Finding a path to higher education and advocating for others

Danelle Go PASA ’22 on her educational journey and representing her heritage

by Ellen Evaristo

Danelle Go PASA ’22 (Photo/Rebecca Aranda)

“First, I am a proud Filipino-Chinese American,” said Danelle Go, who graduated on May 13, 2022 with a Master of Education in Postsecondary Administration and Student Affairs (PASA) and one of this year’s master’s ceremony student speakers.

Born and raised in San Leandro, California as the only child and daughter of immigrants, Go’s heritage was something that strongly defined her. It impacted the way she navigated the educational system as a first-generation student. With her parents’ support, she paved her own way to higher education.

“Education was really important to my parents, and it was important to me to figure out who I wanted to be, how I wanted to take on this world and what path was best for me,” Go added.

Growing up, Go had a deep appreciation for learning, but realized there were not many educators who looked like her. Go received her bachelor of arts in psychology with a minor in education from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2018. It was there that she realized how much she enjoyed working with other people, building community and helping individuals realize their potential. At her core, Go’s passion was helping people.

Self-doubt and discovery

Go felt both internal and societal pressure as a teenager. Bullied in middle school, she felt a lack of self-worth and explained that she did not feel comfortable with who she was.

“I felt so silenced and isolated, and high school is a whole other realm,” continued Go. “My main focus was always to do what I needed to do and never advocate for myself or bring anything up if I was struggling. In an Asian community, vocalizing feelings isn’t always common in my opinion.”

Go said, “The one other Filipino advisor that I had was a person that I felt saw me and made me feel like I wasn’t alone.”

Early college was a critical time where Go often experienced self-doubt. She explained that she felt like a statistic among thousands of students. Representation mattered to her, and having a support system throughout her university experience helped solidify her determination to be that kind of support for other students.

At UC Santa Cruz, Go was an active member of Bayanihan, formally known as the Filipino Student Association, and a peer advisor-student staff at SOAR, the Student Organization Advising and Resources Office. At both, USC alumni Arlan Mendiola PASA ’15 was one of the program managers who supported her role.

“I had so much imposter syndrome, but because of that validation and because of that representation, there was still that light, that guidance,” she said.

The path to USC Rossier’s PASA program

“This might be a classic answer but, USC was my dream school,” added Go when asked why she chose the USC Rossier School of Education.

In high school, Go’s self-doubt and internal dialogue prevented her from pursuing her undergraduate studies with USC because she determined that it was a “reach” school. She has since learned, reflected and found her vision of self-love and self-worth.

After graduation from UC Santa Cruz, Go took time to discover her next path. She found student leadership and development programs inspiring, and was an active member in community. Then the pandemic hit. Like many, she struggled with slowing down. Focusing, prioritizing and working from home was not ideal. Go found herself asking what to do next and how she wanted to grow, challenge and stretch herself.

After revisiting the idea of universities on her undergraduate list, Go reconnected with Mendiola, who informed her that advising and supporting students is a career path. That was the moment USC Rossier’s PASA program became Go’s next target.

“I had no idea this was a job or that there was a master’s program to do it,” she said.

Starting her USC Rossier PASA program in 2020 in the middle of a pandemic, Go opted to attend part-time over the course of two years. While her first year was virtual, her second year was in-person. She wanted to maximize her time at USC, build her network, be involved in diverse graduate assistantships and organizations and embrace the overall USC community and Trojan Family.

“I knew that the timing was right and I was ready to take that next step in my educational journey,” Go continued. “It was important to me to have an on-campus experience and be able to truly feel that Trojan spirit in-person.”

The Trojan Family is real

What better-informed Go’s decision to attend USC Rossier was the Trojan Family and, more specifically, the Trojan network. After reaching out to PASA student ambassadors, attending informational sessions and webinars, she felt a strong sense of community and connection. The support and commitment to her educational endeavors was important to Go.

She added, “Being valued, seen and feeling that you know they wanted me to be a part of the community was what I needed to push myself to even apply and pursue a masters. That wasn’t even originally in my vision. I barely knew how to navigate undergrad.”

In addition to her own goals aligning with USC Rossier’s mission, what resonated with Go was USC Rossier’s diversity and representation among the students, faculty and staff. She said, “I also was drawn into the Trojan Family and how highly spirited and connected the community was. USC also had a robust list of resources, opportunities and services that would support my holistic experience.”

Next steps: advocating for oneself and others

Go’s ultimate goal is to support students and colleagues in education, to be an advocate for students. She will complete her capstone this summer, which will focus on women of color and leaders in higher education. She added, “A sense of belonging and mentorship is something that I am very passionate about, and helping women realize their leadership potential to break the ‘bamboo’ or ‘glass’ ceilings.”

For incoming USC Rossier students and her own family members pursuing their education, Go shared some advice. “Honor your authenticity and energy, and realize that you are here for a reason,” she recommended. “Students shouldn’t be afraid to be vulnerable in the classroom and should recognize that they are human.” On her heritage, she continued, “I want to lead and be an example for all my younger cousins in the Philippines and in America, and help prepare them and others to navigate the higher education system.”

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