everywhere around us in every city; in Los Angeles, we have places like Olvera Street and Sawtelle Japantown and Bruce’s Beach. Once people start to look around at the palimpsests of the past in their own city, they can apply those skills to the places that they visit in their travels or the cities to which they relocate for work and family. Cities are remarkably similar in time and space, whether they are archaeological sites or living cities. And some places, like Rome and Mexico City, are ancient and modern all at the same time.

Any advice for others (students/professors) who want to write their own book?

Writing a book isn’t much different from writing a paper (a very long paper!).

How were you able to balance so many responsibilities in your personal life with family and as a professor, chair, director, as well as author a book?

As faculty, we are constantly writing in a variety of different formats, including writing research articles, grant proposals, conference papers, and letters of recommendation in support of students. So, writing a book gets folded into those other activities, and writing is a little bit like breathing: something that we do all the time. But I’ll admit that one of the things that gets cut in the balance of activities is keeping up with things like movies and TV, so I rely on my friends to keep me up to date on that!

How do you feel now that your book is out? How has it been received?

The publisher has been great about spreading the word, and the reviews in advance of publication have been beautiful. One thing that I really appreciated was the reviewers who found the book “humorous” which is not something that faculty often hear – it’s a great compliment. I hope that people enjoy reading it, even if they have time for just a chapter or two.

Definitively, Smith’s book has resonated with many people and has been recognized by other authors, archaeologists, colleagues, and publishing companies. Below are just a couple of praises Smith has received regarding her book. Zahi Hawass, author of Hidden Treasures of Ancient Egypt stated, “Cities captures the reality and stress of how we make cities and how, sometimes, cities make us. This is a must-read book for any city dweller with a voracious appetite for understanding the wonders of cities and why we’re so attracted to them.” Similarly, Publishers Weekly commented on Smith’s book saying it was, “[An] enjoyable, humorous combination of archeological findings, historical documents, and present-day experiences.” These are convincing reviews, so get the book and read it for yourself.

 

To read additional reviews and media coverage on Cities: The First 6,000 Years, check out these sites: Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, Centre for Cities, WAMC Northeast Public Radio, and The American Scholar.

UCLA’s Division of Social Sciences is full of amazing faculty, staff, and students who are contributing to academic scholarship in major ways. Dr. Marcus Hunter is certainly one of these people. Dr. Hunter is a dedicated professor of sociology, the chair of the African American studies department, and a respected author.

Most recently, Dr. Hunter was recognized by the UCLA Newsroom for his book he co-authored with Dr. Zandria F. Robinson titled, Chocolate Cities: The Black Map of American Life. This book is filled with the rich history of the Black American experience dating back to the 1900s and focuses on how Black Americans created their own “Chocolate Cities” where black culture is maintained, created, and defended. It touches on diverse topics including race, racism, place, space, knowledge, and liberation as well as the social, cultural, economic, and political influence. Looking through the eyes of Black Americans and highlighting the way they define their American story, it breaks down preconceived notions of American history told by white America.

To learn more, read the interview with Marcus Hunter about his renowned book HERE.

Chocolate Cities map

 

Maj. Steve Kwon receives his medal from Maj. Gen. John Evans

“…This was a collective effort. You know, this is not an individual effort. We stand before you not as heroes, but as equals…heroes are everywhere in this room.”

On February 27, these were the words spoken by Major Steve Kwon who was very grateful and humbled to be presented with the Soldier’s Medal, a high honor given to military members who have demonstrated heroism off the battlefield. Kwon is a professor of Military Science here at UCLA. He has dedicated his life to the service and expressed that he just did what he was trained to do.

Kwon along with other members of UCLA’s Army ROTC including Major Tyrone Vargas, assistant professor of Military Science; Romeo Miguel, recruiting operations officer; and Victoria Sanelli, department manager, were recognized for their quick thinking and brave actions.  Major Vargas received an Army Commendation Medal; Mr. Miguel received the Civilian Superior Service Award; and Ms. Sanelli received a letter of commendation.

Victoria Sanelli, Maj. Steve Kwon, Romeo Miguel, and Maj. Tyrone Vargas

In April 2018, they were traveling back to UCLA’s campus via the 405 freeway when they noticed a semi-truck slam into the middle concrete barrier meant to separate traffic going the opposite direction. The impact sparked a fire. These four heroes leapt out of their vehicle to help. After assuring the safety of the truck driver, they noticed a burning vehicle trapped below the truck’s bed. Without hesitation, Major Kwon put his life at risk by pulling out the driver from this scorching car. Two lives were saved that day and their family and friends will forever by grateful.

This ceremony was made even more special because Major General John Evans, commander of U.S. Army Cadet Command, was in attendance to present the honors. He was touched by all their selfless acts of courage to help save the lives of strangers.

To view a part of the medal ceremony, click HERE.