Yuner Evelyn Lu is an Achievement Award Program (TAAP) scholar and a graduate in UC Berkeley’s Class of 2021. Below is an excerpt from her speech delivered at a recent TAAP Senior Brunch.
My name is Yuner Evelyn Lu. I’m a senior studying electrical engineering and computer science at Cal, and I am honored to share my UC Berkeley journey with you.
2020 was a challenging year. The pandemic took many lives worldwide. As students at Cal, we have been confined to our homes in front of computers instead of being on campus. What I realized while quarantining for more than a year was the privilege I hold as a student at UC Berkeley, and how this privilege inspires me to push for social change.
Even before quarantine, I knew Cal was not going to be an easy ride. Entering Cal in Fall 2019 as a transfer student, I was able to verify all the stories I had heard about how competitive Cal is, especially in computer science. I had to adjust and adapt, to prioritize my grades over everything else.
In quarantine, I came to the realization that there is a visible wall between me and my peers. Class policies changed and exceptions were made, but the difficulty of my classes didn’t change. I stayed in my room as I feared catching the virus. Hours, days, and weeks passed silently as I spent almost all waking hours in front of screens. It was deeply isolating, and life became meaningless at one point.
But we each found a way to cope. For me, it was through a class: Engineering, the Environment, and Society. The issues of inequality we discussed in class played out in front of us. Essential workers had to constantly expose themselves to the threat of the virus. People of color were getting infected and dying in numbers disproportionate to their population. I realized that despite my emotional obstacles, I was lucky to not have to risk my life daily.
Through my class project, I was given a way to make a positive impact by working with a nonprofit, Communities for a Better Environment. Our branch fought for environmental justice and social equity for POC communities in East Oakland who are contending with fumes, particulate matters, and other forms of pollutants created by factories and crematoriums. Our team of four students worked with this nonprofit to create a web app that helps residents and volunteers search for the permits of businesses in their area to see if they are abiding by government regulations. After that, I joined the Social Good committee of my student club, Data Science Society of Berkeley, and continued to work with nonprofits. Through these experiences, I realized my ability to impact underserved communities.
Today, I want to ask you to continue serving your community and uplifting each other. Although I have gone through difficulties as an immigrant living on my own, and had to support myself financially before I transferred, I am blessed to have had access to resources for success at Cal.
I want to thank the Cal Alumni Association for helping us realize our dreams during a time that brought isolation and pain. As graduates from Cal, we have the power to make a positive impact on our society.
Yuner Evelyn Lu ’21: “Uplifting Communities Through Technology”
Learn more about The Achievement Award Program and the bright undergraduate scholars it supports at alumni.berkeley.edu/achievement.
Yuner Evelyn Lu’s engineering class provided a coping strategy during the pandemic year. | Image courtesy of UC Berkeley College of Engineering