When Cat Oriel’s family immigrated to the United States from the Philippines, her parents realized there was a need for journalism within their Filipino community.  In 1991, they founded the Asian Journal, a Filipino-American newspaper which remains a leading ethnic media company in the U.S. and Philippines today. This passion for journalism stayed with Oriel throughout her life into her high school years, where she began writing for the school newspaper. After a short time, she was promoted to the News and Feature Editor position. Following high school, Oriel went on to attend The George Washington University (GW), majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication in the School of Media and Public Affairs. She is completing two minors — the first in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and the second in Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship. After completing her undergraduate degree, Oriel hopes to pursue graduate studies a few years later. She is confident that after graduation in spring 2022, she will remain in the field of communications with a specific focus on social impact initiatives.

Oriel now serves as the Communications Director for the Student Association at GW. Being a member of this organization has had a positive impact on her. Since she was in middle school, Oriel has strived to represent and fight for the needs of her community. In this role, she can do that and make connections along the way.

This year’s theme of race/racism is particularly relevant to me as a woman of color and given the police brutality and racially motivated hate crimes we are all unfortunately accustomed to experiencing or seeing in the news and on social media. Although it might seem easier to merely look away, it is our responsibility as journalists to combat racism by speaking up, speaking out and writing about the realities of people who experience discrimination regularly.

Growing up as a first-generation Filipina American in Los Angeles, Oriel has witnessed and experienced racism and prejudice throughout her entire life, mostly in the form of microaggressions. She spent most of her childhood wanting to blend in, instead of loudly embracing everything that made her and her family unique.

“Luckily, I found a community in high school where I was able to surround myself with like-minded individuals with similar upbringings who felt the same societal pressures,” Oriel said. “My friends and I started an Asian Culture Club to discuss our experiences surrounding race and identity and to celebrate our heritage.”

Attending an all-girl school and having a strong support system empowered Oriel. Although she felt confident as a woman of color, the rise in racial hate crimes during the past year has pushed her to critically analyze her role in combatting racism. She knew she was “not racist,” but the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies class helped her realize what being “anti-racist” means for her and what actions she must commit to in order to live up to that definition.

Through her work with social impact organizations, Oriel has helped educate and inform others about these topics, and she envisions getting involved with more anti-racism work in the future, with a specific focus on prison abolition.

If she could have one wish come true for herself, she would wish for a long, healthy, and content life.

Oriel’s wish for the world stems from her love of animals: She would wish for them to have the ability to talk. She would love to know what her dog is constantly thinking about! Oriel also believes that if animals could talk, humans would show much more compassion and empathy toward them.

In her leisure time, Oriel enjoys being with her family and friends. She is an avid reader and audiobook listener. She also writes poetry, watches movies, and works on graphic design projects. Her love for animals has led to her being a part-time dog sitter.

The number one activity on her bucket list right now is to go skydiving.