TOP 30: Leland Simpliciano

Leland Simpliciano
Major: Social Ecology
Minor: Sociology, Education
Year: 5
Age: 22
Hometown: San Jose
In One Word: Playmaker

Leland Simpliciano is all about sustainability and opportunity and showing people to not just be themselves, but better themselves, and step out of their comfort zones.

Leland hopes to save the world. Growing up in Northern California, he has seen how sustainability and sustainable efforts can affect people and the world. He also wants to work with higher education or student affairs – more specifically, going back to a community college setting and becoming a counselor. He really hopes to change the low transfer rate around.

Find Leland helping to unite our communities through The Com[pass]ion Project, collaborating with AMP (Anteater Mentorship Program) and SOAR, or working on his UROP project  about motivation and self-regulation in transfer students.

A friend of Leland’s describes him as a “silent mover – he fuses his passion for providing opportunity to others and his solid work ethic to do great things at and for UC Irvine.”

KS: Tell us about yourself.

LS: I am first generation, born and raised in San Jose, California. I am the youngest of three – I have an older sister and an older brother. I was involved in track and field for four years. Throughout those consistent commitments with track and field, I know my coaches and that whole entire experience was amazing for me, because it taught me lessons that I couldn’t learn inside a classroom setting. I was also in Key Club and CSF. After high school, the only colleges I got accepted into were Irvine and San Diego State, and I wasn’t too confident in what I wanted to do. Also knowing that I’m the youngest sibling, paying for college would be a financial burden on my parents. My brother and sister were also in the process of going to college as well. I went to community college, and as I was applying, I saw the statistic about how only 20% or a third of students actually successfully transfer. The remainder are just stuck in a revolving circle.

KS: What have you accomplished here on campus, and what do you hope to accomplish?

LS: I’m doing UROP, Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, and I’m also a PASS, Pilipino Americans in Social Studies, community involvement director. We raised about $150 for the Alzheimer’s walk at Huntington Beach. For the first time for Rainbowfest, we collaborated with the organization Hmong Student Association, and we placed third place. And very recently we placed first place on our booth at Wayzgoose. I am also in BBoys Anonymous, so I was able to pick up the art of breakdancing. I’m also part of SOAR. I don’t want to take credit for the development of it, because it has been twelve years in the making, but a lot of students really advocate for it. Last year, we proposed a referendum, so we could establish the center, and also provide the amenities of a 24/7 study center, a food pantry, and a textbook exchange. We advocated for our referendum, and we were able to get the majority of votes; however, we failed to reach quorum. Because we did hit majority, chancellors and officials recognized that it does have some value, and they agreed to test run it. Right now it’s on a three year term, to see if it’s actually beneficial to the students. We’re really developing the center to be a center for the students, by the students. My goal is to help students understand the purpose of this center and how vital it is to help close the education gap. The Center can be whatever it wants to be as long as the students continue to push and advocate for it. That’s one of the beauties of this space, but once again students must understand it’s purpose.

I also work with The Com[pass]ion Project. The Com[pass]ion Project is a new enterprise of PASS implemented by last year’s PASS Community-Involvement Director, Dora Tsui. The essential purpose was to target current societal issues that undermine the quality of life. Thus the goal was to address these issues in three ways: educate, empower, and inspire action to promote and improve the quality and value of human life. Last year, The com[pass]ion Project was the form in a benefit concert as we raised nearly $400 to donate to the My Refuge House. We were also able to spread awareness about the cause by posting profile pictures of the one thing in the world we would want to change. After evaluating our performances from this last year, we would like to strengthen all other aspects of the project. We understand that we can’t just simply throw money at a problem to solve the issues. If we want to create a positive social change it is essential to practice the social skill of empathy while putting actions towards the cause we care dearly about. This year’s focus is towards sustainability, to promote sustainable efforts and essentially educate students that through collective simple actions, we can create a tremendous impact in the world. Thanks to the support of The Green Initiative Fund (TGIF), we provided an incentive to excite students about the idea of acting sustainable. By encouraging students to donate 20 recycle bottles, we reward the students with an aesthetically and vertically integrated t-shirt. The t-shirt is not only sustainable but helps spreads awareness and acts as a constant reminder to the student their pledge towards making that social change as the back allows students to customize their pledge. Another aspect to this project is to build communities amongst organizations outside of our enclaves. This year from the support of The Green Initiative Fund (TGIF) and the performances of Uncultivated Rabbits, Uniting Voices, Kultural Dance Troupe, and UCI’s Hawaiian Club, Na ‘Opio O Ka ‘ Aina (NOOK), we hope to come together and spread the word to our respective communities to support this cause in one common unity.

KS: How have you been involved with the Asian Pacific Islander community?

LS: As community involvement director, one of our positions is getting the PASS community involved with the outside community, whether it’s Orange County, Irvine, or just the Filipino community in general. It was a collaborative effort, but I helped organize Justice for Filipino American Veterans (JFAV), where we advocate for Filipino American veterans and their rights. In community college, I learned about model minority, and the model minority myth. Even though Asian Americans are considered the model minority, there are still some Asian Americans that do tend to struggle to reach a higher education. It’s not an ethnic problem, but it’s more of a class problem. SOAR does outreach, so it reaches out to high schools to increase matriculation of minorities, whether it’s Latinos, African Americans, Native Americans, or Asian Americans.

KS: Who or what has been the biggest influence on you?

LS: There’s a lot. The first person that comes to mind is my mom. My mom is amazing. She’s basically a rags to riches story. She was born and raised in the Philippines, and she wasn’t able to finish college, due to patriarchy reasons. She has worked her way from a teller to a branch manager of Bank of America, and also just to be the caretaker of three kids is amazing. Also, Alex Chan and Hui Ling Malone, because they introduced me to SOAR.

KS: What are you most passionate about?

LS: I do advocate for sustainability and opportunity. SOAR is for the students by the students, so it can progress to be whatever the students want it to be. It gives them opportunity and access. Sustainability is a long term issue -when I’m working with these students,I just think that I’m worried about day to day issues and how I’m stuck in them without considering long term issues. It’s really important to incorporate a balance between long term problems and also short term problems. I hope to help students get over their short term problems, and start thinking about long term problems, so we can work in harmony. We can stand in solidarity working for one great cause. There was a time when I was quite oppressed and not as exposed, and I didn’t have the opportunity to be the person I can be. I do empathize for the students that I did work with – how they’re not as privileged compared to me. They have those day to day issues, like broken homes, lack of resources, or where they’re going to stay that night, just wondering if there will be food for them that night.

KS: What is the kindest act you’ve seen done to you or done to someone else by another?

LS: Two years ago my laptop was stolen during my first quarter during finals week. I honestly thought I would never get it back. However the thief’s uncle met up with me three days later to return my laptop. Despite the economy and their personal struggles, he confronted his nephew and helped him do what was right. To this day I am ever so grateful for this deed. I am ever so grateful for the role models that play a positive impact in people’s lives, once again despite their personal and economic struggles they had the right heart to do the right thing.

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    Asian Pacific-Islander Heritage Month (APIHM) is hosted by the Asian Pacific Student Association at UCI and features various programs, workshops, and events that celebrate the APIA culture and address pertinent issues in the APIA community.

    Please refer to the tabs above for more details regarding each event.

  • Contact Us

    Any inquiries regarding Asian Pacific-Islander Heritage Month can be directed to Programming Coordinators, Siamrath (Sam) Boonsakul and Alison Tominaga, at

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