Johnny Garcia Vasquez, a UC Berkeley student majoring in ethnic studies, was re-appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown last Friday as a student representative to the California Student Aid Commission.
The commission consists of 15 appointed members, 11 of which are appointed by the governor and “represent segments of the State’s higher education community, students, and the general public,” according to its website. Two of the governor’s appointments must be students.
According to its website, the commission moves to make education beyond high school financially accessible to all Californians by providing financial aid policy analysis and leadership.
Vasquez, a fifth-year student, grew up in Oxnard, CA, and is the first in his family to attend a four-year university.
“Growing up in a single-parent household, my closest male role model that I could admire was my grandfather,” Vasquez said. “He used to work harvesting strawberries and he came home one day covered in mud and dirt and he looked into my eyes and told me in Spanish: ‘Son, when you get a job, you should get a job where you use your brains and not your hands.’”
Although Vasquez said it was intimidating to be serving with commissioners who were older and more experienced, after a while he said he became more accustomed to the position.
He also said he has accomplished his goal of bringing more student representation and voice into the commission and is proud to have shown the governor and the legislature that Cal Grants were a priority in the last budget. He also said he hopes to see the second half of the California Dream Act implemented.
“As a student representative, I strongly believe that the role of the student representative is advocating and bringing a student voice to the commission,” Vasquez said. “I feel like there is still so much more work to be done about getting more students engaged.”
Diana Fuentes-Michel, executive director of the commission, said Vasquez is excellent in his position.
“He has been serving on behalf of students. He is active at organizations at UC Berkeley and he has had excellent attendance,” Fuentes-Michel said. “And he has been very good in terms of participation.”
Vasquez served on the 2010-2011 Board of Directors of the UC Student Association and as a State Legislative Liaison and Direct Action Organizer in the ASUC External Affairs Vice President’s office.
Last year, the legislative director for the association told Vasquez she thought he would be a good fit for the student representative position on the commission. Following that, the association’s leadership nominated Vasquez.
Finally, after an application process that involved three interviews, Vasquez was appointed in November 2011.
Because Vasquez will be graduating in May, he will not be able to hold the position next year.
“The most rewarding part is knowing that I am making a difference, knowing that I am taking a stand for students and ensuring that there is accessibility and affordability for future California students,” Vasquez said.