Sonoma County has the largest Latino population in the North Bay region. From 2000 to 2010, the Latino population in Sonoma County saw a nearly 50% increase, rising from 84,093 to 120,430 individuals. In 2013, that number grew to 128,211, which is 26% of the overall Sonoma County population. In the 2015 -2016 school year, 45 percent of K-12 students in Sonoma County were Latino. Sonoma County reflects the state’s trends, “Latinos now constitute nearly 40% of California’s population, surpassing the white, non-Latino population.” However, while Latinx overwhelmingly represent in the state and in schools, they are not represented in the same numbers in political office. According to the L.A. Times, Latinxs “make up only 20% of the Legislature, and at the local level their numbers are even less representative of their share in the population: Statewide, Latinos make up roughly 10% of county supervisors and 15% of city council members.” Nevertheless, while minor waves have been made in politics, I’d like to share my own insight for the lack of representation but also what it has been like to run for an elected position as a Latina and a single mother.
This past July, I decided to run for my local community college board of trustees. As many have asked me about what led me to make the decision to pursue local office, I admit that it was not because I wanted to be a politician. I did not even realize that this is one of the highest elected educational positions until it was shared with me by a friend and colleague who is also an educator. However, the reasons why I chose to run are very personal, as a daughter of immigrants and an immigrant myself, the cards were stacked against us – did not know the language, did not have the money, did not understand the culture, and definitely did not know how to navigate the school system, to even consider higher education was not much of a thought that crossed my mind then, and this is also the description of the community I have lived in for over 20 years. When I received my doctorate in education policy with a focus on access and student success of first generation and more specifically Latinx students, I knew that I had a great responsibility. I did not accomplish this degree on my own. I did it with the support of an entire community that values education and their children and youth. This is why I chose to run for community college trustee — to represent my community and to help shape educational policy for people who come from similar circumstances.
Both young adults and adults will go to the community college first, as we see this in the data Latinx students have increased in higher education, in 2014, 35% of Latinx ages 18 to 24 were enrolled in a two- or four-year college, yet half of them will directly attend the community college. These numbers are reflective of my community. However, Latinx students, like many first generation students, find themselves unable to navigate these spaces as smoothly as other students as such taking more than two years and sometimes over three years to have the courses to transfer or earn an associate degree. Furthermore, they are more likely to test into remedial math and English courses that then push them to take more courses before they can take transfer credit courses. This is also a problem because many students are not encouraged to take high level math courses, like statistics, precalculus or honors/AP English classes if they are not planning to attend a four year institution. So many of the students entering community college are behind even before they start their first course. These are some concerns that I would like to address as a trustee. Homelessness, affordable student housing, and transportation are the other issues on my agenda.
Being on the campaign trail as a single mother has not been easy. However, my little human is by my side. I have brought him to both meetings with community college student groups as well as on precinct walks. Precinct walking with a toddler has meant that at times he wants to go inside people’s home and just chill because he sees other little kids in the homes and thinks he is out on a playdate. Other times, it has meant that I don’t finish knocking on doors on a particular street, then I have to come later instead because my little human has decided he is tired. And then there are times when I will see him walking right behind me trying to knock on doors as well. He has also been active in meetings, he assumes all conversations are geared towards him so he is always trying to answer them. However, there are also times when it is too much for him, and he will stay home with his abuelitos. Nevertheless, he is always present since he is a main piece of the campaign materials I hand out. I share with many that I talk to that he is a huge reason to be running in this campaign, the students and communities I represent are the future in this country. I want to ensure that these students are academically prepared to be the best in their fields of study and eventually their careers, and most importantly because they will be the role models for my own son.
I never thought about the importance of local politics until I had Xoaquín. Xoaquín will participate in the public school system, like I did, he will either fall in love, be in-between or completely hate it. I want to have him love school and love learning. I need to set the example, and I can only do it by fully participating in the systems that will impact him on a daily basis (Pre-K – 12th and higher education). Setting an example also means taking a stand, using my voice, and voting. This November 8th, I will be the second woman of color from the most Latino populated area in the county to be on the ballot running for the community college board of trustees at a college that is about to celebrate its centennial. Win or lose, my hope is that I have left an impression on my son and other young Latinx to become involved in their community’s politics because they are the future of this country.
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