Former student trustee Erin Lacorte dies of cancer

Dana Rose Crystal

After spending years playing sports, assistant coaching, and studying kinesiology, Erin Lacorte decided to embark on a new quest: medical studies. Lacorte decided to study at Fullerton and Cypress Colleges as a stepping stone to medical school but found something more when they became involved with clubs and Associated Students. The 2021-2022 student trustee and 2022 student of distinction died of liver cancer on Oct. 1. They were 47.

Having already accomplished Associates and Bachelors degrees geared towards a sports coach career (1993-2006), a decade later, Lacorte decided to re-enter as a pre-medical student at both Cypress and Fullerton Colleges (2016-2022), completing with three Associates of Arts degrees, with transfer acceptance to Cal State University San Marcos as the next step in their journey. From there, preparation for admission to medical school to become a Doctor of Osteopathy.

But this August, just mere weeks before the start of the Fall semester, Lacorte was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer – too far advanced for traditional treatment. Lacorte’s family and friends started fundraisers on GoFundMe for healthcare expenses using alternative medicine systems, while Erin’s brothers and mother started another to fulfill Erin’s “bucket list.”

Despite the diagnosis, Lacorte showed bravery and a sense of humor, with Instagram posts about being on a “cancer vacation,” and joking this was a way of getting out of math studies. Lacorte was also waxing philosophical, taking joy in sunsets and saying “the best medicine” is the love and community of folks met through school, two fellowships, friends, and chosen family.

But on Saturday, Oct. 1, the Lacorte family posted an update on their own fundraising page: “Erin lived her life to the fullest and stayed strong, loving and most importantly, happy. Erin passed away peacefully on Saturday morning while in her sleep.”

Erin made clear that a celebration of their life and legacy was preferred to a “sad, depressing funeral.” The Lacorte family asks for the fundraiser to now contribute toward Erin’s memorial, which they plan to hold on the weekend of what would have been Erin’s 48th birthday, Nov. 3, 2022.

To call Erin Lacorte a non-traditional student is an understatement. Reentering college in a different field is challenging enough, but especially so for one who is middle-aged, of color and of the LGBTQIA+ community. Lacorte not only took on intensive studies, while maintaining a day-job, but also duties and responsibilities of student government and social activism.

In addition to their service as Student Trustee and Senator of Associated Students, Lacorte was an active spokesperson as the President of Queer People of Color Club and had worked on the LGBTQIA+ Safe Zone Project for students, staff, and faculty.

Erin Lacorte and others protest against Asian hate, Fall 2021
Erin Lacorte and others protest against Asian hate, Spring 2021 Photo credit: The Hornet

When Lacorte campaigned in the election for Student Trustee in 2021, they cited the Safe Zone as one of the most important of their campus involvements. Lacorte said they wanted, “most especially to complete the creation of the LGBTQIA+ Safe Zone … [which] basically means a lot for me because it has a positive experience for the LGBTQIA+ community and being that they’re marginalized, they tend to suffer in silence.”

Last April, Lacorte hosted the Student Engagement and Empowerment Symposium, in which a student-led panel shared and discussed how they were navigating their education, work, and family responsibilities during the pandemic. Lacorte expressed joy at learning the French language. The Hornet spoke with Lacorte at the blogcast Beyond the Hive.

Lacorte was honored as a Student of Distinction this past spring in the Service Achievement category. Sociology Professor Mohammed Abdel Haq presented the award, praising Lacorte for being an active college citizen who worked tirelessly to improve the lives and learning experience of other students, despite “all the racialized and gender barriers in their life,” and for creating “an atmosphere that encouraged critical conversation that spoke truth to power” as Student Trustee at the meetings of the NOCCCD. Abdel Haq had first met Lacorte when they had spoken passionately of the importance of ethnic studies.

Lacorte then took the stage, saying “It’s not about me. This is for everybody. My voice is not for me, it’s for all the folks who don’t have [a voice]. What’s in my heart are the students and what is truth and what’s in my soul will always be the truth of fighting for people who are marginalized. I’ve been fortunate to take ethnic studies which helped me to grow and find my voice, to fight for students who don’t have [a voice].”

Lacorte’s voice will live on to inspire others. As Professor Abdel Haq said, “Erin’s unique life experience is responsible for their perseverance, emotional intelligence, and interest in improving the lives of others.”

Lacorte had not originally intended their Fullerton College education to be anything more than medical studies, but they found joy in social justice and civic involvement. They cited a bad experience as inspiration: “I’m turning that experience into something where I find it’s taking me now. Moving towards social justice.”