Every Student Deserves a Second Chance: The Story of Scott Olomanu

*This post is part of a series on the Social Justice Referendum on the ballot for the 2016 USAC Elections at UCLA. The posts in this series are intended to showcase the different services the referendum will fund. Today’s post features the Bruin Readmission Program and the Student Retention Center. For more information on the referendum and how it will benefit students please visit www.socialjusticebruins.com. To vote in the 2016 USAC Elections, visit my.ucla.edu.*

 

How the Social Justice Referendum Supports Dismissed Students at UCLA

 

By: JoAnna Schindler, Gabriela Cuevas, and Scott Olomanu

 

The Bruin Readmission Program (BRP) is one of the cornerstones of the Student Retention Center (SRC).  A collaboration between the SRC, the College, and the Academic Advancement Program, BRP is the only program of its kind in the UC system.  BRP offers formerly dismissed students an avenue for readmission through peer counseling, workshops, and an academic skill-building seminar.  BRP looks beyond a student’s academic record to better understand the factors that contributed to their dismissal. This is the culture of compassion and empowerment BRP and the SRC seeks to create.

Scott
Scott Olomanu

Scott Olomanu, a formerly dismissed student, can attest to the unique support network that the SRC and the BRP provide to struggling students. Scott, a fifth-year Sociology major with a minor in Asian American Studies, first faced dismissal in 2010 and eventually became an integral part of the BRP. Reflecting upon his dismissal, Scott said:

I internalized all the academic difficulty and frustrations until I completely shut down. Being a first generation student, I felt pressure to succeed in college, and I felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone at home about my academic difficulty since, in their minds, I should’ve been thriving.

Scott was readmitted in 2012, only to be dismissed again in 2013. With no one to confide in and with his family’s limited knowledge of higher education, Scott navigated college more or less alone. That is, until he returned in 2014 and found the Pacific Islands Student Association (PISA), an organization that introduced him to the resources in the SRC, where he found peer counseling, mentorship, and job opportunities.

Being a readmitted student I know how easy it is to go back to old habits and be dismissed again. What really helped me succeed here on campus was being involved with different organizations on campus.

As a Samoan American from Wilmington, Scott is one of a handful of Pacific Islander students at UCLA, where Pacific Islanders make up less than 1% of the student population. As a student who comes from a community with low admission rates, Scott found it difficult to acclimate to the university.  Before finding PISA, Scott felt isolated.

Through PISA, I found a family on campus.  They’re always there when I’m feeling down and out, they’re always there uplifting me and encouraging me to continue to strive for success.

Through his experience at UCLA, Scott realized the importance of the outreach and retention efforts.  

Being a small organization on campus, it’s important for us to raise the numbers of students who do get into higher education and to keep them retained until they graduate. These services are important to the communities on campus who have high numbers of dismissals and low numbers of matriculation.

Soon, Scott became an active leader at the CPO.

I began as a front desk intern and learned more about the services that the student retention center offers. From academic support to financial assistance, these services are crucial for students who are on the brink of being dismissed.

In the SRC, surrounded by those who believed in and fought for the success of students like him, Scott developed far more confidence in his ability to achieve.  The support system he found with PISA, the CPO, and the SRC made all the difference. In his senior year, Scott became the Peer Counseling Coordinator for BRP.  

Through BRP I am able to take what I learned from my dismissals and readmissions and give that knowledge back. I want to help recently dismissed students keep their hopes alive.  I want to show them that if I can do it, so can they.

Scott realized how important it is to inform students about the services they have access to.  

When I began working for the Bruin Readmission Program, I noticed that most of the students who are dismissed did not utilize these services until they were in the program.

Scott is on his way to graduating at the end of Spring 2016, and he will help many students get readmitted to UCLA on his way out.

Though the SRC was founded to empower individuals from communities that are historically impacted by low retention and graduation rates, the SRC is the epicenter of peer-to-peer support and social justice for all students across campus. Services are open to all UCLA students to ensure academic success, and ultimately, graduation.

All of the projects, programs, and services that the SRC and BRP have to offer are supported under the Social Justice Referendum. Vote YES through MyUCLA before Friday, May 6th to ensure that these resources stay alive for all students on this campus. To learn more about the Social Justice Referendum, please visit  www.socialjusticebruins.com.

 

 

*For another student’s experience as a dismissed student, please look at our blog post on Paul Yim, who is now a UCLA graduate following a career in screenwriting.*

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