Spotlight
"When I found out Cal Teach was looking for a program coordinator, I jumped at the opportunity to get back to outreach and connect with students."
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Whitney Young
Cal TEACH Coordinator

Irvine, Calif., March 1, 2010

Even though Southern California has been my home for the better part of my life, I have always felt that a wide range of experiences and backgrounds have influenced my personality. My mother's family is from New Orleans; my father's from Detroit. I grew up in Riverside, but frequently traveled to Mexico, Canada, and the many beautiful states of the South. My grandparents, aunts and uncles were farmers, preachers, Air Force pilots, writers, and business owners. My mother is a school bus driver and my father is an art director. Despite everything I've been exposed to, education and self-improvement have always been the common thread and focus of my life, even when I wasn't aware that they were.

I attended John W. North High School where I completed the International Baccalaureate Diploma program with an emphasis in history and participated in a number of academic and volunteer activities.  As a member of Early Academic Outreach Program I took advantage of the many field trips and higher education events they hosted. One summer I visited UCI as part of an EAOP higher ed experience camp and knew 10 minutes into the campus tour that UCI was where I wanted to pursue my degree. The beautiful campus, prestigious faculty, and the enthusiasm for learning and students made me feel like I would be welcome in the campus community yet challenged as a scholar.

I enrolled at UCI as a Humanities/Undeclared major in Fall of 2003.  I started working for Humanities Instructional Resource Center as a student assistant and eventually I became student supervisor. I also worked for Scheduling and Conference Services and performed outreach as a student coordinator for EAOP at the Center for Educational Partnerships my senior year. I also wrote for the New U, but deciding to pursue journalism as my major did not come easy.

While I was in high school I explored many facets of the arts and humanities fields from music (marching band and musical theater) to journalism (features writer and news contributor for my high school newspaper). My goal was simply to learn as much as I could, not plan a career for myself. Like most freshman undergrads, I knew what I didn't want to study, but finding an outlet for my passions eluded me until Fall of my sophomore year.

I took Intro to Literary Journalism because it sounded like a fun way to find out if I could really write full-time. By the end of the quarter I was convinced that I couldn't be anything but a writer. Conducting interviews, feeling out a story, putting it down on paper, and the idea of recording someone's life in a meaningful way, compelled and excited me. I knew that I wanted to write and since travel was such a predominant part of my life before high school, travel writing came naturally. I declared my major in winter quarter and decided to study abroad the following summer and chronicle my experience as a travel writer.

I studied abroad in Cambridge, England at Pembroke College during the summer of 2006. Spending time abroad was one of the most exhilarating and enriching experiences of my life. My British history and creative writing courses were challenging yet I felt like I walked away with not only a stronger understanding and appreciation for both writing and anthropology but also a sense of comradeship with my peers. The interactive nature of my classes also made me reexamine my previous academic experiences at UCI. I realized what was missing from my UCI courses was the creation of a community of young writers. Even though I was enjoying my class experiences at UCI on the whole, my educational journey was very singular.

I graduated from UC Irvine with a bachelor of arts in Literary Journalism and a minor in Women's Studies in Spring of 2007. I started working as Technology Coordinator for David Starr Jordan High School immediately after graduating from UCI. At the same time, I interned for URB, an underground and indie music magazine in Beverly Hills. The contrast between the stylized world of underground music reporting and the gritty, spirited environment of Jordan High School brought my real passion into focus. Working with high school students to help them define their life goals and giving them the tools to grow as individuals and interact with the world around them gave me a sense of purpose that I found lacking at URB Magazine. From that point on I knew my career track would revolve around education.

I returned to UCI in January of 2008 as an administrative assistant for Pharmaceutical Sciences. It was there that I expanded my knowledge of accounts payable, undergraduate and graduate advising, and the administrative infrastructure of academic units on-campus and throughout the UC system. While I was eager to gain more insight into academic affairs, when I found out Cal Teach was looking for a program coordinator I jumped at the opportunity to get back to outreach and connect with students in a more direct way.

Since starting my position at Cal Teach I have felt that my presence has made a difference not only in program operations but also in the lives of the students that are choosing teaching as a full time profession. I look forward to gaining even more positive experiences and knowledge about outreach and academic programs so that I might one day start a writing program that equally values student collaboration and knowledge of the craft of writing.