Sydney Do Named Fifth Arthur Ashe Jr. Scholar

December 13, 2023
Lucy Berbeo | UCLA

Sydney Do credits an entire community with paving her path to UCLA.

After high school, the Maryland native moved to California to live with her grandparents and attend a local community college. But when her grandmother died and her grandfather’s health failed, the teenage Do found herself living on her own with no family support.

Searching for connection in the wider world, she volunteered at Mary’s Kitchen, an Orange County nonprofit supporting people experiencing homelessness. When the city temporarily shut down the facility, Do became an advocate for its guests, many of whom had mental illnesses or disabilities. She also volunteered at a local hospice, finding meaning in helping others during life’s darkest times. And she joined her community college’s speech and debate team, digging deeply into issues she cared about, including addiction, the health care system, poverty and racism.

The mentorship and encouragement she received in these spaces — and the act of empowering herself and others — set her on her journey to higher education and to receiving UCLA’s 2023-24 Arthur Ashe Jr. Scholarship. The annual award recognizes and supports students who exemplify the attributes, values, commitment to service and pioneering spirit of the legendary Arthur Ashe ’66.

“I realized that I wanted to do something about homelessness, but in order to do something, I had to get an education,” Do says. “It’s going to be a long fight to solve chronic homelessness, but I’d like to be useful in being part of that solution.”

Admitted to UCLA this fall as an English major, Do started out in the UCLA Academic Advancement Program’s Transfer Summer Program, where she met supportive peers as well as new mentors who urged her to apply for various undergraduate research programs. In addition to following up with the people she met at Mary’s Kitchen to find out if the city succeeded in housing them, Do hopes to study urban planning in order to look at the mechanisms of displacement and poverty on a national scale.

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Photo caption: Ashe Scholar Sydney Do (fourth from left) is honored at a UCLA Academic Advancement Program award reception in October, surrounded by her friends from the AAP’s Transfer Summer Program.

Photo credit: David Gray