Few remember the student officers of their college, those who stepped up to make a difference for thousands too busy to notice. But at Modesto Junior College this week, student government took center stage, with a community of elected officials applauding as the 26 students officially took their seats.
“We commend you for getting involved on the ground level of politics,” Brett McBay said at Thursday’s ceremony, speaking on behalf of Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Riverbank.
Olsen and Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, sent certificates from the state Assembly for the Associated Students of MJC board. From the state Senate came recognition from Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, and Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres. Congressman Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, added certificates with the seal of the House of Representatives.
Council members Tony Madrigal and Jenny Kenoyer brought recognition from the city of Modesto.
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“We need people like you in city government,” Madrigal said, making a pitch for students to apply for city commissions. A former MJC student president, Madrigal said it was while in student government that he was “first bit by the political bug.”
Mayor Garrad Marsh, an MJC grad, administered the oath of office as college officials and Yosemite Community College board member Anne DeMartini smiled in the audience.
Even fellow student government officers from Columbia College came to extend a hand of solidarity. “We’re much stronger together,” said Matthew Christman, a student senator. Student and faculty groups from the two Yosemite district campuses began fresh initiatives for collaboration last year.
After an hour of well-wishing and oath-taking, ASMJC President Luis Rebolledo took his new gavel in hand and settled in for a lengthy first agenda of appointing committees, paying bills and hearing reports.
The annual swearing in is traditionally a low-key affair. But, after several years of discord, this board is focused on moving forward, several members said.
The members were elected in the largest turnout in memory for a student ballot, just more than 1,000 votes, said Francisco Banuelos, dean of development and campus life. That’s out of more than 19,000 eligible voters.
Last year’s board was elected by 400 or so votes and the year before by only about 200, Banuelos said. “I’ve been here 13-14 years, and the best was about 800. To have over 1,000,” he said, ending the sentence with a smile and a nod.
Last year’s student president, Andrew Campbell, returns to the board for a third year, this time as an ex-officio member as student representative on the YCCD board. He said he’d like to see the return of a campus newsletter. “That was a vital part of being a campus,” he said.
First-time ASMJC Senator of Special Services Jose Razo, speaking before the meeting, said he got involved to spread the word about the opportunities and activities ASMJC provides.
“I never did hear about things happening on campus. I was seeing disabled kids on the sidelines, never seeing them be involved,” said Razo, as he maneuvered his wheelchair up to the meeting table. “I don’t stay quiet,” he said with a grin.
Getting out more information on financial aid is a top priority for student Senator of Financial Services Laura Valencia-Baez. Valencia-Baez said she’s looking into holding a workshop.
Vice President of Finance Jason Mendes said he hopes to get information out about how to apply for ASJMC funding for training and activities. “I want to help clubs and groups understand the process,” Mendes said.
“The money’s there,” he added. Student fees support student government facilities, conferences and a host of activities.
But they could do more, Mendes said. “There’s a ton of opportunities out there students would definitely dig on.”
Others sworn in Thursday were Executive Vice President Roxanne Weaver; Executive Secretary Korey Keith; VP of Legislation Tyler Menane; VP of Operations Kathy Rau; VP of Activities Kyle Brown; VP of Communications John Westburg; Speaker of the Inter-Club Council Allison Wilbers; and student senators for academic departments and services.