UW Tacoma senior Apple Ortiz has a way of putting people at ease. Maybe it’s his humor or ever-ready smile. While his demeanor may seem natural, Ortiz describes himself pre-UW Tacoma as being a hermit. “My time here has taught me not to be like that,” he said.
College wasn’t originally a part of Ortiz’s plan after finishing high school. “I wasn't going to go to college,” he said. Instead, he took a full-time job at a local restaurant. “After six months, I was like, ‘Okay, I hate it here. I don't want to do this my whole life,’" Ortiz said. He decided to enroll at South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC).
For Ortiz, being the first in his family to attend college proved difficult at times. “When I was first starting community college, I had no idea what I was doing. I was like, ‘How do I start? What do I do? Where do I go?’,” he said. “Even applying to UW Tacoma was intimidating because I didn't know, again, how to start.”
Ortiz came to UW Tacoma in 2016. The struggles of finding his way in higher education aside, there was another obstacle he had to overcome: public speaking. “Sometimes I wouldn't be able to speak or my voice would get shaky, which was really awkward during presentations,” he said.
Still, Ortiz continued to push himself. He got involved with the Student Activities Board and made connections on campus. He also became a part of First Gen Fellows, a program dedicated to supporting students who are the first in their family to attend college. Over time, his fear became less pronounced. “Now I'm not that scared of talking in front of people anymore,” he said.
Ortiz is graduating this spring with a degree in law and policy. “I’ve always been interested in law and how government works,” he said. This past quarter he interned at the Pierce County Juvenile Court, where he worked as an assistant to probation officers. “It's pretty cool, and hopefully I can work there later, or if not, somewhere in government,” Ortiz said.
Apple Ortiz entered college reluctantly. Not only did he despise school, he felt lost in the maze of higher education. Now, he wishes the time hadn’t passed by so quickly. “Of course, now that I'm leaving I'm like, ‘Man, I wish I could be here longer,’” Ortiz said. “I’ve become more confident in who I am, and I see my worth.”
John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or firstname.lastname@example.org