More than a label: Learning he was undocumented changed everything, but now he carries his status with pride

Labeled as drug dealers, criminals and rapists, it’s no wonder Mexican immigrants have struggled to feel welcome in modern-day America. The term “undocumented” has even been used to incite fear in the public.

But when the President of the U.S. even wants to put up a wall to keep undocumented immigrants out, Tomas Evangelista wears his undocumented status without fear or shame.

“I am an undocumented immigrant protected by DACA, and I am who the president and other politicians are talking about, when they’re using my situation to create fear.”


Evangelista did not know he was undocumented until the age of 15. Growing up in California, attending American school and speaking perfect English, he had no idea that his immigration status was “illegal.”

He feared his newfound identity would make his college dreams unattainable. There was no financial aid for undocumented students at the time, and because of his immigration status, his family discouraged him from pursuing a higher education.

“Getting into school was very difficult. My family had never seen anybody who had done it from our town. They saw people try and fail, and spend a lot of money”. Regardless, he decided to pursue a higher education on his own. Fortunately, with encouragement from his coaches, he was awarded a running scholarship to American River Community College. Then, with financial support from the community, he was able to transfer to Stanislaus State.

Many undocumented students face this same daunting reality of how to pursue an education.

In a similar story reported by the Washington Post, Edwin Ordoñez excelled in all of his classes and could potentially attend any college of his choice. Only one obstacle stood in his way: his immigration status. He was an Ivy League hopeful, but could not afford tuition and was not eligible for federal aid.  With lots of determination and help from his high school staff, he was to obtain financial aid from Princeton.

Tomas and Edwin’s experience mirrors what many undocumented students face. Unfortunately, only about 20% of undocumented students graduate high school.  It may be the lack of familial support or lack of motivation knowing they may not reach university. According to the UCLA Labor Center, only 10% of undocumented students make it to college.

Now, many resources are offered for students like Tomas. College Board, the California State School, and the UC system websites offer resources for incoming undocumented students. These sites provide support for prospective students, information for how to receive financial aid, and ways that students can find a community on prospective campuses.

Even here at Cal Poly, a predominantly white campus,  there is a strong community for immigrant students. The Cross Cultural Center, is a space for students with marginalized identities to find a safe community on campus. Additionally, Multicultural Center is dedicated to diversity and inclusivity. They strive to be a community for underrepresented students. Resources specifically pertaining to undocumented students are at The Cal Poly Dream Center.  They are dedicated to the success of undocumented students and commit to giving them a sense of belonging here on this campus.

Many believe that “undocumented” is a label of shame. However, Tomas exemplifies a story of success.  He is an immigrant, who’s status pushed him to succeed and become resource for other immigrants who need support. Though our current political climate has proved difficult for those seeking refuge here, Tomas’ believes in the future of America.

“My bet is on the American people. I really hope that everyone listens and they help me amplify my voice to help others too”.









Women At Work: How to find success with Theatre Arts degrees.

“What are you planning to do after college?” This is the intimidating question frequently asked of college students.  I, like many of my fellow students, fear the daunting reality of  life after college.  As a a liberal arts major, the future seems even more dismal. There is a stigma that graduates with a degree in the arts won’t find good jobs. However, this stereotype is not entirely accurate.

The Cal Poly Theatre and Dance Department held an alumni panel to discuss how to navigate success after graduation. The five women spoke on their experiences as women in the industry, and how they applied their Theatre Arts degrees, into careers.

After this discussion, I was inspired to research actual graduate outcomes from previous Theatre Arts alumni. I went to Cal Poly’s career services, and here is what I found.  They weren’t lying, you can find a job!

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Escaping to Shabang.



Dancing under the setting sun, hundreds of people gather at Laguna lake to escape the stress of our day jobs (and midterms). The escape: Shabang music and arts festival.  This is hosted twice every year as a collaboration for young musicians, artists and locals to come together for one day of magical fun. I joined the magic to dance it out and observe beautiful art.

One interactive experience is the Respect the Funk collaboration. They brought the Funk Safari, a silent disco experience for all festival goers. From atop the Janky Barge Art Car from Burning Man, two DJ’s spun tracks for the dancing masses below.

The feeling of connection and community surges. Without any exchange of words, we are all connected through music. The dancers are surrounded by beautiful murals and other creations that build an atmosphere of free expression. This scene captures the platform for expression that Shabang provides.  Along with incredible music, Shabang offers a showcase of local artists.

There was an immensity of live art to observe. Everyone had a place to participate here, whether it was contributing to the work or just observing, the sense of community was flourishing.  There was also professional artistry at work.

Nate Ross Art
Original artwork by Nate Ross.

I made time to chat with a few of the artists. Shabang asks various artists to demonstrate their art live. People can purchase their work and watch how the paintings come to life.

“I made a poster for them a few years ago and then I got asked to come back,” says Nate Ross, Cal Poly graduate and local artist.  He also does graphic design and local wedding photography.

Julian Hart
Onlookers observing Julian Harts masterpiece

Julian Hart is a current Graphic communications student. He is an aspiring local artist who hopes to further his career after he graduates this December.

“The things I love most are skulls and waves,” says Hart about his skull and wave painting.  He is happy to be painting live at Shabang and looks forward to next year.

Drew Davis is a local artist who was referred by Art Central SLO, and has his work featured at a variety of locations in town. He has been working as a professional artist for a few years and this is his first Shabang experience.

“Right now I’m working more expressionistic abstract… more non representational. I am working off of life sketches for my inspiration,” says Davis. He likes to paint in series of different mediums.

If you haven’t been to Shabang, I highly recommend going for the great music, beautiful art and all around amazing time. It is bi annual so you can check it out in May. Tickets are available online and there is a shuttle option, which is worth the extra ten dollars.  Hope to see you at the next Shabang!



Can I paint?

What could be better than letting your creativity flow while sipping on a glass of wine?  According to my mom, nothing! Paint-and-sip is a trend where people, generally middle aged moms, get together for a paint class while having a glass or two.  The appeal: trying something new while maintaining the comfort of a group activity; and of course, wine. These classes have risen in popularity and are offered in many cities, including here in SLO.

Although I can’t have a glass of wine, I am very intrigued by the idea of a teacher-led painting class.  Lucky for me, an opportunity presented itself.

The Cal Poly Craft center is offering their own version of paint-and-sip (minus the sip). I must confess, I am no artist. So putting my painting skills to the test is definitely daunting. To ease my nerves, I made a pre-class check list.

  1. Find a friend to bring with me. Nothing eases nerves like a pal to possibly fail with you. And if nobody is available, make a new friend!
  2. Find some dirty old jeans and a ratty t-shirt. I don’t want my clothes to become the art project!
  3. Attend the class with no expectations. Time to let my creativity flow, even if it’s a total bust. Wish me luck!

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetWell, the results are in. Turns out, I’m not a total travesty.  The class was fantastic! The instructor gently guided us through each step. I felt so relaxed and not at all stressed about the result of my piece, I was merely enjoying the process. We painted the beautiful Morro Bay. The group was small, which made the experience more intimate and allowed the instructor to have one-on-one time with each student.

Paint Night is a new class at the craft center. The instructor, Kellen Breitenbach, helped create the program and was excited to become the first teacher. “It’s fun to paint and I like to help other people be creative!” said Breitenbach about the success of her first class.

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Student listening to Breitenbach’s instructions

Overall, I would say the class was a great success and I would highly recommend it to my friends. It was a great stress reliever and a fun way to put my creativity skills to the test. The other students were wonderful to learn with, and each painting had its own original flare. I am looking forward to turning 21 so I can participate in a real paint-and-sip class, but until then, this will definitely do.

Sign up for paint night or other classes on the Craft Center website. Check out the talent of our amazing class and see their social media for more inspiration. Happy crafting!






How to filter the flyers

Everyone who attends Cal Poly has seen the immense amount of flyers and advertisements posted on every wall, door and post around campus. As the new quarter comes into full swing,

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetclubs and events flyers are trending.

However, I’ve taken the time to linger around the bulletins. My eyes are drawn to the bright colors and clever designs, promoting various art events and activities I should participate in.  Why don’t we take initiative to check these out.


Here are 5 helpful tips to filter the flyers and find your interests

  1. Find 3-5 flyers that catch your eye. This is a good place to start, then narrow it down.
  2. What are you looking for? Decide what kind of art you are searching for; Photography? Modern? Canvas? Performance?
  3. Do you want to observe or participate? There are plenty of opportunities for both, you just have to choose!
  4. Follow up information. Locate when, where and who is in charge of this event, sign up if that is necessary.
  5. Don’t overload. There is no need to spread yourself thin, pick one or two activities at a time, you want to enjoy yourself and avoid stress.

One that caught my eye was Smile and Nod, our campus improv group.  They have open auditions each quarter and shows every weekend! Ryan Clahaan, a newer member of the Smile and Nod team emphasized excitement of participating and observing.

“I was really nervous but I had seen the show before an thought it was hilarious… I highly suggest everyone try out even if they don’t think they’ll do a good job. You never know until you try!”

This is one example of an event that can be found on a flyer. They advertise their auditions and shows. This is a great show to attend with a friend, or bring one along to ease the nerves of an audition.

It’s important to seek follow up information. Smile and Nod advertises on both their website and social media.

If improv isn’t what your looking for, keep filtering those flyers! I hope that as I seek involvement in the art and performance community, I will encourage others to do the same.