Griselda Vega Martinez, a UC Berkeley junior, is running independently for ASUC Senate on a platform rooted in academically and professionally supporting traditionally underrepresented communities, particularly Latinx and undocumented students, to improve retention.
Vega Martinez — who identifies as Latinx, Mixtec and is undocumented — has been involved with some arm of the ASUC since her freshman year. Although she would like to ameliorate the retention of all underrepresented students with or without the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Vega Martinez’s focus on the Latinx and undocumented communities stem from her own intersectional identity and her experience as a chief of staff for Senator Alexis Aguilar, the first undocumented ASUC senator.
“We’re laying a foundation,” Vega Martinez said of the resource and connection building Senator Aguilar’s office has done for undocumented students. “If I pursue that we can continue that, and hopefully someone will also decide to apply in the future with our same identities.”
Over her years of involvement in the ASUC, Vega Martinez noted she held herself back from engaging in certain policy areas that she was not knowledgeable about. Navigating those spaces as a first-generation, low-income student was challenging, Vega Martinez said, as she did not have access to necessary resources.
She described this gap in resources for Latinx and undocumented students as being prevalent on campus. One of the first items Vega Martinez hopes to address as the Latinx-community-endorsed candidate is to explore what to do about the Latinx Resource Center, which currently does not have a physical space.
“We don’t know what a lot of these activities are or even how, or if, to apply,” Vega Martinez said. “When I was applying (to research positions), I didn’t even know what research is and it sucks to not have those resources.”
In addition to supporting underrepresented students with professional endeavors, Vega Martinez highlighted the importance of inclusive mental health and wellness. Having culturally competent mental health professionals provides students with a different kind of care and financial security, she said, especially when those students run out of free appointments with the Tang Center and must seek external support.
To fulfill these goals and others, Vega Martinez said she will foster a collaborative environment within the often “individualistic” ASUC by reaching out to other senators with similar values. She will leverage her open mind to form those connections and ultimately strive to reach positive, concrete solutions.
“Regardless of if I’m elected or not, I’m still going to carry on with the kind of work that I’ve been doing,” Vega Martinez said. “I like to give back; that’s what makes me happy and makes me feel good about myself, helping others.”
ASUC elections will be held virtually from April 5 to April 7.