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Thursday, December 7, 2023

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Giannela Gonzales Giannela Gonzales

Giannela Gonzales Finds Personal, Professional Growth at APIDA Resource Center

Established in July 2020, the center aims to build an inclusive and supportive community for APIDA-identified students.
By Ryan Schuler

“Until I became a part of the APIDA Center, I never really thought about what it means to be APIDA and my part in that community.”

When Giannela Gonzales moved to the United States from the Philippines at 10 years old, there was what you could call an adjustment period. Knowing only her cousin in her fourth grade class after transferring in halfway through the year, she sought a sense of comfort and belonging in a new country.

“It was such a huge difference in culture,” said Gonzales. “A lot of the challenges I faced were just the anxiety of fitting in, of finding a sense of belonging in the new country.”

It was a familiar feeling, Gonzales noted, when enrolling in San Diego State University and searching for a community to call her own.

“It was very similar in terms of finding a community as a 10-year-old moving to the country and going into university life and finding a sense of belonging there,” said Gonzales, a liberal studies major with dreams of pursuing a career as a K-12 educator to amplify and empower students as lifelong learners and future leaders.

Gonzales found such when becoming involved in SDSU’s Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Resource Center.

Heavily involved in student organizations, such as having served as president of the College of Education Student Council in 2019-20, Gonzales recalls connecting with then-Liberal Studies Program Director Virginia Loh-Hagan, who now serves as the director of the APIDA Resource Center. 

It was Loh-Hagan who challenged Gonzales to learn more about her cultural identity through various opportunities at SDSU.

“Before that, I never really thought about it,” said Gonzales. “I never really thought about what being Filipino-American meant to me. Until I became a part of the APIDA Center, I never really thought about what it means to be APIDA and my part in that community.”

Established in July 2020, the APIDA Resource Center provides programming and services to facilitate the academic and personal growth of APIDA-identified students. 

“It has been an awesome journey being part of the APIDA Resource Center, finding a community, and finding people who look like me and who have shared experiences as me,” said Gonzales. “Once I became a part of the APIDA Resource Center, I felt I became a part of the APIDA community.”

Through her involvement with the APIDA Resource Center as a student staff member, Gonzales has not only had the opportunity to connect with the APIDA community, but also learn marketable skills that further her professional growth such as marketing and event promotion.

“I'm so privileged and grateful that I have wonderful opportunities to highlight my skills and discover things that I never thought I’d get to do or thought I would be able to accomplish.”

Gonzales said she feels grateful for the opportunity to be involved with the APIDA Resource Center, her “home away from home.”

“I feel empowered. I feel safe. That’s what’s great about SDSU in their promotion of diversity, equity and inclusion. There’s the push to educate, not just students, but faculty and staff as well so we’re all aware of the differences we have as a community. To have that be a part of our learning at SDSU is such a privilege.”