By Chris Morales
The opportunity to serve in a student government, to participate in the shared governance of a university, to represent thousands of students is a responsibility and a privilege like no other for a first-generation college student. For the past year, I served as an executive officer for the Associated Students, Inc. Board of Directors at Cal State San Marcos. Every day of my term, I worked with my fellow board members and ASI representative from the other twenty-two campuses across the state to provide students with a more affordable and accessible CSU.
As members of a student government, we serve and work with a vast and diverse community of students, many of whom we will never meet. Every student in the CSU is remarkably different to one another, each having different values, opinions, culture, and traditions. These differences should not drive us apart, but rather should be celebrated, for they are what makes the CSU and the state of California incomparably great. How can one individual properly serve a community of 13 thousand unique and incredible students? How does one fulfill the role of a student leader? A student representative? The answer is simply to listen.
Our job as student representatives is to listen to the thoughts and concerns of all students, no matter how much we may disagree with them or find them to be at odds to our own. We listen to students’ stories, stories of achievement and excellence, and stories of hardship and misfortune. We bring these stories with us to every meeting with faculty, staff, and legislators. We cease being student leaders, and become vessels to express the thoughts and concerns of students. We cease being simply students working together, and become a community of storytellers hoping to make our campus slightly better and the lives of our fellow students slightly more enjoyable.
The CSU is a community of stories, from the severely heartbreaking to the unbelievably astonishing. I have had the honor of hearing so many of these stories during my four years at CSU San Marcos. Stories of homelessness, of hunger, of loss. Stories of multiple jobs, of taking care of children, of three-hour commutes. These stories are far too common, but nevertheless our students persist and triumph. It is my honor, and my obligation, to recount these stories with the same emotion and honesty as they were told to me. It is imperative to truly be “the voice for students” in this manner, especially for students who come from communities that have historically gone unheard and underserved. It is my duty as a student representative to ensure that our students are heard, that their experiences are valued, and that their education is not put at stake to additional barriers.
Student representatives in the CSU serve the most amazing community of students our nation can offer, and in turn we create a community ourselves. We create a community of storytellers. At times, we may disagree with each other. At times, we may grow impatient with each other and the bureaucratic process. However, we never doubt the intentions of one another: to represent our students to the best of our abilities, and to share their stories. It is a selfless style of leadership, one that I was honored to be a part of, and one that I hope will continue to inspire others to become storytellers for their own communities as well.