Meet Yazmin Mercado, First Generation College Student From Riverside County Headed to Cal Berkeley

Yazmin Olivia Mercado was born and raised in Riverside, California. She is the daughter of immigrants from Mexico and a sister to four siblings. Yazmin is the first in her family to be attending a school within the University of California (UC) system, and on top of this, will also be the first to move away from home and experience living on campus. At 18, her oldest brother went through this process and was ready to start his journey at the University of California, Merced, but suddenly had a heart attack and became sick and unable to accomplish his dream. Yazmin is inspired by her brother and is motivated to do it for him, all her family, and ancestors who have made this opportunity possible. Getting to this point was not easy for Yazmin, but she is thankful to have strong support from her family, friends, and teachers.

During her college application process, Yazmin had a lot of support from her high school english and choir teachers. She applied to about a dozen schools that included private, California State Universities, and UCs. Yazmin is proud to announce that she was put on a waitlist for Harvard University, which is a huge deal for someone from Riverside. The process consisted of her learning what the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) was and how to correctly fill out that form along with the others that universities required like the Common App and UC application. Her older sisters played a big part in helping throughout this process, as both previously attended universities but dropped out because of financial and health reasons.

When making a decision about which university to attend, Yazmin considered the overall price of the institution and whether she would be able to practically afford tuition and housing with the financial aid packages that she was offered. Yazmin understood that she didn’t want to go somewhere too expensive and not be able to afford it because there are many students today who struggle with debt. Another main factor was the environment of the school and its location, she knew she wanted to be in a city where there would be many people, things to do, and a diverse population to learn from.

A pivotal mentor in Yazmin’s journey has been her choir teacher, who ultimately helped her decide on her major, he helped her prepare for auditions and placement tests about music theory. Choosing a major was one of the simpler parts in this whole process for Yazmin because she knew she loved singing and performing for a long time. In high school, she was heavily involved with the choirs, and was chosen to participate in California’s State Honor Choir, the All National Honor Choir in Florida, and the All National Choir in Minnesota. Singing has always been a big part of her life and is something that truly makes her happy. Additionally, she wants to add another major or minor hopefully that will include her passion for social change and making a difference in this world.

With her time at the University of California, Berkeley, she hopes to learn how to become independent, manage her time well, adapt to new environments, build lifelong friendships, continue to develop her voice, and increase her knowledge about music theory and its history. Yazmin also plans to be involved with the student government and choirs on campus. Yazmin’s life goals are to graduate with a bachelor’s degree and be the first in her family to do so. She would love to continue onto graduate school and become part of increasing the number of educated Latinas in higher education. Ultimately, Yazmin wants to help make this world a better place and wants to use her biggest passion, music, to bring people together.

Leaving her family and her pet Tammy, who’ve always been there, behind will be the most difficult part of this for Yazmin. She is a little nervous to start this new journey and doesn’t really know what to expect, but she feels that she is ready. Yazmin constantly thinks about her parents and sees this journey like a parallel to their experiences of taking a chance in the unknown when they first migrated to this country. She believes that it will all be worth it in the end and is extremely grateful for all the love and support her community has given her.

If you would like to follow Yazmin on her journey and listen to her talent, you can follow her YouTube channel here.

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Alicia Aguayo

Alicia Aguayo

Alicia Aguayo is currently pursuing a B.A. in Political Science at the University of California, Irvine. She was born and raised on the West Side of San Bernardino, California and is a daughter of immigrants from México. Since the age of 14, she has been involved with Inland Congregations United for Change, a non-profit and faith-based community organization and has worked on local educational issues in the San Bernardino City Unified School District. Alicia’s goal is to help make higher education accessible and equitable for people of color in her community. She is also passionate about environmental justice issues and has advocated for indigenous peoples rights with Creation Justice Ministries, a non-profit organization in Washington, D.C. Additionally, Alicia has worked on gathering research about the local history of the West Side in San Bernardino and wants to create representation for Latinx and black folks with storytelling.

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