Introduction to Mental Health: Destigmatization and Advocacy

So excited to be facilitating my first workshop with Ohio Asian American Health Coalition! This free, public workshop will provide participants with the skills needed to be everyday advocate for mental health and mental health destigmatization. Asian-American Community Services (AACS) is collaborating with us on this event and will be presenting a workshop on human trafficking and sexual assault.

Commencement Reception Speech

Every year, Ohio State invites one graduating undergraduate to speak at their commencement reception and dinner before the ceremony. I was honored this year to be that speaker. I was given the opportunity to speak about why I chose Ohio State, my struggles, my extracurricular activities, and my amazing mentors.

Giving the speech below was an amazing experience that I will never forget, as I tried to convey what these four years at college have meant to me.

“When I entered Ohio State as an eighteen year old girl, I was eager and just a bit terrified. I had chosen Ohio State for so many reasons – its many majors and its proximity to the city as well as to my family. It seemed like opportunities for professional development and good memories were everywhere, from late night ice cream dates around Mirror Lake to internship opportunities in Columbus. But, most importantly, I could see myself at Ohio State. I recognized parts of myself in classmates, in campus organizations, in leadership initiatives, and I knew I wanted to make my mark as well.

But, as much as I loved it, undergrad has been anything but easy. There have been obstacles, both academic and personal. I’ve had to conquer physics and organic chemistry. I’ve had to figure out who I am while also finding my place and still passing History of Art. My time as a Buckeye started off rather rocky. I made frequent trips to the doctor for kidney infections and eye ulcers. Academically, I was succeeding on the pre-med track, but that success almost became a trap. Doing well convinces you not to question your decisions, for your success must be confirmation that you’re on the right path. At the same time, there was always the haunting inkling that becoming a doctor wasn’t my true calling. On top of all this, I didn’t know how capable I was. I had fallen in with people who convinced me I was “less.” I didn’t know yet how much I could do. I didn’t know how to test myself and to find my limits so I could shatter them.

I have been blessed with absolutely amazing mentors, who have helped me through each of these obstacles and emotional storms. My honors advisors were my first lifeline. Deni Allman patiently answered every odd pre-med, pre-health, and pre-law question while I tried to map out my future. Meanwhile, peer mentoring with Joanna Spanos gave me the space I needed to grow as a student, mentor, and person. I owe my leadership style and confidence to these two powerful women. Julius Mayo was my advisor for MUNDO, and he lit in me my passion for social justice and multiculturalism. He gave me responsibility after responsibility and his trust in me made me work even harder to be worthy of it. Under his supportive eye, I planned national service-learning trips, helped design the curriculum for a new STEP cohort, and programmed for MUNDO as its President and Student Coordinator. The skills I learned from Julius, the confidence I gained from Deni and Joanna, and the passion I had for patient care led to me founding KindCarts Service Initiative. This crafting-based initiative has allowed me to combine my love of creativity and drive to improve the patient experience by donating thousands of hand-crafted comfort and morale items to local cancer patients. Besides the opportunities to grow and lead, the activities also led to me meeting the most incredible friends. We have been together – from falling through sewers in New Orleans, to playing Truth or Dare until 4 AM, to weekend trips to Hocking Hills. They, too, inspire me to do my best, as I excitedly imagine the world where our visions build a better present and future.

My career confusion finally came to a close when my neuroscience professor, Dr. Bennet Givens, introduced me to the field of public health, an area that combines everything I love about MUNDO with everything I love about KindCarts, a place where I could work to improve health and greater inequalities. So, after graduation, I will be starting my PhD at The Ohio State University as a Dean’s Distinguished University Fellow in the College of Public Health.

Pieces of me are scattered throughout campus for years to come, from my name carved in Sphinx Plaza to the ephemeral ghosts of my past struggles, failings, and triumphs. My undergraduate experience has been special because, at Ohio State, I never felt the need to fit into one box. I didn’t have to just conduct research in neuroimmunology, I could also research folklore. I could intern in the medical center and in the honors office. I could work to advance multicultural awareness on campus and still devote time to visiting patients’ rooms and taking them out to the rooftop garden. There was never a mold to fill or a formula to follow, only the opportunity to create my own space and my own unique legacy.

I want to conclude with what college has meant to me. College is like your first love. Your time here: it’s supposed to hurt you, and confuse you, and elate you, and bring you fear and worry and joy. For me and other seniors graduating tomorrow, college has broken us and then built us back up, time and time again, so that now, we stand straighter, stand taller, and walk prouder than ever before. We are more than what we were and every challenge and break has been repaired with gold on our skins. And, while I loved that eighteen year old girl who walked into Ohio State, I am in love with the twenty-two year old woman who is walking out – and I hope that every senior feels the same.

When we throw our hats in the air tomorrow, we are saying goodbye to this wondrous slice of life in Columbus, whether it lasted 3 or 4 or 5 years. We say goodbye to every late night common room talk, every tear over every midterm, every road trip, every roommate fight, every crafting and baking party, every terrifying public speaking experience, and every Carmen sang with friends. But, we say goodbye with a smile, because we will always be Buckeyes and we’ll never forget what a time we had here, and how firm thy friendship was, O-HI-O.”

Commencement Video: Tools of the Trade

Asked to choose one object to represent her time at Ohio State and how it will help her succeed after graduation, Ana Sucaldito chose a book that breaks down some of the things she's passionate about. See which book, and maybe take a read yourself!

Posted by The Ohio State University on Tuesday, May 2, 2017

#29

Earlier, I wrote a piece, a list of 28 lessons that I had taken away from Ohio State and I wanted to end with the biggest thing I will take away from college, from the years 2013-2017. After writing it, I decided that number 29, deserved more space than a list of one-liners could give.

#29 is embodied the picture above. Each of these pots is a friend, two I met freshmen year, one in sophomore summer, and one in junior year. Each one is precious to me. At a crafting/game night, I asked if they could paint something for me that signified our friendship, either how we met, or what we will remember about each other.

For the yellow, I will remember taking my first MUNDO trip, a trip I now consider my first “college experience,” to see the Lion King and being worried about knowing no one. I will remember getting early to the bus circle and sitting by a stranger, and talking for hours on the bus there, at Wendy’s, on the way back from Pittsburgh. We tried to rock-climb half a dozen times first semester but would never remember to check the climbing schedule; we went together to our first Party at the Wex and found art that affected us and art where our attempt at interpretations made us laugh. She was the reason I switched my major to Neuroscience, the friend who would meet me in Lincoln’s lobby to talk barefoot at all the odd hours and the girl whose friendship and light continually inspired me to push through first year.

For the polka dots, I will remember seeing a girl set up her Doctor Who poster on the bottom bunk, and on the first day, recognizing pieces of my sister in my new roommate. I will remember afternoons studying side by side and being happily distracted by watching OUaT over her shoulder; I will remember her teasing at my daily and greasy to-go bags from Mirror Lake Creamery and my responding quips about her extremely colorful RPAC meals. She stayed up late to give me “The Talk,” complete with pictures and recommendations to Youtube videos, applied to Mirrors and eventually Sphinx Honorary with me and always served as my anchor in a sea of overwhelming newness. She was the recipient of my finals week Cheryl’s cookies boxes, an example of unabashed pride in what she loves and a mothering influence that give me my first family at OSU.

For the pink pot, I will remember unexpected meeting a girl in my lab one summer and finding out she was going to be my research partner. I will remember discovering that she was one of the girls’ who got the house my roommates and I were trying to lease the fall before, I will remember opening up to her early on for advice. We muddled through research together, learning how to present, perform behavioral assays and pretend like we knew what we were doing even when we didn’t. She taught me to how to recognize sarcasm (most of the time), exposed me to more Harry Potter trivia than I will ever need to know, and her courage in admitting pre-med wasn’t her life path and switching to her true passion gave me the courage to do the same.

For the blue pot, I will remember being flustered when a student introduced himself to me by formally shaking my hand and worrying that I didn’t have a proper business handshake. I will remember him giving me a safe space to talk about vulnerable parts of myself that I didn’t always acknowledge, I will remember his playful shock at my music taste when we exchanged playlists and my own surprise at what was on his. We unwound outside of class, spending time watching movies, playing Truth or Dare, learning how to box, play chess and quill. He let me cut his hair on a dare, cooks and crafts with me regularly, whether the project is Filipino food or sewing neck pillows, and is an unwavering pillar of support and kindness.

These pots are just four of the friends I have made—I still need to rope everyone else into painting a pot with me. But my friends—their stories, our connections—are the most valuable thing I will take away from 2013-2017. I have been told: surround yourself with excellence. I didn’t set out to do that, but in the process of making friends and family, I have found the most excellent people that I could ever imagine to find and I am blessed to have them.

Lessons Learned

The closer I get to the end of my OSU journey, the farther I look back. These past few weeks have been all about passing the torch: reviewing applications for the next crop of leaders in my organizations interviewing who will be the new Peer Mentors, going back to my hometown with University Admissions to tell high school seniors why they should become Buckeyes. The more I think about the next step, the more I appreciate the lessons that I’ve learned from Fall 2013 to Spring 2017.

  1. This school may seem big, but you’d be amazed how far your reputation, positive or negative, can spread.
  2. Don’t network, connect.
  3. It’s better to be an inch wide and a mile deep than a mile wide and an inch deep.
  4. An opportunity for one is an opportunity for all.
  5. You are always worth it.
  6. Get a will from Student Legal Services before you leave-you’ll save yourself time and hundreds of dollars in the future.
  7. There is nothing wrong with not knowing where you’re going.
  8. Sometimes college will stink. Sometimes all-nighters, Math 4181 midterms, homesickness, culture shock and too much coffee will break you. It’s all about getting back up.
  9. Your struggle is no less valid than the person’s next to you and theirs is no less valid than yours.
  10. At some point, make a Buckeye Bucket List and try to cross everything off by the time you graduate.
  11. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about documenting your experiences. Some blog, some post to Instagram, some take millions of pictures. All experiences are valid.
  12. A test is not more important than your health, mental or physical.
  13. Needing a fifth or sixth year is no shame—you’re just taking a victory lap.
  14. Find a mentor and be a mentor. The first will make you better, the second will let you do the same for another.
  15. Take a free RPAC class.
  16. Always carry yourself like your younger sibling is watching and learning.
  17. Build a community that surrounds you with dignity, respect, support and love.
  18. There is no such thing as an “easy major.”
  19. Be it science or humanities, all research is “real research.”
  20. Figure out your values and live by them.
  21. You are more than your GPA, your MCAT/LSAT/GRE score and your extracurriculars.
  22. You might find yourself needing to bow out of some commitments—do it respectfully and in a way that doesn’t leave hard feelings when you leave.
  23. Explore the different libraries—they each have their own character and vibe!
  24. Instant connections can be made just by seeing someone rock scarlet and gray.
  25. Friendships can be made in moments.
  26. It’s okay–no one knows what they’re doing either.
  27. Don’t be ashamed of what you love.
  28. When you leave, you will be changed by your campus, and your campus will have been changed by you.

*There’s actually a #29, but that’s another story.

The Los Angeles Experience 2016

I’ve been taking, and planning, service-learning trips with MUNDO since my sophomore year. Each experience is different, and although I couldn’t articulate everything I learned, or all that I experienced during my time in the City of Angels, it’s fun to watch my friends and I zigzag over the map while I try.

 

Thank You, for Helping us Grow BuckeyeStrong

This week, more than any other, we are reminded to come together, to support each other. We are reminded to be #BuckeyeStrong. The only problem is, sometimes even the act of summoning that strength can be painful. It’s hard to gather strength in the face of such tragedy and heartbreak. Hard to reassure family members you feel safe, hard to accept that, yes, it can happen here and yes, people are using this tragedy to unfairly target the Somali, refugee and Muslim populations because of the attacker’s identity. When you struggle to remain strong facing pain, fear, or hate, I encourage you to lean on one another, and remember that strength comes from within and without. Pull on the strength within yourself, and when you need help finding it, seek strength and comfort in each other, support each other, and thank each other today and every day.

To my advisors: Thank you, Dr. Givens, for putting me on the path to Public Health and grad school. Thank you, Charlie Campbell, for putting up with my endless questions and for supporting me with my constantly changing career paths. Thank you, Julius Mayo, my MUNDO advisor, for the responsibilities, the opportunity to learn, and the room to grow. What I’ve learned from you will serve me for the rest of my life, and touch upon my every action. And thank you, Joanna Spanos. You showed me folklore classes, helped me find my minor. You consistently go above and beyond for your students every day—and do the same for kids who aren’t even your students. Finding you at my conference presentation, and learning that you secretly invited my friends as well, was one of the sweetest surprises I’ve ever had.

To my experiences: thank you, MUNDO at OSU, for expanding my knowledge of the world and shaping my viewpoint forever. I promise to bring what you’ve taught me “to the streets.” Thank you, Mirrors Sophomore Honorary, for teaching me to take initiative, and the Institute of Behavioral Medicine Research, for teaching me what the real world of research looks like. Honors Peer Mentors, thank you for the chance to mentor young minds, and thank you, KindCarts, for showing me how to combine my various loves–service, healthcare, and crafting—into one culminating, sustaining project that nourishes myself and others.

To my friends: thank you, every one, for being there in every teary-eyed sadness and heart-pounding joy. Thank you, Chorsie for your always buoyant attitude, Max for your honesty and big heart, Marques for your unwavering, unshakeable belief in me. I can never express how much of an impact you four have had on my life. Thank you, Cam for your straight-talk, Athena for your sweetness, Rachel R. for taking research adventures with me and Rachel B. for bringing your sunny nature wherever you go. Haley, you were my first roommate and my OSU constant; Hannah, who I never thought I’d know so well, I love all I’ve learned by living with you. Thank you, Sean for your kindness and constant willingness to craft/cook with me, and thank you, Nisha for being one of my very first friends on campus.

To Ohio State: you’re the only one I don’t know how to thank, because so much of who I am was shaped with you. I see myself at every stage in your halls, at every milestone in your streets. Pieces of me will be scattered throughout campus for years to come, from my name carved in Sphinx Plaza to the ephemeral ghosts of past triumphs, failings, struggles, and love.

As Buckeyes, it is our job to stand in the face of hate, and stand not just as a few students or a few faculty, but as a whole unrelenting unit that proclaims OSU is a place for love and acceptance. A place to run, fall, pick ourselves up and start again—-a place to honor tragedy but stand against fear, a community where we support each other and grow to be #Buckeyestrong.

Leadership Week

new-leadership-collage

It’s safe to say I have a love affair with leadership. Almost every organization I’m involved in lists this idea in its primary values. I read books about how to translate these skills into the workplace and everyday life; I present and participate in its retreats and conferences. MUNDO put a hand into Leadership Week this year, advocating for study abroad and increased cultural competency as a way to gain these skills. Distinguished guests came and spoke about their own journeys and experiences. All week, we sang an ode to leadership and all its multicolored facets, so The Office of Student Life asked the students to define what it meant to them.

For me, leadership is not scrambling for the top. Leadership is serving with integrity. It means following your morals and using them to light the way. It means supporting your fellow man and your community, whether that be through service, mentoring, or a simple hug. For my brother, leadership is not for personal gain. Leadership is for the happiness of others. Whatever your definition is, make sure it continuously guides how you make your impact in this world.