Diza Encourages Exploration

Justin Diza spends his first year teaching trying to integrate into the culture of Valley High School.

EV Thurgood

Justin Diza spends his first year teaching trying to integrate into the culture of Valley High School.

EV Thurgood, Features Editor

Justin Diza, a University of California Santa Barbara graduate, is spending his first official year in education at Valley, as a Geometry teacher.

As an insight to his personality, Diza was asked to describe himself in three words and say something he would like Valley students to know about him.

“[Three words to describe me are] Awesome, extra, I like doing the most, and the last one is understanding,” Diza said. “Whatever you tell me I will try my best to wrap my head around it and understand what you’re going through. Like if you didnt turn your homework in, I understand that; now let’s see what we can do to try and fix it.”

When he was a student, Diza was an active student in both high school and college. He was an active participant in multiple clubs and extracurricular activities.

“Even as a sophomore I knew I wanted to go to an Ivy [league school] or a four-year [college] and I knew one of the things that they look for is that you’re not the smartest person, or that you are involved in the most things but that you’re a well-rounded applicant,” Diza said. “ But it’s besides good grades, so I wanted to get more involved in clubs because I know that they look at that. So I got involved in Key Club, as a general member, Interact, which is basically Key Club. I was involved in a lot of sports, I did track, I did cross country, and I did football. I was a founding member of our school’s environmental club.”

Later, while majoring in biological psychology, he was the academic chair for UCSB’s Filipino Club, he coordinated two Filipino dance lessons, and he was a part of a program called FIERCE.

“And the last [program] I was involved in, it was called FIERCE, as you can see the common equation, I worked a lot in my Filipino community,” Diza said, “but FIERCE stands for Flipinos in Education Reaffirming Community Empowerment. Basically what it is, is we mentored high school students from all over California; for example, my group had students from San Diego, from the bay area, and from LA, which are three different places. Basically, what we taught them is the options available after high school, whether it was a junior college, a four-year [college], or the army, or wherever they wanted to go after high school. We had workshops for them to look at and get closer to what they wanted to do after high school.”

Diza wanted to make a positive impact in the local Filipino community by being active in it, and he also personally gained something from these experiences.

“My biggest takeaway [from these programs] is that, some backstory, anecdotal, I always knew that these options were available to me; I knew about financial aid and the waivers that are available so you can have free applications,” Diza said. “ So I always assumed that everyone knew that, and my biggest takeaway was that, I was talking to my mentees and they are like, ‘yeah I did not know financial aid was a thing, I thought I had to pay 30,000 just to go to school.’ Which is true, but then you also have aid, which will help you and it’s based off of your income… My biggest takeaway is that they don’t know and it’s not their fault; they just didn’t have the resources.”

Diza is a supporter of students doing what is best for them and their future. He encourages teens to always at least look into all of their options and make the best of what they have and what they can do.

“Part of me believes that college is a time for you to discover what you like and for you to experiment with different clubs you’ve never heard of,” Diza said. “I wish, going back, one of the things I would change is putting myself out there because it is a great experience and, I’m not trying to hound on my Filipino club, but I wish I got more involved [in], we called it Council, it was like a student council but for the dorms. I actually was a part of it but I had to drop out because I got more involved in other programs.”

After school activities are designed for students to try new things and learn what suits them and what doesn’t. Motivating students to find their passion, Diza offered this advice.

“My biggest advice for you is there is no rush for what you need to be after high school,” Diza said. “You still have all these things, all these programs, find something you like and hopefully you find something you want to do. At the end of the day, what you want to do is your choice. No one can tell you what you can do and what you can’t do. You might hear stuff from other people but just know that that’s just advice… [also] Freshmen year is such a blur, but pay attention to Algebra 1 because that’s your base for all your future classes. I’m not kidding; you need algebra!”