Religious Realness

Although SF State’s campus is home to many religious affiliations, here’s how some students from various Western religions have managed to keep their faith. 


A Dua, or prayer, printed on a rug in the Muslim Students Association (MSA) prayer room on Sept. 15, 2022. Duas are Islamic prayers asking Allah to grant blessings like protection, healing or guidance. (Joshua Carter / Xpress Magazine)

Groups of students converse and drink around the bonfires lit at Ocean Beach. Ruqaiyah Angeles joins one and is offered a drink, to which she respectfully declines. 

This isn’t the first time Angeles has had this exchange. The Muslim principles she has committed to sometimes require boundaries to be set, even when others may be confused why. 

With the influence of social media, technology, popular influencers, celebrities and trends, the world we live in today is different from that of the generation we follow — especially in terms of religion. 

Millennials and Generation Z grew up in a society with an emphasis on being your true, authentic self. This includes discovering important aspects of who you are, such as your religious beliefs, gender identity, sexuality and career path. In a Pew Research Survey, 36% of Gen Z (21-27) and 34% of millennials (26-41) identified as unaffiliated with a religion. These numbers have been steadily rising for the past three generations, with only 17% of baby boomers identifying as unassociated with a religion back in the day. 

Even though SF State is a public school, it features religious clubs such as SF Hillel, the Muslim Student Association, Koinonia, The Newman Club, Intervarsity, and Destino Movement. 

Although SF State’s campus is home to many religious affiliations, here’s how some students from various Western religions have managed to keep their faith. 

Ruqaiyah Angeles 

Ruqaiyah Angeles, a senior at SF State, is involved in the MSA club on campus. She was a part of a group of members in the club who fought to get a religious space on campus for the Muslim Community. (Destiny Walker / Xpress Magazine)

Although some of her family roots are in Catholicism, Ruqaiyah Angeles was born and raised with a strong, proud Islamic affiliation. 


“Growing up, we practiced our religion because we had to, our parents told us to,” Angeles said. 


With any religion, it is easy to believe in something due to their parents’ influence. One’s faith and commitment to religion only goes as deep as the effort they’re willing to put in, after taking out parental biases. 


For Angeles, this was true up until she enrolled at SF State and joined the Muslim Student Association, an Islamic club on campus, during her first semester. They host general meetings one to three times per semester, but there are also weekly events students can attend. They hold weekly sermons such as Jumm’ah khutbah. The club also holds prayers every Friday at the Cesar Chavez Student Center.  


Angeles’s parents graduated from SF State 20 years ago, and were heavily involved in the MSA at the time. 


“Being involved in the MSA club at SF State, and being involved in the community and surrounding myself with other Muslims has solidified my belief in Islam,” Angeles said. 


Attending SF State and joining MSA gave her the opportunity to be immersed in a Muslim community that shifted her perspective and lit a fire within her. Being a member of the MSA has inspired her to not only practice religion, but to do so unashamedly and to be proud of her Muslim identity.    


Angeles found that when going to a public school, such as SF State, religion is not a part of everyone’s identity. 


“Practicing any religion is hard period. In our religion, it was made easy for us,” Angeles said.  


The Islamic community she has found helps her stay connected to other students she feels she can relate to, which makes it easier for her to keep faith. 


“We pray five times a day to provide structure in our life, so that we are reminded of religion throughout the day, everyday. I think here in San Francisco, and especially here at San Francisco State we are spoiled, because the city is a very liberal city.” 


Alyssa Weber

Alyssa Weber, a first-year at SF State, wants to pursue nursing in the future. She is always open to sharing her Jewish faith with others and has recently joined the SF Hillel club. (Destiny Walker / Xpress Magazine)

Beginning college is a different experience for everyone. Transitioning from living at home to a whole new city is not always easy. While having more independence can be exciting, college takes a great amount of responsibility. Students not only have to figure out how to balance their time between classes and jobs — they also have to schedule some time to make new friends, which requires a great level of commitment and discipline.



First-year SF State student Alyssa Weber is turning to San Francisco Hillel, a Jewish student organization, to try to make friends and find her way. 


 “Being on my own has been a really hard adjustment for me, but I feel like I definitely did the right thing by joining SF Hillel, because I feel like that is helping me stay grounded in a way by simply being around other Jewish people. It does a lot,” said Weber. 


Weber has been Jewish her whole life, attending religious school twice a week while she grew up. Her mother, whose whole family is Jewish, introduced her to the religion.


“I’ve been raised in a Jewish environment my whole life, so I’ve always been involved in temples,” Weber said. “Just being in the environment and around other Jewish people has been very welcoming, and I feel like that has played a big role in being Jewish.”


Weber’s Jewish community isn’t just limited to San Francisco either. Recently, she took a trip to the Holy Land in Jerusalem, Israel. Israel is the place where Judaism was established, and it is said to be the place where all creation began.


“The part that really opened my eyes and changed my perspective was going to the Old City and the Western Wall. It was definitely a very eye opening experience, and it was very spiritual,” Weber said. 


While praying at the famous Western Wall she felt connected not only to Israel, but also to everyone else praying at the wall. 


Weber’s mother has always been there for her in her religious journey.


“She always has a big influence on me. She’s very open with me about experiences that she’s had. When I had my bat mitzvah, it made me feel very connected to her, because she was always talking with me about her bat mitzvah. And that was a very important time that I got to experience something that she did,” Weber said. 


Samantha Yan

Samantha Yan is an International student from Hong Kong. She is a transfer student at SF State studying music and theater. Her faith in Christianity keeps her hopeful.
(Destiny Walker / Xpress Magazine)

Before coming to the United States from Hong Kong two years ago, Samantha Yan had no religious background. She came to the United States to major in music and become a producer. Yan never could have guessed that Christianity would play such a big role in her life.


“I was having a very difficult situation at the time,” Yan said.  I was applying and transferring to a university. I felt so stressed and hopeless everyday. My uncle and my auntie told me if I had any struggles, I can pray to God.” 


After praying one morning, Yan believed God heard her call for help after she received an email regarding her admission to Cal State Northridge that same night. 


“My uncle’s family are all Christians, and I went to church with friends from Hong Kong because I wanted to make more friends,” Yan explained.  “My auntie also gave me a Bible and devotion books to read.” Yan’s aunt has been her spiritual inspiration in living a Christian lifestyle. 



“My Aunt, since I have moved here [San Francisco], texts me every week, sending bible verses, and asking about my struggles,” Yan said. “She says she is praying for me, and tells me to pray and do daily devotion to remind myself to be faithful.”


Jerome Padilla 

Jerome Padilla is a senior at SF State studying Kinesiology. (Destiny Walker / Xpress Magazine)

Jerome Padilla is a senior at SF State studying Kinesiology, and Catholicism is a big part of his life. His fear of what’s on the other side after death and confidence in the religion’s moral principles keeps him believing. His family has religious art throughout the house, such as the famous Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper.” He has a rosary tattoo on his forearm, and keeps a Santo Niño porcelain figure in his room. 


“On the other side, people would say that there is nothing, or there’s a god or multiple gods, but I feel like there is a certain being out there waiting…I just want to believe that there is something there other than just nothing,” Padilla said.  


To stay intentional with his faith, he stays true to traditional Catholic practices — such as doing the sign of the cross for protection.


“Practicing things my family has taught me since I was younger, like praying every night, or praying when you feel like you have no hope, try to use God as a way to keep moving forward,” Padilla said.