February 26, 2024


El Chicano, Colton Courier, Rialto Record

SBVC Student and KVCR Intern Mariana Lapizco’s Journey: From Bicultural Challenges to Global Stages with Bill Gates and Kamala Harris 

4 min read
A media student intern holding holding a slate

Photo by Erick Zambrano: Mariana Lapizco, 25, began her educational career at SBVC in summer 2017 as part of the Valley Bound Commitment Program.

Mariana Lapizco’s life story reads like a script of resilience and adaptability, written across two nations and numerous life challenges. Born in Ciudad Obregon, Sonora, Mexico, in 1998, Mariana’s early years were split between Mexico and the United States, profoundly shaping her character and future ambitions.

Reflecting on her childhood, Mariana shares, “Each move between countries was a lesson in adaptability. It was challenging but invaluable in shaping my ability to navigate new environments, a skill I’ve carried into my film career.”

Her educational journey, starting in Scottsdale, Arizona, was marked by significant transitions. Mariana recalls, “Adapting to English as a young kid in Arizona was initially scary, but I was lucky to have supportive teachers. The real challenge came when I returned to Mexico in third grade and had to learn to read and write in Spanish.”

Yet another move back to the United States in the eighth grade was a pivotal moment in her life as she permanently relocated to California with her hard-working single mother, also named Mariana Lapizco. Mariana reflects, “Leaving my grandma and friends in Mexico was heart-wrenching. Adjusting to academic life in English, making new friends, and dealing with the emotional turmoil was a struggle.”

At Golden Valley Middle and Cajon High School, Mariana faced language barriers but found her strength in helping others. “I’ve always found joy in aiding others with similar language struggles. It’s a way of giving back, reflecting on my own journey,” she explains.

(Left to right) Native Producer and Actress Ariel Tweto, Mariana Lapizco, and Iconic Filmmaker Bird Runningwater on the set of KVCR-TV FNX (First Nations Experience) Native Shorts presented by Sundance Institute’s Native American and Indigenous Program.

Mariana’s transformational journey at SBVC began with a pursuit in business administration in 2017. However, an opportunity to be involved in an SBVC Film, Television, and Media Student now Alumni Odin Contreras’ 48 hours Film Project assisted in discovering her true passion. “Stepping onto that film set opened a new world for me. I knew immediately that this was where I belonged,” Mariana enthuses.

Eventually, Lapizco garnered the courage to change her major from the publicly perceived “safe” major business administration to Film, Television, and Media. This change of major occurred after the film program’s Department Chair Lucas Cuny sat with Lapizco writing out all the career opportunities the program could lead her into so that she could share with her mother. The rest is history. 

Her linguistic prowess became an asset at KVCR where she began interning in spring 2022, translating scripts and gradually taking on more significant roles. “Working at KVCR now as a paid intern has been an incredible journey of growth. From translating scripts to directing and even producing – it’s been a dream come true,” Mariana shares.

Her outstanding abilities and story caught the attention of SBVC Chancellor Diana Rodriguez, leading to opportunities such as participating in a roundtable with the office of Vice President Kamala Harris and speaking with the Bill Gates Foundation, in both cases sharing the student experience and challenges faced in the Inland Empire. “These experiences have been monumental. They’ve allowed me to represent and advocate for communities I deeply care about,” Mariana states.

The Bill Gates Foundation meeting with Mariana Lapizco in early 2023 at Tacos Don Ramon, garnering her perspective on challenges and the experience of college students in the region.

In 2023, Mariana’s directorial skills were recognized with awards for her “Blood Ties” film at the Wolverine Con and International Student Film Festival. “Winning awards for ‘Blood Ties’ was an affirmation of my journey and passion for storytelling,” she says proudly.

Photo by Frazer Harrison: On the red carpet at the Red Nation Celebration Institute’s 28th RNCI Red Nation Awards on November 12, 2023 in Beverly Hills, Calif. where the cast and crew of Native Hope Champions: Riding for the Missing won Best Documentary Short Film. Lapizco served as associate producer and this served as her first ever photo on gettyimages.

As she anticipates graduating in May 2024, Mariana is eyeing prestigious universities for further studies. “I’m excited about the future. I’m focused on building a career and making a meaningful difference through my work,” she asserts.

But Mariana’s journey hasn’t been just about accolades and achievements. It’s a story of personal growth and embracing her identity. Coming out as gay to her mother and embracing her sexual identity has been another significant aspect of her journey at SBVC. “Valley College helped me embrace who I am. Coming out was a big step in accepting myself and finding my voice,” Mariana confesses.

Furthermore, Mariana’s involvement in community service, social justice, and leadership roles at SBVC has been instrumental in her personal and professional development. “The community service and leadership opportunities at SBVC have taught me the importance of empathy and social responsibility,” she remarks.

Mariana Lapizco’s story goes beyond cultural and linguistic barriers. It’s a narrative of turning challenges into opportunities, fear into strength, and dreams into reality. Her journey from a young girl navigating the complexities of a bicultural life to a promising filmmaker and advocate is inspiring and a beacon of hope for many first-generation children who dare to dream big.


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