Little Bruin Wishes: Bringing Holiday Cheer to struggling UCLA families

Article by Therese B.

As Week 10 whizzes by, most UCLA students have a one track mind: pass final exams. But there is a group on UCLA campus that has taken advantage of this holiday season to foster a broader vision.


“Little Bruin Wishes” (LBW) is “a gift-giving program that exists to help students on campus who are struggling financially to provide for their dependents over the holidays,” says Jean Libby, director of the UCLA Students with Dependents Program. This now annual tradition began five years ago when a former director was inspired by an analogous initiative at the University of Minnesota and decided to bring it back to UCLA, creating “Little Bruin Wishes”.


“These are the only gifts they will get for the holidays.”

In describing LBW, Libby used the word “dependents” intentionally. Students may be supporting a child, but they may also be supporting a different family member, like a sibling or a grandparent. Some are single, some aren’t. They are trying to balance studies and family responsibilities while often also working a part-time or full-time job. Of course, participating families come from a variety of financial backgrounds. But, “for a majority of parents,” Libby says, “these are the only gifts they will get for the holidays.” Some families aren't even asking for gifts; they are asking for the bare necessities, like diapers, pajamas, or grocery store gift cards.


Now, the average UCLA student living on the Hill might wonder, “Is this program really needed here? I mean, I don’t see any parenting students…” And to be fair, we really don’t see them very often. So it may come as a shock that on record, there are “285 undergraduate parenting students and at least the same, if not more graduate students.”


Libby estimates that over the past five years,  LBW had served around 300 UCLA students, supporting 1000 people.

This year, 80 students have applied for the program. Taken together with their dependents, LBW is helping to bring Christmas to 210 people. Libby estimates that over the past five years,  LBW had served around 300 UCLA students, supporting 1000 people. There is a need at UCLA. So, what can we, as students and community members, do to help?


The last day to support a family is this Monday, December 10th. The family profiles are available on the LBW website, located here: https://www.swd.ucla.edu/Little-Bruins-Wishes-Donation/Little-Bruin-Wishes-Families-Profiles. For the sake of simplicity, donors are asked to support an entire family, rather than pick and choose dependents or gifts. Thus, student clubs or organizations often team up. If you don’t have the money or time to support an entire family,  don’t worry — there is still a way to give! LBW has set up a Spark account where people can send a monetary donation of any amount, accessible here: https://spark.ucla.edu/project/11118.  LBW will then use this money to purchase gift cards and distribute these to families who have not been selected by the deadline, making sure everyone receives support this holiday.


Are you yourself a student with dependents and wondering if you are eligible for the program? The deadline for this year has passed, but be sure you apply by November of 2019 to be included in next year’s program. The application couldn’t be easier, and is accessible through the website here: https://www.swd.ucla.edu/Little-Bruin-Wishes/Application. Libby explained that the program’s main challenge lies not in turning away families, but in encouraging them to apply in the first place. Many students think that perhaps others need the help more than they do, and so don’t apply at all. LBW recognizes that students are at different levels of need, but they want to make sure that all students with dependents who are struggling receive support this holiday season. If you are a UCLA student with dependents and are receiving financial aid or eligible for CalWORKS or CalFresh, you are eligible for this program! Moreover, this application also helps the Students with Dependents Office connect you to other resources and support that you may not have known were available to you.


So as finals season changes to holiday season here at UCLA, let’s not forget that there are people around us who are in need of our support, and that our ability to help them is just one click away: https://giving.ucla.edu/Standard/NetDonate.aspx?SiteNum=1076

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