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Meet UC’s 2018 graduates: Californians who are citizens of the world

As beaming students and their families pack UC commencement ceremonies last weekend, they celebrate not only earning a diploma, but all of the growth and opportunity that comes with it.

For some, a UC education has opened their eyes — and expanded their horizons — to a world they could have scarcely imagined. For others — military veterans, immigrants, undocumented students —their education has provided the rocket fuel to give back to the communities that shaped them.

Meet a few members of the Class of 2018 who represent UC’s pioneering spirit and its role in creating leaders both at home and abroad. These are students who have forged their own version of the American Dream to get where they are, and are using what they’ve learned to make their mark on the world.

Delivering hope to her homeland

When Lydia Natoolo encounters injustice, she doesn’t get angry. She rolls up her sleeves and gets to work.

Born in Uganda as the youngest of 28 children, the UC Irvine biological sciences major founded a nonprofit that raised $50,000 to bring a reliable source of water and power to a hospital in her native country, reducing mortality at the clinic by 75 percent.

As a 33-year-old nursing student at Saddleback College who was struggling to pay her own bills, a chance encounter with an article about a Ugandan hospital with no running water and little electricity moved Natoolo to visit the facility herself to see how she could help.

Natoolo founded the Love a Community foundation to address the issue by first raising money to restore clean water through the hospital. Her work only intensified when she transferred to UC Irvine, where she raised an additional $20,000 for solar panels and then took on the challenge of proper nutrition for patients, acquiring 10 donated acres of land for a sustainable farm for the hospital and nearby community.

But she hasn’t stopped there. As someone who herself has struggled with both hunger and homelessness, Natoolo successfully ran for student body president to address issues of housing and food insecurity on campus. She has consulted on ways to tackle these issues with UC’s top leadership, and helped UC Irvine establish the system’s largest food pantry.

Read more about Natoolo and other outstanding graduates from around the UC system.

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