API Month Leadership Spotlight: Kim Davalos

By Jackie Bueno

This year, the Restorative Justice blog is highlighting community leaders from the community for Asian Pacific Islander Month (API). Because the voices from the Pilipinx community often are underrepresented in U.S. media, our center recognizes the importance of uplifting voices like these.

For our API series, we’re highlighting various leaders from Pinay Aspirations (PA), a non-profit organization created to promote the aspirations of Pilipinx youth in education, the community, personal growth and career development. Pinay Aspirations achieves these goals through scholarships, mentorship programs, community service and other activities or resources that will enhance their personal development and advancement in life.

To learn more about Pinay Aspirations, see this link here!

For our third feature, we’re highlighting Kim Davalos. Kim is a third generation Filipin@-American who was born and raised in Stockton, California. Kim is a recent graduate from the San Francisco State University Masters in Counseling program. She specializes in college and career counseling at Skyline College. She has a passion for women’s rights and promoting social equality through empowerment within higher education. She enjoys writing and performing poetry, and nourishing herself with her grandma’s mungo bean soup, her mother’s ability to love her as she is, and through the generational healing and wisdom of all Filipin@s before and after her.

Kim Davalos is releasing her first self-published book about her story and journey with her Filipin@ American identity in, delilah’s daughter. Kim’s poetry book is planned to release on May 17th for her 30th birthday, with pre-orders for a signed copy available now until May 1st at www.kimdavalos.com.

Here’s my interview with Kim:

Jackie: Tell me about where you grew up.
Kim: I grew up in Stockton, California in the Central Valley. Fun fact: Stockton is the historical city for Filipino immigrants from Manila. I’m also a third generation Filipino-American. My Lolo actually went to UC Berkeley.

Jackie: How was your experience growing up as a Filipin@-American?
Kim: Talking about being a third generation Filipin@ isn’t something that’s really talked about. I grew up like a regular kid, so my Filipino identity felt like it was just…there. I grew up in an area that was really diverse, so I grew up with a lot of African-Americans, Latinos, Cambodians, until grad school.

I wouldn’t say I’m Filipino first and foremost. I didn’t think I really knew how I fit in. I didn’t know where I fit in because I had mostly African-American and Latino friends.

My Lolo also passed away before I was born. My Lola didn’t raise us to speak the language because she valued acculturation intentionally, so that we could speak English and have American values. And so my Dad didn’t learn Tagalog either. He grew up in the American culture, but I do feel like there were still a lot of Filipino ideals we grew up with closely.

Jackie: How did you get involved with Pinay Aspirations?
Kim: In grad school, I had a lot more exposure to Filipino educators. So in my grad program, Melissa (PA’s President) was in my same program, in the Masters of Program in school counseling. I remember she approached me, and she had mentioned she was on this scholarship board. Because she didn’t have a lot of hands on deck, she asked me if I wanted to be a part of it.

As a part of Pinay Aspirations, I wanted to be the voice of the Filipin@ who is still figuring out who they are. I didn’t feel like I was ever “Filipino enough” or gave the right answers to what being Filipin@ meant to our narrative, so it’s been 6 years now since I joined PA.

Jackie: What inspired you to become a counselor?
Kim: I’m the Lead Counselor for a program called the Promise Program. It gives first year students free counseling. I’m also the program coordinator, “Rock the School Bells”, and we’re going into our 11th year.

Like many college students, I switched majors many times. I feel that Filipino Americans feel that they choose what they’re exposed to, so at the time for me that was Hotel Management. To pursue this major, I had to take all Business and Statistics classes. I didn’t do well in them, so then I thought I could major in Journalism.

But then I came across Psychology while I was dealing with my own mental health issues. Mental health isn’t something Filipino Americans frequently discuss and even really acknowledge as a cultural value. I was told by my parents, “Oh, you think too much. Stop crying.”

In middle school, I dealt with anxiety and depression. So when I went to college, it skyrocketed. I was so far from home and trying to get so used to living far away from home. I didn’t get to into the UC’s, which also contributed to my self-harm and exacerbated my anxiety and depression.

Eventually into my junior and senior year of college, I came across Psychology. I was interested in learning about Psychology to learn about what the individual thinks. When I was a student, the minor in Social Justice was just formed, so I also minored in this and got this perspective as well.

I always knew I wanted to go to grad school because of my parents’ educational background having an influence on me. For example, my Mom worked in banking for several years, but went back to school to become a teacher, so this also had an influence on me becoming a counselor.

Initially, I thought I wanted to do my focus in school counseling, but my advisor exposed me to College Counseling, and that’s what stuck with me ever since. I always really loved school. For me, it was a way to access opportunity. I’m also an organized person and like to help people discover what they want.

Jackie: How do you think Pinay Aspirations has helped young Filipin@ women like yourself come to terms with your identity?
Kim: What I love about Pinay Aspirations is that we’re looking for the diamond in the rough. Even though it’s only a $1,000 scholarship, it’s what the scholarship means and what it stands for. It’s about looking for the diamond in the rough and for the Filipin@ woman that needs encouragement that they didn’t necessary get when they were younger.

We’re looking for young Filipin@ women that want to push boundaries in other fields such as Business, Writing, and Fashion, so what we try to do is support young Filipin@ women. I think we stand for different stories of what we have. The mission of who we are is what I love.

As much as I am an educator, I’m also a creative as well. I also do spoken word, and I write poetry. I’m also trying to start a photography business. I think it’s in our culture to be creative. I also think that it is possible to pursue a career and pursue your passion outside of it (if that’s what you want).

Jackie Bueno is a senior at UC Berkeley studying Sociology. For further inquiries or if you would like to be featured, please contact her at jacquelinebueno@berkeley.edu.

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