Every Student Deserves a Second Chance: The Story of Paul Yim

*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 Paul Yim


Once a student gets into UCLA, graduation is not a guarantee.

Life happens.

A parent loses a job.  A close family member passes away.  

Financial issues take time away from studying. Motivation is lost. Students struggle to find a sense of community.

These are all factors that can lead to academic probation, subject to dismissal, and ultimately, even dismissal.  

Any student can face dismissal but oftentimes, students that are dismissed from UCLA come from communities that are historically underserved and underrepresented in higher education.

Without adequate resources and support systems, it can be especially challenging for first generation college students and nontraditional students to graduate from the university.

At the Student Retention Center (SRC), housed in the Community Programs Office (CPO), we believe every student deserves a second chance (sometimes even a third or fourth).  

The SRC is the first student-initiated, student-run, and student-funded retention center in the nation, housing six projects that serve thousands in the form of personal and academic peer counseling, mentorship and internship programs. Additionally, the SRC provides a wealth of free resources, such as writing services, a test bank, the computer lab, printing, study hall, a commuter van service, the food closet, and office hours with representatives from crucial university entities.

The Bruin Readmission Program (BRP) is one of the cornerstones of the 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.

Paul Yim, a formerly dismissed student, can attest to the unique support network that BRP and the SRC provide to struggling students.  Dismissed from UCLA in 1993, Paul’s educational history is one of resilience and redemption.

Paul Yim

Getting dismissed shattered my identity – the only identity that I had known since kindergarten: being a student. I was so devastated that I pulled a Dave Chapelle and went on a personal journey to ‘find myself’ in Africa for five weeks. Then, I spent the next fifteen years doing all sorts of jobs.  I was a Youth Pastor at one time and a Loss Prevention Agent at another.  I decided to go back to school in 2011 and signed up for BRP.  In Winter of 2012, nearly twenty years after being dismissed, I was back in school to prove to myself that I, in fact, was and had always been, a Bruin.


BRP opened my eyes and re-introduced me to the tremendously robust support network that I had missed the first time that I was here, all those years ago.  Through the personal relationships that I developed in the SRC, I found myself in the trenches, representing BRP as its Peer Counseling Coordinator the following year. You would think that a college dropout with a second chance would keep his ‘nose to the grind’ and focus on graduating rather than participating in student advocacy.  However, BRP taught me that in order to succeed and to fulfill your greatest potential, you must be involved in your community.

Paul served two terms as BRP’s Peer Counseling Coordinator, to help students who were “lost and without identity or voice,” before joining the staff at the Writing Success Program as a Writing & Creativity Counselor. “Sometimes, with tears in my eyes,” Paul said, “I shared my journey with them and they were able to find inspiration from that to apply to their own academic success.”

In 2015, Paul graduated with a Bachelors of Arts in English Literature and was recently accepted into UCLA’s M.F.A. Program in Screenwriting—the most prestigious of its kind, with only a 5% acceptance rate. A dismissed student in 1993, Paul is now, as he said, “living the dream because of a little program called BRP and the student-run, student-initiated organization called SRC.”

BRP and the SRC as a whole operate on the principle that every student, regardless of background or circumstance, has the potential to succeed in all facets of life. The retention projects acknowledge the humans behind the student ID numbers, taking the time to delve into the complex stories behind their pitfalls and their victories to find the most effective way to support their growth.

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 testimonial from a previously dismissed student please read our blog post on Scott Olomanu, a fifth-year Sociology major who eventually became an integral part of BRP.


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