If you saw the Chinese Varsity Club’s (CVC) enormous entourage of executives on Imagine Day, you may have wondered, “Who’s in charge of all that?” The answer — David Tolentino, self-professed “grown-ass kid” and CVC president.
It’s not hard to see what makes Tolentino a great leader. His great personality creates a paternal vibe which puts those in his presence at ease. But to be fair, his father-like aura may be a product of more than just his personality — at age 26, Tolentino is much older than your average UBC undergraduate.
“I really did take my time with my journey to UBC. What my family really brought us to Canada for was a higher education and the better opportunities in life, and that was my driving force, even though it took me a while to get here,” said Tolentino.
Tolentino started at Langara College, where he “hopped between programs” trying to find his academic passion. In 2013, five years after graduating from high school, Tolentino made the jump to UBC, where he enrolled as a sociology transfer student.
“I never took more than three courses at a time and paid my way through school through work and coaching, so it was a slow process. But I feel like getting into UBC [in 2013] was the prime time for me to get here. I don’t think I would have been able to handle UBC at 17, 18 or 19. I don’t think I would have been able to face [the troubles of university] at a younger age,” he said.
In 2013, like any student coming to UBC for the first time, Tolentino was looking for a community to join on campus. While he was torn between the Greek system and CVC at first, one experience with CVC clinched his loyalty and involvement.
“[CVC] had their dance and we were all drinking, having a great time, but then one girl just completely got drunk. I ended up taking care of her, and two CVC executives, I had no idea who they were, came over and helped me with her the whole night — complete strangers helping two complete strangers take care of someone. That was the defining experience that made me feel this is something I want to be a part of [and] something that I recognize with.”
According to Tolentino, CVC is much more than just the parties and ski trip that non-members have come to recognize the club by. In fact, the sense of community is so strong, the exec body refer to themselves as a “family.”
“Those events come together to create that party atmosphere, and get people to dig to see what else CVC has to offer. You develop stronger relationships through that and that’s when they discover [that there’s] more to CVC.”
With 11 different departments, Tolentino believes that CVC has something to offer everyone. However, he recognizes that with such a large established community of club executives, 89 in total, it can be daunting for non-executives to get involved.
He said, “Yes, [members] party, drink, play sports, but what else can we do on top of that? This year, our focus as a senior team was obviously to enhance that experience for each other, but also try to increase that area where we can accept more people into the club, regardless of their title.”
Tolentino hopes that by getting more members involved, he can create a stronger support system for executives and members alike. In fact, Tolentino could have ended up in a far darker place if not for CVC.
“[In my first year with CVC], I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing because I wanted to get into business but not sociology, which was like a second thought. That was when I doubted my age, what I was doing, everything that I was involved with. I wanted to drop out of school. Bouncing back from that, [I reached] out to my support system, CVC, [and] they really pushed me [saying], ‘You've already come this far — why quit?’ That support and love pushed me through.”
Finally, after eight years in post-secondary education, Tolentino is in his graduating year. What he’s learned during his time at UBC is not only that he has what it takes to succeed, but above all, he loves to help others succeed.
“With graduation, especially with an arts degree, it’s really how I sell myself to anything that I want to apply myself to. Ultimately, I think working as an RA, being CVC president, making the connections I’ve made have really shown me that and put me at ease. [In my career] I want to be able to help people because I feel that that’s my strength and I want to thrive in that because I do enjoy it very much.”