Pedro De Anda Plascencia is an Achievement Award Program (TAAP) Scholar in UC Berkeley’s Class of 2021. Below is an excerpt from his speech delivered at this spring’s TAAP Senior Brunch.
Dear Fifth-Grade Pedro,
I want to begin by telling you that I love you. You are valid, and you are worthy of love and protection. While your friends are on the playground with their fresh sneakers, talking about the latest version of Call of Duty—you are in your head, trying to search for the right video game language, to make sure you are not othered. I want you to know that the emotions you are feeling inside are fine. They’re more than fine; they’re yours and they’re real. I want you to know that being gay is not bad. Do not feel ashamed as you play Barbies in the living room with your sisters, as your parents work long hours in swap meets, trying to make ends meet, struggling to make sure that you and your sisters can have your dollar to go to the corner store to get your bag of hot cheetos. These experiences will become our identity; there’s so much in store and so much to be proud of.
There are many things I wish I could tell 10-year-old Pedro. I was processing my immigrant status, my queerness, and being in a low-income family, all of which I would later understand to be my intersectionality. I imagine it’s common for many fifth graders to have to care for their younger sisters, but I’m not sure how many fifth graders also have to worry about obtaining US residency; I did. The hope that our immediate family would not be separated by a stranger lingered over me. They had no clue how every morning I woke up to my mom bringing me warm choco milk; it was the only life I knew. Why would someone want to take that away? This is when I learned that not everyone had the same privilege my sister and I were granted when we gained US residency. I promised myself, from that point forward, I would do everything in my power to be ambitious with my dreams.
I worked hard in school and worked hard to be the best sibling and son I could be. I stayed focused on growing myself academically and as a leader. Upon arriving at my UC Berkeley Unit 3 double, I was confronted with the reality that life away from my mom and her choco milk would be harder than I had anticipated. In my first year, I made about 23 calls to my mom daily, because it was hard to be ripped from the one who meant everything to me, and those calls were the only thing that made me feel like she was by my side.
I think about the first time I stepped foot on campus. I think about entering that Southwest airplane as I made my way to Senior Weekend. I think about wide-eyed Pedro, so fascinated and enamored with the magnitude of Berkeley and the opportunities that awaited me, where I would eventually explore my dreams, my authentic self, and become the unapologetic Pedro that was once only a fixation of my fifth-grade imagination.
I will be graduating with two degrees in English and political science, and it really took a village. I am in awe of the women in my life who have built me, supported me, and held me up when I could not sustain myself emotionally or financially.
One of my fondest memories from this year is planning Senior Weekend for the incoming Class of 2025, engaging with newly admitted students of color! As I leave Berkeley, I am content with what I have accomplished, both inside and outside of the classroom. From the Dean’s List to being a Raices intern, a SLC writing tutor, the Latinx-endorsed ASUC Senator, and presently the bridges outreach director, I am humbled by what I have done and eager for what is to come.
To the donors, alumni, and families who support our program: Thank you. Your financial contributions to our program are investments in our dreams and a reminder that community across lived experiences is what will push us forward into a brighter and collective future.
As for what’s next? Post-undergrad, I will be moving to Sacramento, where I will intern for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund with the goal of getting into law school and starting my own family.
Fifth-grade Pedro, I feel like we are doing just fine, if you ask me. <3
Pedro De Anda Plascencia ’21: “A Letter to My Fifth-Grade Self”
Learn more about The Achievement Award Program and the bright undergraduate scholars it supports at alumni.berkeley.edu/achievement.
Pedro De Anda Plascencia ’21 | Image by Alexis Aguilar