UCLA Spotlight


Michael de la Rocha, Outreach

  • By Heidi Chernow
  • Published Jul 31, 2000 8:00 AM

"I understand that every student on this campus has many responsibilities. Many of us work part-time or full-time jobs while having to juggle a full course load, family obligations and some kind of a personal love life. I respect these things, but I also strongly believe that we have a responsibility to be social critics because it is students who have historically challenged pressing social norms." —Michael de la Rocha, Daily Bruin column, May 30, 2000

Few students can claim to be busier than Michael de la Rocha. As undergraduate student body president for 1999-2000, he spent his senior year in a high-speed blur of activity. On the academic side, he majored in American Literature and Chicano/a Studies. As president, he chaired weekly meetings of the Undergraduate Students Association Council (USAC). But his chief concern was the declining enrollment of underrepresented students at UCLA.

Not content simply to raise awareness, de la Rocha involved himself in a whole series of efforts to combat the problem. He sat on the UCLA Outreach Steering Committee, a university committee that oversees the progress of UCLA's overall outreach efforts. He played a key role in the establishment of the Student Initiated Outreach Committee. He worked extensively on the USAC Create Your Own Millennium campaign, aimed at ensuring equal access. He was instrumental in the passage of the Community and Retention Empowerment (CARE) referendum, which allocates more money for student-run community service, outreach and retention projects.

On May 22, 2000, de la Rocha was one of three UCLA students presented with the Chancellor Charles E. Young Humanitarian Award. Awardees have their names engraved on a bronze plaque and receive a $500 cash prize for donation to a humanitarian cause or event. Even in his acceptance speech, de la Rocha played the role of social critic. He observed: "UCLA receives the majority of outreach money from the California legislature and the UC Office of the President, yet student-initiated outreach receives less than 2 percent of the total outreach budget." As his personal response to that budget shortfall, de la Rocha divided his cash prize among five student groups housed within the Student Initiated Outreach Committee: MEChA's College Bound, the African Student Union's SHAPE, Samahang Pilipino's SPACE, the American Indian Student Association's AIR and the Vietnamese Student Union's HOPE. All five groups do outreach to educationally and socio-economically disadvantaged students throughout the Los Angeles area.

The Chancellor Charles E. Young Humanitarian Award, originally the Chancellor's Humanitarian Award, was instituted in 1987. De la Rocha is the first student body president to win the award.