UC Merced is highlighting incoming students for fall 2023 — a dynamic, diverse and accomplished cohort of new Bobcats.
With a population of about 8,700 people, the Tulare County town of Orosi is known as a tight-knit community. It's no surprise that residents see familiar faces daily and are on a first-name basis.
Two of those residents will continue building on that sense of community when they start classes at UC Merced this fall. Orosi High School graduates Analee Muñoz Luna and Genesis Iñiguez — who have been friends since middle school — said they are excited to embark on the college experience and meet new faces together.
New Bobcat Plans to Give Back
After four years at Orosi High School, graduation day finally arrived for Muñoz Luna. Although she thought feelings of nervousness and fear would set in during the ceremony, she ended up reveling in excitement and happiness as she recalled everything she learned and experienced as a student.
"I liked the variety of classes, and the teachers were very nice and caring," she said. "I got involved in art classes, photography and the creative writing club, too. I really enjoyed high school."
Muñoz Luna intends to major in writing studies at UC Merced, with the goal of becoming a journalist or writer.
That inquisitive nature helped the Orosi grad immerse herself in all things UC Merced when she visited the university for Bobcat Day in April.
"I was able to ask a lot of questions on what I was interested in, and I got good responses," she said. "Everyone was so friendly, and I really enjoyed how they communicated with me."
This was actually the second time Muñoz Luna made her way to the campus. Her first taste was during a field trip to Bobcat Day in 2022.
"It really opened my eyes to the school, and I didn't expect to apply to UC Merced," she said. "But ever since I went to Bobcat Day last year, I became more interested in the university."
Giving back is top of mind for Muñoz Luna. Following January's severe weather and hearing in school from others who were affected by flooding, she stepped up to help Orosi residents.
"Once I saw the opportunity to be able to give back to the community, I decided to take advantage of it," she said. "We provided people with boxes full of clothes, hygiene items, food, water, toys, books and more."
While she will be spending plenty of time on campus, Muñoz Luna also plans to engage with the community of Merced.
"UC Merced is going to give me a good opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and be able to move on with my life and start somewhere new," she said. "I'm excited about meeting new people there, joining clubs and getting involved. I really want to get involved in the community and get to know Merced."
A Place to Learn and Grow
Iñiguez thinks a lot about her four years at Orosi High School. Her favorite subject was — and continues to be — English. Writing is her passion and becoming an author is her goal, which is why she plans to major in writing studies at UC Merced — just like her friend Muñoz Luna.
The two friends have known each other since seventh grade. Iñiguez said they agreed they would feel more comfortable going to college together, so they both decided to attend the same school.
"I'm very excited to go to UC Merced because not only will I get this big opportunity of getting my education and going further, but I get to be with her, too," Iñiguez said.
Iñiguez is thankful for a college preparedness class that helped improve her writing skills and taught her how to ask questions. That class also first introduced her to UC Merced.
"I actually went to Bobcat Day last year with that class," she said. "I didn't really know what UC Merced was, but then when I went on the trip, I fell in love with it. I fell in love with how much there was to do there and how different it was."
Fast-forward a year to the most recent Bobcat Day. Iñiguez visited the campus again to get a closer look at the classes, clubs, dorms and everything else the university has to offer.
As is the case with many students, money was an important factor in Iñiguez's decision on where to attend college.
"Knowing UC Merced gives out scholarships and helps with any financial needs really made me feel so happy and so glad that there's a university nearby that can help me with that," she said. "I just knew that UC Merced was going to be perfect for me."
According to the 2020 U.S. Census, Hispanics/Latinos make up nearly 90% of Orosi's population. Iñiguez, who comes from a Hispanic household herself, hopes Merced will shed light on her cultural background while exposing her to others.
"I never really had a lot of traditions, so I want to learn more about my culture and see what I've been missing," she said. "At UC Merced, there are so many different people with different personalities, so I feel like being there I can get my education and also improve as a person by being around different people."