I had a feeling this thread had a potential to become epic. Not only didn't it live up to expectations, I think it has gone past something special. I'd say it touched the blue and gold nerve in this community resulting in outpouring of emotion that is beyond overwhelming. Let me repost the two questions I posted on Friday night:
- What is your connection to UCLA?
- How did you become a part of Bruins Nation?
Since then we have more than 100 comments with Bruins ranging from high-schoolers to retirees, spanning more than 50 years, pouring their heart and soul into that thread. Every single story in that thread is amazing. Still I wanted to pluck out three stories and highlight them here on the frontpage to give everyone else a little sense of what this community going:
UCLA, those 4 letters mean everything. I grew up mostly in Northern California with generations of my family attending Cal. Everything and everyone around me had some connection to Berkeley, but I knew UCLA was in my future. My brother started his love affair with UCLA at a very young age. He dreamed about becoming a bruin and worked extremely hard to make that dream come true. He and I would talk about UCLA and hopefully becoming a part of the bruin family some day. We would attend Cal-UCLA football and basketball games and were the only ones rooting for the bruins. When he got into the university, we were jumping up and down knowing one part of our dream had come true. My first visit was in 1983 and I fell in love with the school. I would visit every summer and love every minute of my stay. He would show me every part of the campus and rave about his experience. The bruin indoctrination was in full swing. My turn came in 89 and we both were now officially members of the bruin family.
My brother passed away in 1998. He was the biggest bruin fan I had ever met and we shared countless experiences with UCLA athletics. I thought the bruins might win the football championship that year. They came so close that year, and I know he is a proud bruin still. Every event I attend, I always think of him. Some may not understand how fanatical I can be, but the institution is a part of me. Thanks to him, my bruin pride is immense. He is the reason UCLA is in my blood. I’m extremely grateful for communities like this one. Thanks fo everyone for sharing their stories and experiences. Go Bruins!!!
Are you getting goose bumps yet? We are not done. More after the jump.
I’ll admit I came a little late to the game. As a young high school grad, I thought it would be a better idea to work in construction and retail rather than go to school. Became a plumber and, later, an assistant superintendent back in the late 90’s. But one day, I found myself digging a trench for some new homes at the top of a hill in Westlake Village; no trees; middle of August all by myself. At that moment, I decided it might be a good idea to go back to school and enrolled shortly thereafter.
Full-time employment and night school for the next 3-4 years, sometimes driving from home in Northridge, to west Simi Valley for work, to Santa Monica CC for the one summer calculus class that no other JC in the area offered, and back to Northridge. Anyhow, I applied to ALL the UC’s since my previous flaky stints at JC’s helped drag my GPA down…
In the interim, my mother-in-law one day went to the hospital for flu-like symptoms. When the doctor came out at Kaiser, he said that there was nothing they could do there since they didn’t have the facilities. But, by a stroke of miraculous luck, he called UCLA medical center, a colleague apparently worked there, and they said they had an ICU bed open. We rushed her over in an ambulance, making it in what seemed an agonizingly long time. When we got there, they wheeled her into the ICU and we were standing at the doors with her visible in the background. The young doctor was talking to us when all hell broke loose in the background; whistles, buzzers, nurses jumping on the bed to administer CPR. Needless to say, we were all terrified when they pushed us out and sat us in the waiting room.
They came out a little later and said they had stabilized her (but only later did they mention that her heart had actually stopped beating), but that she needed a transplant since her heart was only pumping at 15% of capacity. Somehow, during the next day or so, she ended up getting put on a machine that basically did the pumping for her heart, allowing it to rest. Apparently, that was all that was needed and she was taken off after about two to three weeks. Her heart started right up and, 8 years later, she’s logged 10’s of thousands of miles traveling.
So, needless to say, my wife and the entire family are indebted to UCLA more than we could ever express. Were it not for UCLA, their excellent staff and amazing resources, my life would be very different right now. The aforementioned happened in February/March. I go the acceptance letter in May.
As a returning student, with the knowledge of what life without a degree offered, I embraced my time at north campus with a vengeance. I can honestly say that I loved every single minute there, whether it was studying, driving in horrendous traffic to get there, or trying to find parking. Managed to graduate with a double major in Biz Econ and Poli Sci in ’03. First member of the immediate family to graduate from college.
My memories of how I became a UCLA fan had very little to do with academics and even less to do with sports, although that is were it started. I remember being enrolled in the Jeopardy Boxing program for at risk youth in the early 90’s. One day, one of the counselors told us that UCLA had donated a bunch of football tickets and that Jeopardy was going to arrange a trip to the Rose Bowl for a game.
That day I became a fan, not because of the football game, but because some one from UCLA cared enough to give a bunch of kids the chance to experience something like that. I came from a hard working Mexican immigrant family and unfortunately I would never have experienced UCLA the way I did that day.
As much as UCLA was in my heart throughout high school, I didn’t have what it took to go there, or any college for that matter, and at 18 I joined the Marines. One day when I was walking my post in Wash D.C, I looked through the officers’ command room and they were watching a UCLA football game. I saw one play in which a running back got a hand off and ran for about 8 yards. To my surprise, it was one of my high school classmates. I felt so pumped after that, even though I was miles away from my family and home, for that moment I felt as if I was back in L.A.
After I got discharged I attended the local community college, I couldn’t believe how I was busting out all those A’s. I was going to attend CSU Somewhere, but when I realized that my GPA was in the high 3’s, I realized that I had to shoot for the moon and apply for UCLA. It was like a dream when the acceptance letter came. I graduated in ’06 BA Sociology.
Those four letters mean everything to me: UCLA. Class of ’04, BA in history. I just got my JD from another school. I am a lifelong Los Angeleno as is my wife, Class of ’08 BA in Classical Civ. and current law student at another school. I come from a family of five in which none of my siblings graduated high-school. I am the first of my family to go to college as is my wife in her family. I come from an Irish-Catholic family and I grew up loving Notre Dame football. Needless to say, I hate u$c* with a passion. My wife and I both applied to UCB, UCSB, UCI, and UCLA. We were accepted into each school but chose UCLA because we are Los Angelenos and chose to serve the people of Los Angeles. I came to UCLA the first time for orientation and was awed by Royce quad. "Now this is a place to go to school" I thought. My wife remembers looking at the course catalog for the first time like a kid in a candy store. Here were the classes she only dreamed about taking. She signed up for all she wanted. I was given scholarships to attend as was my wife. I graduated summa cum laude with college honors.
I tell you this not for any purpose which would be self-aggrandizing, but rather to attempt to express my gratitude to the University. Can you imagine the pride my mother and father felt watching their son walk across the stage in Royce to shake the Chancellor’s hand? My parents—two people who just a decade before had been living on the streets, without a home and with a large family? From the moment I first got to UCLA, I was embraced by everyone and made to feel welcomed and part of a larger family. To this very day I feel that I have accomplished little to warrant such honor and dignity that UCLA has given me. UCLA gave me everything.
Anyone still have any questions about what those four letters mean to us? :-)
If you haven't shared your story yet here and here, I think it's time. Step up. We'd love to hear your answers to the two questions we posed on Friday. Let it all out before we get ready for the first game week of 2009.