[The following was excerpted from an interview of UAT Fellow, Daniel Roque, conducted on November 10, 2016 by UAT alumna, Jessica Gomez]
What's your name and grade?
Daniel Roque and I am in twelfth grade.
What are some of your interests/hobbies? Things you enjoy doing?
I actually wish I had more time to explore different interests and hobbies, but I would say that in the time I do have, I especially like to listen to music. I listen to rock but especially more hip-hop because I enjoy the lyrical density and a lot of the significance behind some lyrics. Besides that, I watch a lot of TV series that are out right now. There’s a lot of good TV out there. And I also like to read books, and I also follow basketball especially. I’m really into basketball. I spend time watching the games and following the league and all that.
What types of world issues are you most passionate about?
I would say the biggest world issue we have to tackle right now is probably widespread poverty, widespread hunger. As a society we have the resources to prevent this, really, and I feel like a lot more priority should be given to this but we’re too self-interested – we get caught up in our own problems – and we ignore that many people have horrible living conditions. A big fraction of the population can’t even get access to clean water. I feel like that should be a really high priority in our world. As a country, I feel like, more economic equality can be achieved. I also feel like discrimination has to be worked on a lot. We’ve made progress but of course discrimination exists against minorities like racial minorities or people in the LGBT community. We definitely need to work on accepting these people and preventing even little biases. That goes a long way to eventually achieving the equality we all want.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? 50 years?
In ten years I see myself having finished my schooling, and probably having a job that pays decently. I would like to be married, and even doing a lot of traveling. I haven’t had the chance to do that in my life so I’d like to take the advantage when I have the resources to do so. I hope to be using my education in some positive way, especially to help the poor. I’m leaning towards civil engineering and I would like to be able to use that knowledge to be able to develop necessary infrastructure in poorer areas around the world. If I happen to enter a different branch of engineering, then I would probably like to use my resources to do research in order to find advancements or applications to technology that might be able to help those in poorer areas. In 50 years… you don’t really think about this one a lot, but I’m going to be retired so I hope to be able to use the experience that I’ve gained over the years to be able to talk to younger people and kind of guide them. I don’t really know where society is going to be in fifty years, I assume it’s going to be in a better place because of progress and all that but you never know. Still, I think younger people can always stand to learn from those with more experience. So I’d like to volunteer with different service projects in my free time, and still do some traveling. But I definitely want to try and use the experience I’ve gained to try and impart some wisdom – if I have any at that point – to younger people.
If you had to describe yourself in three words what would they be?
I usually hate these kind of questions but, I would say the first one would be curious. I’d say curiosity has been a driving force in my life, because I’ve always enjoyed learning about new things and people. The next one would probably be thoughtful, which I don’t think is a great word but I use it because I think of it as having two meanings. It can be thoughtful in the sense of looking out for others and try to help them somehow. And then there’s thoughtful in the sense that I just spend a lot of time to myself just thinking. The third would be competitive. Another driving force in my life, which I think is both good and bad. I think it’s pushed me to most of my achievements, but at the same time it’s something I have to work on because it’s hard to balance with empathy. Like, you want to look out for others but at the same time you want to be above others. And I’m sure my competitiveness rubs a lot of people the wrong way, and I apologize for that, but I’m working on it.
Why did you join UAT? What inspired you?
I joined Under A Tree actually because I heard some of my friends talking very highly about it, especially those who are now mentors. They would talk about some of the activities and aspects, and I think discussion especially attracted me most. Sometimes in day to day life you don’t really get the chance to discuss some of the topics we go into. And that’s interesting because you get to see all these people you encounter maybe at school in a different light and you get to know them on a more personal level through learning about their opinions. And it helps you expand your own viewpoint. It helps be more accepting of others and gives an understanding of not always being right. That’s what attracted me most, I would think.
What do you think about your UAT experience thus far? What has stood out?
I think my UAT experience has thus far been a very positive one. I really enjoy the chance to see people from a different perspective and basically getting to know my community better. Even some of my close friends, I get to know them on a different level because the things we discuss in UAT aren’t things we talk about all the time. It’s interesting. You get to learn how to work with all these people who have contrasting viewpoints, and that’s a really fun thing that I enjoy. Also, a lot of people have extremely insightful viewpoints and I’ve been surprised by people who I’ve never really talked to before who have these powerful viewpoints. They make me rethink things that I kind of have taken for granted before. That has been the best part of it for me.
Who is another Fellow who really stands out to you? Who makes you think critically or differently?
This is a tough one because I think every fellow has impressed me to some extent. Like we have Maria, who is a wonderful mentor, and Sabrina who really help facilitate discussion. Adam, I think, has really helped me see things from a different perspective because I tend to lean very liberal and he tends to be a bit more conservative. It helps shape my own viewpoint. But I think the person who has probably stood out the most to me has been Erin Luna. I think she has a lot of admirable qualities, like she is very very capable from the perspective of others. An example would be that of the recent election and she helped me understand how there is actually fear in some people due to the outcome. She’s very good at accounting things from another perspective and I wish I had that ability, at least to her extent. And she’s also one of the most eloquent people I know, and I can tell because every time we are in discussion and she’s about to say something you already know she’s about to blow everyone away. The way she can display empathy and be so eloquent while voicing her opinions at the same time is something that really stands out.
What is a subject you've really enjoyed discussing this far? Why?
My favorite topic this far has been the one in which we discussed our ethical values. It’s helped me see how we aren’t perfect and how we make ethical compromises because that’s the reality. It’s been really interesting to see where people draw the line on this, to see where people sacrifice their personal comfort for these ethical principles. It’s helped me to see how things aren’t always black and white.
What is a subject you are really looking forward to discussing moving forward? Why?
I’m really looking forward to socioeconomics. I’m excited because I’ve always seen things from only my perspective. My family grew up poor and so I guess I’ve always had a bias in the discussion of class and I think people have taken notice. I think they can tell I have a little bit of resentment, honestly, towards those with a more advantageous background. I hope it helps me put things into perspective because it’s not something I’ve been able to discuss in depth before. I look forward to the way that it’s going to challenge me since I think it will be the topic I will be going into with the most bias. It’ll be interesting to see how it might change me.
What has been your favorite activity thus far? Why?
I’m not sure I can even use this one but, it would probably be the first one we ever did. It’d be the first one we ever did. Danny read a number of statements and we insinuated how much we agreed by using our hands: if we agreed we’d put two hands up, if we somewhat agreed we’d put one hand up, and if we disagreed we would leave them down. There wasn’t too much time to go in depth, so it was really just at the surface but there were like thirty people on the call and it was interesting to see how diverse our community and its viewpoints can be. It’s also interesting knowing some of these people’s backgrounds and seeing how that and their upbringing affects their position on a certain topic. I also thought it was interesting because I believe that throughout the year maybe some of those opinions might change. Agreements might turn into disagreements or vice versa. That was probably the most impactful because it made me realize how different everyone really is and it helped me appreciate that fact.