Victoria “Tori” O’Campo says she sort of “floated by” until she found her place at Whittier. If she was doing any floating, it was probably as a hawk (although she is afraid of birds). As a “quiet and small woman,” it would probably have been easy for O’Campo to blend into her surroundings. At the Quaker Campus, she spent most of her time tucked into a corner, with her wire-framed glasses reflecting InDesign, an article, or whatever task she had taken up, and would refuse to look up until it was finished. Yet, despite her ability to find quiet corners of solitude in a bustling office or classroom, her personality was never overwhelmed, as she would pop in with quips or a thoughtful answer to a question you were not sure she had heard, at first.
Perhaps her experience at a private, all-girls Catholic high school, St. Lucy’s Priory, helped lead to her quiet confidence. While many students at the College have attended private high schools, O’Campo recalled, “I never felt the experience of being left out of conversations because of my gender,” due to her experience at an all-girls school. Although O’Campo noted the dichotomy of the Catholic all-girls school between women’s empowerment and a limiting religion, it did inspire her passion for women’s rights and women’s issues, which could be seen with her brief involvement with the Women’s Leadership Association, and in many of her articles at the Quaker Campus.
O’Campo acknowledged that her positions at the QC have been like full-time jobs, but she was able to express many of her passions and interests in what she has reported. Music has always been an important comfort in her life, and working as Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor, and then Arts & Entertainment Editor her first two years at Whittier, allowed her to explore and further her love of the arts. “[In] third grade, I really remember loving Taylor Swift and Hannah Montana; I would listen to their CD’s on repeat and do karaoke in my room to them,” O’Campo recalled with a laugh. “That’s probably my first time I really loved music.” Since then, she has gone to more concerts than she can count (most with her concert buddy/boyfriend, Valentino Venti, whom she has been with throughout her college career). The QC has provided a platform for her to share her passion for the arts — while often combining it with her interest in women’s issues — while being an artist herself.
When describing her love for all things Arts & Entertainment (particularly music and film), O’Campo said, “I’m not an artist myself. I always wanted to be, but I’m not.” She later admitted that she could be an artist from a writing standpoint (and her impressive resume just from the QC would certainly agree). However, one quick look at her Instagram would show you she is an artist in so many other ways. O’Campo embroiders — having even sold items at the 2020 Student Art Walk before the pandemic hit — crochets, and does photography in addition to her journalistic and creative writing.
The more she talked about her art, it was clear why she does not consider herself an artist. The short answer may be capitalism. The long answer . . . O’Campo struggles with just relaxing. “[Crocheting] was a crisis quarantine move,” she said (ditching her staple box-dyed black bob for vibrant pink hair — that has now faded to bleached tips — was another quarantine crisis). “If I’m not making something, I freak out about not being productive.” While O’Campo realized how unhealthy the need to constantly be productive was, crocheting became the middle ground for her. She was able to sit and watch TV while keeping her hands busy through crocheting. However, this comes at a cost — or a profit. She never wanted to feel like she needed to sell her art and creations, but she simply does not have the room to keep all of her creations in her house, leading to her selling small items, such as crocheted bucket hats.
Like many students in the wake of COVID-19, O’Campo had to return to her childhood room, which she shares with her younger sister, Ty, who is a senior in high school. Yet, for O’Campo, she returned to a much more crowded home than the one she left. When O’Campo left for Whittier, her step-father moved in with his three children. Now, including her two sisters, there are eight people living in their four-bedroom townhouse, everyone doubled-up in a bedroom. There are certainly tensions that come from being cooped up in the same house for over a year, but O’Campo said that her siblings and step-siblings already knew each other quite well and were supportive of each other before the move.
Still, there was something about returning to her childhood room that emphasized the imposter syndrome O’Campo experienced during her college years. O’Campo felt insecure when she came to Whittier College. In high school, she never felt like she had any direction — no dream school or dream college. She initially came to Whittier as a Political Science major, but realized, during the summer before her second year, that she was not all that interested in pursuing politics. After taking Visiting Professor of English Joe Donnelly’s Environmental Journalism class the second semester of her first year, she began to see that she could pursue her passion of writing in many different ways as an English major. She thanks Professor Donnelly and Professor of English Jonathan Burton for helping her quickly find a home in the English department.
Even with support from her professors, O’Campo’s journey at Whittier was mostly completed as a result of her stubbornness. The advisor she is graduating with is the same advisor from her paired freshman class, a French professor. She is neither a French major or minor. Yet, through maneuvering DegreeWorks on her own, O’Campo was able to graduate a semester early. Her reasoning was mostly to limit her debt and get out of Zoom university (and who can blame her). She will officially receive her diploma at the in-person graduation ceremony on May 22, with her mother and father as her guests.
As the oldest woman in her family, it saddens her that her sisters will not be able to see her physically receive her diploma, but O’Campo said that she has already gotten all of the closure she needed for her college career. While she will not attend the Commencement in Fall 2021, she wants her sisters — particularly Ty — to look up to her as a role model. “It’s hard not to have my sister [Ty] there,” O’Campo admitted. “She’s been a huge support, and she looks up to me. I want to be able to show her that she can do this, too.”
Although her sisters may not get to see O’Campo cross that stage or switch her tassel from the right to the left, they have plenty to be proud of O’Campo for. O’Campo put herself through college, getting a job at Bark Coffee her first week of her first year and holding it through her college career while she held significant responsibility in the QC. Imposter syndrome makes it difficult for her to realize that she has led the QC for the past year. “When I came into college, I felt like I was really insecure, and I did not know what I was doing,” said O’Campo. “Now I have led the paper for a year. I don’t think I would have believed I would be in that position if you told me four years ago. It’s really been the [accomplishment] that has given me a lot of personal growth.”
Of course, I have to remind her that it has, technically, been two years of leading the paper, since she was Managing Editor last year before becoming Editor-in-Chief for this academic year — positions that were well-earned after she kept an organized and creative Arts & Entertainment section for two years. Under her leadership, the QC launched a new website — which she designed based on what she learned through her high school tumblr blog and YouTube tutorials — and won a Student Organization Excellence Award (she won the Senior Keys Award). All of this was accomplished as we were thrown into the midst of a pandemic and had to switch to purely online publishing, a challenge O’Campo met with her usual grace and stubbornness.
Still, no longer seeing her articles in print carries its own struggles. “Not being able to see and have interaction with print makes it not as tangible,” said O’Campo. She has made it through by reminding herself of the QC Faculty Advisor Joe Donnelly’s words. “I know he doesn’t put his name on something he’s not proud of,” said O’Campo. “That has pushed forward my work on the paper and my work in general, thinking about if [Donnelly] would put his name on this.”
Yet, Donnelly suggested that she has plenty of qualities that allowed her to excel on her own. “I will not soon forget the grit, talent and work ethic Tori showed while moving the QC to digital on a dime during the pandemic and not only maintaining its standards and morale, but raising them.” said Donnelly. “All the while elevating the discourse in her classes, juggling work and family obligations and leading the Greenleaf Review to new heights . . . and being a good friend and inspiration to her peers.”
Another part of the loss of switching to digital was losing the in-person interaction of the rather boisterous production nights. “We annoy each other, but we also love each other,” said O’Campo about her family at the QC. “Having that bond with everyone in the QC is one of my favorite aspects [of college].” O’Campo extended a thank you to everyone she has worked with at the QC, “Everyone I’ve worked with, whether they have graduated or not, has been such an influence on my writing on my personal growth, so I’m so grateful to have worked with these wonderful writers and editors.”
Yet, the QC was not her only publication the pandemic interrupted. Halfway through the Spring 2020 semester, we were all unexpectedly sent home. With this, the plans Professor Donnelly’s class had for the first ever Greenleaf Review to be published through the Magazine and Journal Editing class had to be completely rethought. As Design Director, O’Campo curated the creative vision for the journal and went to work creating an InDesign template the Executive Editors Jillian Spaulding and Autumn Dixon, Associate Editor (oh, that is me), and herself would fill with students’ works. With her prior InDesign experience coming from the QC and a layout for a newspaper, the Greenleaf Review was a new beast. You could say her stubbornness paid off, as she was the Creative Director for this Spring 2021 Greenleaf Review, which was produced in the brief seven-week module.
O’Campo may say she “floated” into Whittier, but she is certainly soaring now. Perhaps her initial life insecurity remains in her imposter syndrome, but she has so many accomplishments from her time at Whittier that I hope she learns to flaunt with pride. Now, looking to the future, she hopes to adapt the philosophy of her favorite true crime podcast, My Favorite Murder, to confront her anxiety and imposter syndrome: “f—k politeness.” O’Campo still struggles to remind herself that she is deserving of the positions that she has applied to after graduation. She is currently waiting to hear back from the Los Angeles Times Metpro training program, a position at Billboard, assistant editor positions around L.A., and is looking into jobs from the scheduling and administrative side of film.
“I still have doubts, but I’m still reaching high. I should be reaching high,” O’Campo reaffirmed herself. With all she has accomplished and the determined yet kind attitude she maintained, opportunities will soon prove her doubts wrong. “She’s not just a lovely person, a curious and thoughtful student and a noble journalist, she’s the sort of gracious leader who makes everyone around her better. And that includes me,” said Donnelly, and we at the QC certainly agree. Wherever she may end up in journalism or the film industry, those of us who have been lucky enough to work with her at the QC and the Greenleaf Review know she is beyond worthy of all of her achievements. Her stubbornness and persistence in all she sets out to do will surely lead O’Campo to great things, on which the QC will later report.
Featured Image: Tori O’Campo / Quaker Campus