Students Rising AboveBy Michelle Griego

by Michelle Griego and Jennifer Mistrot

(KPIX 5) — Serena Troung has embraced her new hobby with gusto, growing tomatoes, green onions and cucumbers out of a makeshift garden bed located on the balcony of her apartment. The activity is a positive distraction for the 22-year-old as she finishes her senior year at UCLA while sheltering in place inside the campus apartment she shares with roommates.

“It’s a ghost town,” Truong said of UCLA campus. “It’s so quiet and it’s also really eerie … Like I’ve never seen the campus so empty, so quiet.”

Truong’s long-anticipated graduation ceremony has been canceled. It’s a situation Truong’s family has struggled to accept.

“They’re also really disappointed,” explained Truong. “Because my dad wasn’t able to see me graduate high school and being a first-generation, it would have been like the first person in my family to graduate and it was supposed to be this really big deal and now it’s just kind of like, I’ll get the diploma in the mail and that’s really it.”

But it’s her future job prospects that Truong worries about the most.

“Hearing about the recession and everyone’s just like losing their job,” said Truong. “And there may not even be places that are hiring because they’re taking such a hit. It’s like really terrified for any new grad.”

Students Rising Above’s Head of Programs Lorna Contreras-Townsend points out the non-profit is offering career coaching, networking assistance, and even coding classes for its students like Truong who may find themselves having to look for work outside their chosen field.

“It’s quite the odd time… definitely our first time working in a pandemic, but we’re actively shifting the way we’re navigating workforce development for our current students and grads, and we are well-positioned to do so,” said Contreras-Townsend. “The message that is really important for them to hear is that they keep an open mind right now. They may need to secure a job that puts them in a position where they are feeling financially stable and it’s still an opportunity for growth.”

New opportunities are exactly what Truong is looking forward to. A recent trip abroad provided her the opportunity to meet many new people, and that inspired Truong to pursue a career in Human Resources. And although that career path may not happen right after graduation, she’s feeling positive about her future.

“I really like … meeting a lot of people and like getting them acclimated into a culture,” explained Truong. “Like I’m very blessed.”

Michelle Griego