Former Campus Progress Intern Vying for School Board Seat
Former Campus Progress intern Elizabeth Munguia has announced she’s working to change America by running for a seat on the Waterford Unified School District’s Board of Trustees.
The 23-year-old Waterford native spent her summer 2010 Campus Progress communications internship (Apply here!) working to increase youth voter turnout in the midterm elections and was part of the University of California—Berkeley’s “Cal in the Capital” program.
Munguia attended Waterford, Calif., schools from kindergarten through high school. As a college student at UC—Berkeley, Munguia studied social welfare, Chicano studies, and education and was a leader in several campus groups.
After graduation, Munguia worked for the East Bay Consortium/Cal-SOAP, which focuses on increasing the number of students graduating high school and pursuing post-secondary education. She also ran a college and career information center at an area high school and served on several scholarship committees. Most recently, she was selected for a fellowship with the California Latino Legislative Caucus Polanco.
Munguia faces four opponents for two open seats on the board, including one incumbent. The election is Nov. 8, 2011.
Campus Progress checked in with Munguia this week, discussing her campaign, the inspiration behind her run, and why young people are more than just the leaders of an elusive tomorrow.
What inspired you to run for this position?
It was a combination of two things.
One was just being able to see the statistics from my hometown and not being satisfied with them. I know that there is more that can be done to help us achieve academic success for students.
The other is that when I interned at Campus Progress I was so inspired by young people who are actually doing things and making things happen. I thought to myself, well, I don’t have to wait, you know, four or eight years to put myself in a position where I can do great things, too.
I want to do that now. I have the energy and I know I have the passion. Why not? Campus Progress gave me that motivation. I don’t have to wait.
You mentioned that you envision a better future for your hometown school district in Waterford. What kind of changes are you looking to implement?
I have three main focuses.
The first is that I really want to increase the number of students who are ready [for the University of California or California State University, the closest 4-year colleges.]
We have a good graduation rate, but when it comes to actually applying or being eligible for a 4-year, the number is only about 24 percent. We’re not giving our students opportunities to apply to these kinds of [programs]. We have to give them the option or we are severely limiting their opportunities.
The second is that we have to be fiscally responsible with the money that we have. I know that the whole nation is facing budget cuts, touching all of our society. We have to be efficient with the money that we have.
And finally, I want to build a sense of communication between the community and the [school] administration. I think it is very important to make the community aware of the decisions made by the school board and by various administrations.
Half of our community is Latino and half are white—we have to create a sense of community with everyone.
Some people say young people are “potential” or “the next generation,” instead of a force for now. How would you challenge that mindset?
I really just want our generation to know this: If you feel like you are a strong candidate, and you really just want to work for the betterment of the community, then your age should not matter. Your passion, your heart, and your desire to give back to your community will overcome.
Don’t let people tell you “Oh, you’re just 23.” Even at 23, I have my education. Sure, I may not have 30 years of administrative experience … but I know that I have a passion and commitment to this.
You were a student in the Waterford School District —now, you’re trying to improve it. Do you consider that a unique qualification?
Absolutely. From kindergarten to high school graduation, I went to these schools. I was the first student from this district to go to Berkley. I have been given so much from this community, and I want to turn around and give those same opportunities to other students.
Do you have any advice for other young people who might have the drive that you do?
I never really saw myself as any kind of politician—ever. But I really want to help students reach academic success and help them go to college to be able to achieve what they are capable of.
In order for me to do that—at least in this case—I have to put myself in a position of power and responsibility. I just happen to have to run a campaign and be elected to be able to help students on a greater level.
My advice is to figure out what it is that you want to do. Then, figure out what steps and processes you will have to go through to be able to put yourself in that position of power to create the change that you want.
Emily Wood is a staff writer with Campus Progress. Follow her on Twitter @em_nicole55.