Student Feature: Discovering a Passion for Advocacy with Lexi Thicksten

“I’m around a lot of different people and a lot of different backgrounds—you can see what their driving forces are. It prompts you to look at your own situation and remind yourself, ‘You’re doing it, you’re on the right path.’ It’s a trajectory. It’s not a fixed angle. It’s the journey.”

Lexi standing at a podium speaking at the Coastline College commencement ceremony
Lexi Thicksten speaking at Coastline College's 2023 Commencement Ceremony.
(image provided by Coastline College)

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Coastline College alumni, Lexi Thicksten. You might recognize Lexi from your visits to the college's Fountain Valley Student Services Center where she was a Student Ambassador, or her time serving as Vice President of Associated Student Government (ASG).

Now an aspiring diplomat, political science major, tutor, and recently elected Cultural Affairs Commissioner at Cal State Long Beach, Lexi is a prime example of how community college can help you explore your interests. Her story is also a testament to how getting involved at your college can help you unveil what you’re passionate about and open doors to opportunities you may not have even known to knock on!

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Lexi’s Background

From ASG Vice President to her current role as Cultural Affairs Commissioner, Lexi is well on her way toward her aspiration of becoming a diplomat. But where did her path first begin?

Lexi attended a prestigious, competitive high school in Tokyo, Japan, where she was born and raised. “Academically, the school valued extracurriculars and doing well,” she says. “But I wanted to go to the States because I’m a dual citizen—I’m Japanese American…I would come every couple of years and visit family over here, but I wanted to go to college in the States.”

This led her to want to start at a community college first, and because she’s a citizen, she explained, she only needed her residency. “That helped me to have in-state tuition, and not out-of-state or out-of-country tuition.”

headshot of Lexi Thicksten
Lexi Thicksten. (image courtesy of Lexi Thicksten)

Additionally, she didn’t want her high school experience to be the determiner of what got her into an academic institution. “I felt like I wanted to earn and work my way into whatever school I went to, not just because I went to a prestigious high school. I wanted to get experience and get all the skills I could.”

With this, Lexi found Coastline, where she did online school for a year, which she says taught her an appreciation for learning. “I like thinking and learning different concepts and applying different theories. I like [community] college because it allows you to take your general ed courses first and just see what you like the most.”

While the learning was great, especially for those who lean towards being introverted, she notes that being online was difficult for someone like her, who is introverted, but also very social. The desire to have more socialization led her to work at the Student Services Center in Fountain Valley.

“I saw how supportive the faculty and the professors were at Coastline. It led me to apply for the Student Ambassador position, which I found on the website. Thankfully I did get the position, and I became familiar with a lot of the faculty at Coastline College, and that led me to really appreciate the campus.”

Lexi receives her diploma and poses for a photo with Coastline College President Dr. Vince Rodriguez
Lexi and Coastline College President, Dr. Vince Rodriguez.
(image courtesy of Lexi Thicksten)

Journey at Coastline and Getting Involved

From there, Lexi became involved in Coastline’s Associated Student Government, first as their Legislative Affairs Senator, and then as their Vice President. While in student government, she had the opportunity to visit Sacramento, where they advocated for students with disabilities and homeless students.

For her, the benefit of being involved in the college community was being around people who were passionate about their work and applying the resources she gained to the different areas she was involved in.

“You could tell they really cared about the students, and they were just really resourceful. Working in the office as a Student Ambassador was a great opportunity to push for certain projects that were in student government.”

Lexi poses for a photo at her work station during Denim Day
Lexi taking part in Denim Day at Coastline's Student Services Center.
(image provided by Coastline College)

It was through the general ed courses she took, and being in student government, that Lexi determined her course of study. “I ended up going into political science. I have hopes of being a diplomat - that’s my goal right now - and it was because of the PoliSci courses I took for general ed. Psychology was interesting, but I was more fascinated with history and economics, that side of it, and studying what’s going on with the world and the economy. Student government played a big role in it too, and legislation; that is very important as well.”

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Current Journey at Cal State Long Beach

Because she enjoyed being in student government so much, and because it was a close commute, Lexi says, she wanted to attend Cal State Long Beach. “I like that it was a Cal State. They focus on the students and teaching. They care a lot about the students’ well-being, and the professors reciprocate your efforts. It’s less research-based and more teaching-based, and they highlight networking, and getting jobs after you graduate.”

She wants to continue her work in student government and carry her passion for helping students and advocating into her career as a diplomat. “I have a lot of energy, and I didn’t want to waste it. I wanted to help students where I could. A lot of people have different backgrounds, you don’t know what people are going through. I think education is very important, especially if you’re career-driven, or you just want to know different perspectives other than the ones that are most easily accessible, or what you grew up with. With the world we live in now, it’s really important to know a variety of concepts.”

Lexi Thicksten speaking at Coastline College commencement ceremony
Lexi Thicksten speaking at Coastline College's 2023 Commencement Ceremony.
(image provided by Coastline College)

Right now, Lexi is showcasing her passion for helping students in her role as Cultural Affairs Commissioner in the executive branch, where she helps with events and student and cultural organizations that help students feel welcomed on campus, and as a tutor in political science and humanities. And though she says it may seem odd, she feels that having extracurriculars motivates her more in her academics.

“If I wasn’t doing that [extracurriculars] I would probably be putting more pressure on myself and not getting the same results. Because I have other things going on, it makes my productivity higher anyway.”

Along with her extracurriculars, it is also the people she’s around on her day-to-day that keep her motivated to continue working towards her goals. “I’m around a lot of different people and a lot of different backgrounds—you can see what their driving forces are. It prompts you to look at your own situation and remind yourself, ‘You’re doing it, you’re on the right path.’ It’s a trajectory. It’s not a fixed angle. It’s the journey.”

lexi posing with friend or family member at a post-commencement celebration
Celebrating post-commencement ceremony.
(Image courtesy of Lexi Thicksten)

Advice to Students

If you’re looking to get involved, or don’t know where to begin, Lexi emphasizes the importance of speaking with a counselor, which she notes was the Coastline resource she utilized the most, and tailoring the communities you’re looking to join into what impassions you.

“Dr. Paolo Varquez [Coastline College Career Services Specialist] taught me that anyone could be a counselor in the sense that it’s like introspection and research, a combination of that. So, if you’re curious about joining, I would recommend looking at your background and what’s been driving you, then, what your goals are. From there, I would see what role would potentially fit you the best, and what your strongest traits are. Based on that, that could be a vehicle towards your next destination. It’ll get you to the next point in your development.”

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