Pacific veterans coordinator hones storytelling in Media X

Stan Rapada (left) met many children at Iraqi refugee camps.

During the filming of the documentary “The Longest Road,” Stan Rapada (left) met many children at Iraqi refugee camps.

Stan Rapada has packed so much into his 69 years of life.

  • He served 32 years in the United States Navy;
  • He formed a veterans center at San Joaquin Delta College, which he directed for two decades.
  • He now leads the veterans center at University of the Pacific;
  • He is one term from earning his bachelor’s degree in English from Pacific;
  • And now, as a Media X student, Rapada is thriving and applying new skills to his filmmaking and storytelling.

“He fits right in with all of the 20-year-olds,” said Kevin Pontuti, director of the Media X program. “I think the world of Stan. He brings a life’s worth of experiences and accomplishments and wants to constantly learn. I can only hope that I always embrace learning the way he does.” 

Rapada is the military and veterans support coordinator for the Pacific Military and Veteran Student Center. There are approximately 85 veterans on campus and Rapada has helped a closely-knit group expand its impact throughout the university and community.

“He is so positive and so thoughtful and caring about everyone,” said Allison Dumas, associate vice president for student involvement and equity. “Stan applies his vision and passion to everything he does.”

Rapada is the epitome of a lifelong learner, and it was natural for this voracious reader to seek a degree in English. He also has a background in making films and documentaries.

“I taught myself photography and became pretty good at it. And then I started working with videos and storytelling,” he said. “I am very passionate about that work.”

Documentary makers Richard Campos and Matthew Charles Hall learned of Rapada’s camera skills and recruited him to work on the compelling film. There are moving segments with vivid film of United States military personnel helping the refugees survive.His documentary work includes “The Longest Road,” shot in Iraq. The film, which chronicles the plight of refugees in northern Iraq, has been shown twice at Pacific.

In one segment, a U.S. soldier recalls the reaction from an Iraqi refugee when they were being filmed. “The look in their eyes … This one lady said, ‘don’t film us if you are not going to do anything for us.’ ” 

“It was a life-altering experience where I really saw the impact that storytelling can have,” Rapada said. “But I feel as if there is work left to be done in Iraq. I am planning to go back there once again when travel is possible.” 

Rapada and Media X student Piper Davis ’21 worked on a documentary about the nonprofit Wooden Boats for Veterans, a Northern California-based effort to have veterans—many who have post-traumatic stress disorder—help restore wooden military boats so they eventually can be sailed. 

“It was great to see the way Piper and Stan worked together on the documentary,” Pontuti said. “They complemented one another. I was so impressed with the way Stan helped Piper shine at various points in the process. He has such a good touch in the way he approaches storytelling.”

“I had seen Stan around but didn’t know much about him, and then Kevin Pontuti put us together for a project last fall,” Davis said. “It was a great experience. The film had to do with veterans and Stan was so helpful and understanding in talking to me about how to interview veterans.”

Rapada is appreciative of how he has been accepted by the younger Media X students. Pontuti said many “embrace the stories that Stan has to tell.”

“Media X is difficult, but I wanted to enhance my storytelling with new skills,” Rapada said. “This world is going to be in very good hands with the generous, thoughtful and caring students at Pacific. It has been the same way with my professors.”

Rapada said he still chuckles about how he landed at Pacific in 2018. He said it had been a dream to study and earn a degree from the university. 

“I retired from Delta College and heard they were looking for someone to run a veterans center at Pacific,” he said. “I told myself I would consider it under two conditions. First, they had to call and ask me. And second, I wanted to be able to attend the university. But that was asking a lot and I figured they would not call back.”

Dumas made that call.

“He was such a natural fit for what we were trying to do with our veterans on campus,” Dumas said. “He has had a huge impact from the day he started.”

Rapada, originally from Hot Springs, Arkansas, is married to Joan and has two grown children (Matthew and Christina) and four grandchildren. 

“My father lived to be 103 years old,” Rapada said. “I figure I must have picked up something from that gene pool. I probably have another 30-year career in me, and maybe that will mean some new things. I do know that I’m going to do things my way.”

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