Class of 2016
From: Sacramento, CA
Director of Residential Life, Pediatric AIDS Coalition 2013-2014
Design Committee Member, 2012-2013
Why did you join PAC?
I applied for PAC because my mom's cousin Gregory passed away from an AIDS-related illness when I was young. She told me that I reminded her of him, and as both Greg and I are members of the LGBTQ community, I felt that I had lost an important role model to such a terrible and prevalent illness. I felt that my participation in PAC would serve to honor Greg's memory and to connect with and serve the global community of people who have felt the physical and emotional effects of HIV/AIDS.
What was your favorite moment of Dance Marathon 2013?
While dancing my heart out with 1,200 of my new best friends to support a wonderful cause was a truly amazing, humbling, and unforgettable experience, my favorite DM memory actually occurred about a month after the event itself.
At the beginning of March, it was reported that researchers in Mississippi had effectively cured a toddler of HIV. This was amazing news, especially for those of us who are intimately connected to the cause. But the truly amazing news came when our president shared an article reporting that two of these Mississippi researchers were working off of research grants from the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation - the primary beneficiary of Dance Marathon. The moment I read that article - the moment I realized that my hard work had a made a perceptible impact in the fight against HIV/AIDS - was the moment I realized that PAC is not only an engine for global welfare and social change but also an organization which has truly changed my life.
They're rare, those pivotal moments when a choice you make or an incident you experience has the power to change the course of your destiny. But what's even more rare is realizing this change the moment it happens. And that was exactly where I found myself as I read the EGPAF article - reveling in the realization that the fight against Pediatric HIV/AIDS had become and would remain an integral part of my life, my work, and my very being.
Matt with his committee at DM 2013
How will having this scholarship help you support DM in its mission?
I’ve spent a lot of time considering how I will use my scholarship to maximize my impact on the fight against HIV/AIDS, and I think I’ve come up with a fair solution. I plan to first allocate the funds towards my tuition, so as to allow me to continue my education at UCLA and, more importantly, my membership in PAC. However, I will also pledge to increase my DM fundraising goal in a way which will allow me to cover both the standard committee fundraising goal as well as the scholarship funds. That way I can be in a place that I love supporting a cause that I love!
DMA presenting Matt with his scholarship at the PAC banquet in May 2013
What are you most excited for this year?
This question is really tough because there’s SO MUCH to be excited about this year! PAC and DM are experiencing huge and exciting changes and I can’t wait to see how they play out, particularly the change of venue from Ackerman to the new Pauley Pavilion. It’s seriously HUGE and I’ll probably get lost a few times during DM (especially when that 3AM delirium kicks in) but it’s gonna be SO worth it.
PAC is also modifying the way it operates so that we are more focused on a holistic and educational approach, much like the way a real nonprofit organization operates. We’ll be making a much bigger impact on those impacted by HIV/AIDS as well as those who are interesting in learning about it and getting involved with the fight. I’m stoked to be able to share my love for this cause with the world in such a powerful way!
How do you plan to stay involved with PAC and DM after your graduate?
Well DMA is the first stop on my list, of course. And this summer I worked as a counselor at Camp Kindle for the first time, so I plan to continue return every year, even after graduation. Lately I’ve also been considering working for someone like EGPAF after I graduate, where I could make a living doing what I love. It doesn’t get better than that!
Even though I’ve given so much of myself to this cause, that’s nothing compared to what I’ve gained in the process. And that’s not something that I’m prepared to give up after I graduate!
Psychology Major (Genetics Minor)
Class of 2012
President, Pediatric AIDS Coalition 2011, 2012
Erin Ward is the president of UCLA’s Pediatric AIDS Coalition, the expanded student organization that houses Dance Marathon. DMCA sat down with Erin to discuss the last several years of the organization’s evolution, her commitment to HIV/AIDS, and incredible gratitude she has for the past 10 years of DM alumni.
1. What is the Pediatric AIDS Coalition, why the evolution, and how has Dance Marathon changed because of it?
The Pediatric AIDS Coalition (PAC) is the umbrella organization for Dance Marathon and other pediatric HIV/AIDS-related efforts throughout the year. PAC is now a year-long commitment for committee members. It is similar to the Student Alumni Association (SAA), in that we put on various events throughout the year, with a few major events each quarter. This Fall Quarter we had a large scale club night. Of course, we work on DM in the Winter Quarter. And for Spring this year, we want to reach a larger demographic than what we have before, so we are organizing a benefit dinner for professionals involved in the HIV/AIDS world, including UCLA professors, UCLA AIDS Institute researchers, and experts from the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.
Although the name change was difficult for people to understand at first, it’s really started to resonate with the campus community. People throw around “PAC” all the time. Once my class graduates, current students will have only known it as PAC.
2. As President (formerly known as Executive Director), you are Dance Marathon's first two-time leader. Has it been a challenge to top your own successes?
Pre-Dance Marathon, it’s hard to say; so far, so good! I was a bit nervous starting this year because I was initially unsure how to build on what we did last year. But, up to now, this year has turned out to be extremely successful. We restructured a bit, adding a new group called “Programs” that is responsible for overseeing club nights, laser tags, and other non-DM events. This structure has been really helpful in terms of ensuring that these outside events are successful, and for our fundraising. Additionally, we made some changes to moraling. We wanted to discourage people who had registered as dancers from switching to moralers, so we instituted a policy that they would have to pay the $30 registration fee in addition to dancer registration in order to switch. We were afraid that it would affect our dancer registration number – it didn’t. We have 1,600 dancers registered right now! Hopefully it
will carry through to the event!
3. We all know that PAC is an incredible organization. How does it feel to be at the helm?
I feel honored to have been given the opportunity to lead DM through its 10th and 11th years. There has been something really special about this year that I can’t quite put my finger on…maybe it was the amazing support of alumni! We have accomplished so much, and it has just been a dream come true.
And I couldn't have asked for a better committee. Looking back on last year’s event, holding up the numbers – although it was definitely incredible – wasn't even the best part. Just walking around the ballroom and hearing such positive words from the dancers both to me and to each other is the most amazing feeling in the world. Still, to this day, dancers come up and thank me. I was in Literati in Santa Monica cramming for finals and some random girl came up to me and asked to shake my hand!!! She was so touched by her first DM experience that she applied to volunteer at both Camp Heartland and Camp Kindle.
4. What has been your biggest challenge?
As usual, dancer retention is always a feat. As the organization grows exponentially, naturally retention becomes more difficult. We had around 1600 dancers registered last year, and a bit over 50% retention, which is the lowest it has ever been. But it didn't seem to hurt us too much. The dancers who attend really want to be there. They are the ones who exceed the minimum fundraising goals. They are the ones who care!
5. When you're not being the President of PAC or a studious Bruin, how do you fill your free time?
I LOVE YOGA! And spin class! Yoga seriously saved my life this year. On top of DM, and taking 19 units (which I have no idea why I did), yoga has kept me sane. DMCA + Erin should have a big yoga fiesta!
6. What are your aspirations beyond UCLA?
I just finished applications for Masters in Public Health and Masters in Health Administration programs. My top choices are Columbia, University of Washington, and UCLA. Post-grad schools, who knows? But in the meantime, that's my plan.
7. If you had a message to Dance Marathon committee alums, what would it be?
My message to DMCA: THANK YOU! Everyone always gives the Executive Director credit for the
success of the event. Not only is that misleading (I have 130 people backing me up), but they should really all be crediting YOU! If I didn't have the DM archives, I wouldn't have known what to do! Yes, running such a large organization is an accomplishment but I am eternally impressed about how the alumni seem to have thought of everything.
Any time I try to explain the organization of the committee to an "outsider," they're blown away and they remind me how absolutely incredible it is that STUDENTS created such an amazing monster!
Woaaahhhh Dance Marathon!
Winner of the 2011 DMCA Loraine Chong Spirit Scholarship
Congratulations to Maddy Grubman, a senior on committee this year who has held a number of positions on the Morale Committee! We're excited to honor Maddy for her dedication and passion to both DM and the cause.
- 2009 Dancer
- 2010 Morale Committee Member
- 2011 Morale Committee Member
- 2012 Morale Steering Director
1. What is your favorite Morale Song?
Move Your Feed by Junior Senior
2. What are you looking forward to on PAC this year?
I feel like this is the first year that PAC is really being recognized as more than just the Dance Marathon event, but as an organization that is working year round to spread awareness for our cause through many events and outlets with Dance Marathon as our largest and most popular. I am excited to be a part of that change and help bring the cause to the forefront and remind everyone why we are taking a stand.
3. What DM-related accomplishment are you most proud of?
Besides the smiles you see on these kids faces? I would say that after the event I have had dancers come up to me and tell me that I helped them get through the event and that means so much to me. I remember when I was a dancer and how every time I looked to someone else who was bursting with enthusiasm, I felt a little bit better, and it is great to know I am spreading that to those around me.
4. How are you planning to stay close to the cause after graduation?
DMCA is the first thing on my list! Besides that I want to be able to give back by helping to volunteer at the event. I know how much work goes into it and how sometimes the best thing you can offer is to do someone's grunt work. And beyond UCLA and our PAC community, I am hoping to go back to my old job where I get to work in Latin America and partner with agencies such as MINSA and spread public health and HIV/AIDS awareness to local communities.
Class of 2009
Former Assistant Director
1. Tell us how you got involved with Project Kindle and became the Special Events Coordinator.
Project Kindle is a non-profit that helps improve the quality of life for children, young adults, and families through recreational experiences, educational programs, and support services. Project Kindle became a beneficiary of Dance Marathon at UCLA in 2007. I first got involved with Project Kindle three years ago when I volunteered at Camp Kindle as the Evening Programs Director. Camp Kindle is a summer camp for children infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS. At the time I was on E-team and going into my last year I wanted to have a personal connection with the cause. After volunteering at camp for two years I was hired in 2009 as the Special Events Coordinator. My job consists of coordinating all special events for Project Kindle, which includes soliciting other schools to start Dance Marathons. I use my experiences from Dance Marathon committee everyday at work to start brand new Dance Marathons at local colleges and high schools.
2. What is your most memorable experience from Camp Kindle?
There are many memories from my first year of camp that are unforgetable. About ten other Dance Marathon committee members volunteered that year and we wore highlighter and taught the campers morale dances all week. My most memorable experience at camp was at the wish ceremony, which is held on the last night of camp. All staff members and campers are given the opportunity to say one wish and a majority of the campers asked for Dance Marathon at UCLA to raise more money the following year so that they could come back to camp. That night gave me the opportunity to see how Dance Marathon directly affects the lives of children living with HIV/AIDS.
3. Which do you like more, attending Dance Marathon at UCLA as a committee member or a beneficiary?
Good question, they are both extremely rewarding. As a committee member it’s an extraordinary feeling when the event finally comes together just as planned. It’s also a great feeling to know that your organization is receiving a percentage of the final amount raised. As a beneficiary the money is amazing to receive, but the experience our campers have while at Dance Marathon is even more touching. Our kids always try to stay up all night and meet as many dancers as possible. They are always so surprised that people actually stay on their feet
for 26 hours just for them.
4. What is your favorite memory from Dance Marathon? Do you have a least favorite memory?
My favorite memories from Dance Marathon were always on the Friday before the event when the entire committee was together. I actually enjoyed the countless hours making dancer boxes, sorting name tags, and creating spreadsheets. My least favorite memory was clean up and knowing that I had to wait another year for Dance Marathon.
5. As an alumni, what do you miss most about Dance Marathon committee?
I honestly miss all the planning that goes into Dance Marathon. I loved all the emails, spreadsheets, and meetings. After graduating it was hard to adjust to not having any Dance Marathon things to work on. Luckily DMCA has filled that void! I also miss the radio madness that is channel one during the event.
Class of 2005
Former Steering Committee Member
1. Tell us about SIC and how you got to be Executive Director?
Support for International Change (SIC) is an organization committed to limiting the impact of HIV/AIDS in underserved rural areas in northern Tanzania. We actively work to provide prevention education, create access to mobile HIV testing and counseling, sustainably link people living with HIV/AIDS to medical care and treatment, and equip our HIV+ clients through support groups and income generating projects (like chicken coops and community gardens). After hearing about SIC through Dance Marathon, I volunteered in Tanzania 2004 and have continued to be involved since then. I was recently hired to serve as the Executive Director.
2. How did your experience with Dance Marathon lead you to your current position?
Dance Marathon was a launching point for me–exposing me to the crisis that a preventable disease is creating in our global community . I had never considered the HIV/AIDS pandemic to be something that I could actually do anything about until through DM I learned about HIV’s global and local significance and was part of the impact Dance Marathon is making. For me, with that knowledge came an imperative to continue to act and learn. Global health and development became something that I advocated for during my time at UCLA and has since funneled down into a specific focus of getting HIV services to resource-poor rural areas. DM absolutely was the start of that path and continues to be an experience that motivates me.
3. What’s your favorite memory from your time with Dance Marathon at UCLA?
There are countless moments that I could point to as a DM favorite. Without a doubt, my UCLA days were shaped by highlighter Wednesdays and woooahh dance marathons. My senior year as I was setting up the AIDS quilt squares in the wee hours of the morning before DM, I remember thinking about the faces and families that each one of those squares represented and then looking around at all of our committee members and really being struck by how honored I felt to be part of such a dedicated and purposeful community. I’m sure this sentimental moment was brought on by our delirium/lack of sleep…but nevertheless its one of my favorites.
4. If you could impart some advice to current committee members who are seeking a career in the HIV/AIDS community, how can they get involved?
Do your research! Seek out an organization not only because they are involved in HIV/AIDS work, but because you deeply care about the innovative ways they are approaching the HIV/AIDS crisis. Begin volunteering with them. Continue learning how they are working towards sustainable methods in education/prevention/treatment/care for the people that they reach and via your volunteering, you may be able to more clearly see a role that the organization needs filled. SIC also offers opportunities to be directly involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS (for more info on that: www.sichange.org or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org).
5. Tell us about one of your proudest accomplishments while working with SIC.
This past fall while I was in Tanzania, I spent much of my time in the homes of HIV positive patients, speaking with them about how SIC’s services have impacted their lives and their health. Sitting with those strong men and women, hearing them actually talk about their lives with a long-term perspective–knowing that being diagnosed HIV+ does not have to mean an early death—was huge for me. Because they now have access to treatment, people who were once bed-ridden are now back working in their farms and taking care of their families. Because they are involved in a community support group, people who were once afraid to talk about their status are now encouraging others to be tested. Seeing entire communities being empowered and equipped to fight the impact HIV/AIDS is having encourages me to keep working to extend our reach as far as possible.
6. What’s it like being pregnant and working full time?
(insert eye roll here..)