Surf is high early in the morning, so Dylan Nuñez, a senior and political science major at UC Riverside, grabs his wetsuit, wax for his surfboard, a towel and heads out to catch waves before school starts. Like many college students during the global pandemic, Nuñez has juggled student life amidst COVID-19 restrictions, and sought out opportunities for personal and professional growth. Surfing is the sport he says that’s brought him the most joy during this time, and one that makes everything relatable.
“Whenever I surf, I forget about everything else going on in life,” says the Long Beach native. “I don’t have access to anything other than the board and being in the water. During the pandemic, surfing was one of the few things I could do to be out and be active, but also stay safe because I could keep a distance from everyone else. It allowed me to get away from the stress of being in my house all day worrying about COVID,” he adds.
Out of the water and back at school, Nuñez says one of the most pressing challenges for any student was building a network and professional portfolio. Internships were hard to come by during the pandemic, until a mentor told him about an online internship with Our Voice: Communities for Quality Education. The community-based organization seeks to uplift the voices of students and parents in education through social media. Interns work collaboratively to create weekly Facebook content that includes free resources and activities for parents. They also launched an Instagram page in early 2021 for college students and young professionals, and develop weekly original content offering tips, resources and more.
Within the first year of its launch, the Instagram account has grown an audience encompassing hundreds of students in and outside of Los Angeles County. Our Voice’s Instagram provides a platform where students can seek study tips, college resources, scholarship information, tips for finals week, career fairs and much more. By providing young students with valuable information, Our Voice has attracted a sea of students looking for consistent tips and educational resources.
“I’ve learned so much about everything, especially the L.A. community and educational system,” said Nuñez. Our Voice has definitely allowed me to see a side of the work I can do – advocacy and social justice. I’m looking forward to getting into this environment and helping, getting connected and giving back.”
Nuñez says that although surfing helped him keep a safe distance from people, the online internship has helped him stay connected in a way that is safe and comfortable. It’s helped him learn new skills, and adapt to working collaboratively with other students from across the country.
“I feel like this whole time I’ve just been learning how to paddle and try and catch waves, but now I’m at a point where I’m going to graduate. I’m finally catching this wave and riding it out…seeing where it takes me.”
To learn more about Our Voice: Communities for Quality Education, visit the website at https://ovfe.org/ and the Facebook page or group, and Instagram page at @ourvoiceforeducation.
Dylan Nuñez, is a Long Beach native and senior and political science major at UC Riverside
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