Saturday, June 15

Applying to The Bruin was an unexpected gift, but the best I could have asked for -30-

Maya O'Kelly stands for a portrait. (Zimo Li/Photo editor)

Ironically, the best birthday gift that I gave to myself during my time at UCLA was applying to the Daily Bruin my freshman year.

It was Zoom University, and after having spent the past few months at home, I wanted to try and find a semblance of community, so I applied to the Daily Bruin, admittedly last minute since my birthday is Oct. 13 and the application was due Oct. 14.

Given my prior experience in high school using Adobe InDesign and how much I enjoyed working on the layouts, I applied to Design after meeting some of the current editors Callista Wu and Lauren Ho during a Zoom open house over the summer. Little did I know that this simple application would completely alter the trajectory of my time at UCLA.

From my computer screen in my first year, The Bruin was truly one of the few places I felt a sense of community, through many the Zoom office hour chats with the past directors Benny Zhang and Indya Donovan, along with Callista and Lauren. I really valued the advice they had, not only on how to improve my design layouts but also what life at UCLA might look like – whether that may be discussing dorms or meal plans.

It was during one of these calls when Benny sent me a Slack DM asking if I would consider applying to be an assistant Design director next year. It had never crossed my mind, but since they all seemed to become best friends through the paper, I gave it a shot, writing the application in a COVID-19 vaccine induced fever that spring quarter.

Thankfully, I was accepted to be an assistant Design director. Three years later, I can say that I have met some of my absolute best friends at UCLA thanks to The Bruin. My second year was sprinkled with many Zoom calls and office laughs with Lauren, Benny and Rachel Kwan as we brought print production back to life in the office, and editor training was literally the very first thing I did on campus after moving into my dorm.

My junior year was a blast thanks to the absolute dream design team I was part of with Helen Quach, Emily Tang and Tyler Cho. From the initial Zoom Codenames games I forced them to play before the year began so we could “bond” to the end of year Codenames we played to transition into Mega-Design with Isabel Rubin-Saika, Lindsey Murto and Mia Tavares, I could not have asked to work with a better group of people.

There are endless memories that I could reminisce on, from trips to the Hammer Museum, our visit to Universal Studios and more, but perhaps the thing that I cherish the most is the true sense of family within it.

The end of my junior year was unfortunately punctuated by a trip to the emergency room after a Bird scooter accident – word of the wise, don’t ride them – that I simply could not have endured without the help from Ramona Mukherji, Kate Green, Megan Fu and Justin Huwe. From midnight until 8 a.m., they took turns slipping in and out of the tarp tent in the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center lobby to crack jokes, bring water and were just the truest friends I could ever ask to have with me at that moment. Truly, I can never say thank you enough, and I’m grateful to have made more fun memories with you all to hopefully overshadow that one.

Going into senior year, my time at The Bruin shifted as I joined PRIME and was welcomed with the absolute warmest and most open arms by all of the writers as I once again joined a dream team alongside Kate Green and Martin Sevcik.

This year has been tumultuous to say the least, and I could not have asked for better or kinder people to work alongside with as we navigated many changes. During this unprecedented quarter, we pivoted away from typical spring PRIME timeline to support the writers and countless of other sections during the coverage of the UC Divest Coalition and Students for Just in Palestine at UCLA demonstrations. I cannot express enough the pride I have in my peers throughout the newsroom for their work on the coverage.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I really love doing the print paper layouts. To me, they have always felt almost meditative, like I am working on a Sudoku puzzle and listening to music. However, beyond the infinite ways that my Adobe skills have improved these past few years, I genuinely met some of the best people I know at UCLA within the paper, and for that I am forever grateful.

So, thank you to 18 year-old Maya who knew that applying for the Daily Bruin would be the birthday gift that truly kept on giving.

O’Kelly was the PRIME art director 2023-2024, Design director 2022-2023, and an assistant Design director 2021-2022.

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