On Wednesdays, we’d watch the sunset from the Press Center patio, scarf down takeout from Tam’s, and gather around our desktops as newspaper pages were laid out by Ella Apuntar, our then-production manager (and to me, an absolute wizard).

I joined City on a Hill Press as a freshman before the campus shut down for COVID-19. Now, as a fourth-year, I find myself staring off into space, paralyzed by what is happening around me. Despite all the familiarity — the rows of desktops, the odd collection of mugs in the drawers, the hexagon-shaped tables on the patio — everything also feels so different.

The faces I knew when I joined are now all gone, and even the couch I used to nap on during production days is no longer here. As a way to reminisce, and also to embrace what is to come, I’ve written a little about other publications (and people) that are close to my heart: a former roommate, a friend from my first year at College Ten (sorry, I mean John R. Lewis College), and a former photographer for CHP.

For an entire year, Madison Epstein’s blue Volkswagen was stuffed with boxes of Matchbox’s 2020-2021 annual issue. Some boxes, torn at the edges, began to fall apart by springtime. Boxes of previous year’s work remained undistributed even as the editorial staff began to lay out the pages for the 2021-2022 school year.

Maddie was a sophomore at UC Santa Cruz when news of the COVID-19 pandemic first broke. She joined Matchbox staff as a third-year in the fall of 2020, at the beginning of a full year of remote education. She was working part-time on top of being a student, finding time for the publication amidst a chaotic schedule made worse by pandemic isolation.

For my former roommate, a year as Editor-in-Chief (EIC) of Matchbox meant starting from scratch: media law and ethics trainings done from our shared living room, a year of Zoombombing one anothers’ meetings with our press advisor — sometimes from the dining room table, occasionally whilst on the way to the fridge, often times from one another’s desks as we woke, climbed out of bed, and made our way in and out of the room. She handled it all whilst also juggling that signature fourth-year anxiety-about-the-future and senioritis.

At this fall’s Cornucopia, every last copy of Matchbox’s 2021-2022 was emptied out from the boxes designated for Cornucopia distribution. That night, I’d even dropped off my own copy — given to me by Maddie when they were first delivered earlier in the summer — for a friend who might not have been able to see their own work on the page otherwise.

That successful distribution wouldn’t have been possible without staff who continued to work on the publication throughout the height of the pandemic.

“I’m not going to lie, it was pretty difficult,” said Maddie. “There were a handful of people at the time, and the online aspect made it really difficult to get to know everyone.”

Maddie wasn’t the only person who experienced the constant loneliness of it all. I know I felt it. I know others in the Student Media space did, too.

When I met Azo Guiz, they had a buzzcut and carried their skateboard around like it was an extension of his own two feet. We met in our freshman dorm building through mutual friends who lived on the floor below mine, introductions made in the comfort of the Ohlone elevator.

Now, Azo is the Alay coordinator (also shortened as “co”) and has hair just long enough to pull into a short ponytail. I still see them around campus with a skateboard, too.

In Tagalog, the word “alay” translates to “dedication” or “offering.” As a publication, it’s housed under both Bayanihan and Student Media, and is well connected with the Pilipinx student community at UCSC.

We talked for a little over half an hour, the sun setting behind them as they Facetimed me from a fellow student organizer’s patio space. Even in 58-degree weather and the evening wind, Azo smiled whilst talking about Alay.

Alay’s 2020-2021 anthology, titled “ignat” (or, take care). This year also marked the 25th anniversary of the Alay Anthology.

They talked about legacy, impact, and the political importance of a publication like Alay.

“I think something that diaspora always has, is like, they understand their embodied experience, and they understand what they go through,” Azo said. “But they never really have the critical analysis or knowledge to put those into words of like, why they’re feeling that those things are feeling or why things have happened to them.”

For Azo, who’s been on Alay staff since our freshman year in 2019-2020, the experience working on production in the spring of 2020 was something like this:

He’d wake up, do Zoom classes, drum up the courage to open InDesign, and slowly start to figure out the mechanics of print layout and design. Enter text. Move box. Save page. Screenshot. Text Alay Coordinator Laura Gavia. Ask: Will this work? Does this look okay? Am I doing this right?

Laura coordinated Alay with Sierra Caoili during the year that everything changed. They transitioned everything to happen remotely, adapting the familiar Alay production timeline into something new.

“She was my anchor, kept me grounded during this process, and reminded me that we weren’t alone in this,” Laura said about Sierra.

After Sierra and Laura, it was Ella Apuntar’s turn to hold the ember close, keeping it sheltered from harsh winds of isolation. Ella, who taught me everything I knew about InDesign and printing, shouldered the weight of being Alay coordinator alone, a practice continued by Ryan Nachor in 2021-2022, and now Azo.

Hayley Sanchez was a second-year student when they joined City on a Hill Press as a photographer (that’s how we met), but she was still a freshman when she joined Chinquapin staff. Like her peers, Hayley started their college experience entirely remotely: no campus, no boardwalk frolic, no running into class late and out of breath. Just non-stop Zoom lectures.

For Hayley, there were endless Zoom meetings too. Chinquapin staff, like Alay staff, deliberated over what submissions to accept and what pages would look like. Over screen, staff reactions to even the best submissions and the prettiest pages felt stifled and stiff.

“It was honestly like a miracle that we even got this physical form, but I just remember it was a lot of meetings,” she said.

As Hayley stepped into their sophomore year, she joined more organizations, in search of a community she could call her own. Though she expressed love and care for Chinquapin, it was also a predominantly white space.

So she joined TWANAS, one of the only other campus publications other than Alay that caters explicitly to students of color.

TWANAS, now known as the Communities of People of Color and Native American Press, began as the Third World and Native American Student Press Collective. In 1979, the founders of the publication went on hunger strike to demand a Third World and Native American Studies department at UCSC.

To this day, this demand has not been met.

“If I’m being honest, I feel a lot more pressure from TWANAS [than Chinquapin], because it’s both a community and a publication,” said Hayley.

Galilea Garcia, who I met for the first time at last fall’s Student Media Council retreat, started as a signer for TWANAS in winter 2020, amidst ongoing COLA strikes and just moments before the campus shut down.

“Although it was still very gratifying, it felt like we were in a sort of limbo,” said Galilea. She’s reflecting on the way that her own introduction to the space was through remote meetings.

Looking back on our first interaction, it feels almost silly: I was halfway through a Yerba Mate, half of a cream cheese bagel stuffed into my mouth (I’d saved it from breakfast), and she’d complimented my black-and-white Huili 回力 sneakers. If I had met her now, we’d probably talk about how to build and maintain community, how to stay grounded and firmly rooted even when it feels like everything is constantly changing.

“I’m graduating in spring, so my excitement is bittersweet. I know that everything I want the space to become I probably won’t be able to see up close, but that’s okay,” said Galilea. “I just want to do as much as I can while I can.”

As I reflect on my years at UCSC, and as I inch closer to some unknown future, I keep thinking back to this idea of time as passing in a cyclical nature. It may sound like a poet’s reason to not confront and acknowledge the present, or like a nostalgic escape from reality, but maybe it’s true — the past is truly also a future.

“We talked to TWANAS members from 1986, and asked them how they did it. Our theme of that year was based on looking to the past in order to ensure our future.” – Galilea Garcia, TWANAS

“It’s about honoring the past in order to create a future, because it really is through their sacrifices and the momentum that people in the past have created for the people in the future.” – Azo Guiz, Alay