Surfacing From A Well

photo of excited Young Legislators after being recognized with certificates by  Assemblymember Caballero

I was raised on a ranch near a small rural town called San Ardo in the South Salinas Valley by immigrant parents who came to the United States in 1985. This town is often unknown, even by Salinas Valley residents.The south end of the Salinas Valley’s lack of exposure to the world and opportunities has led its residents to be very much disconnected from the world. “We think too small, like the frog at the bottom of the well. He thinks the sky is only as big as the top of the well. If he surfaced, he would have an entirely different view” –Mao Zedong. It is only with great efforts and rare opportunities that one is able to surface from this well, South Salinas Valley.

I feel very emotionally connected with the Salinas Valley community because we share a similar story and background. The limited opportunities of my South Monterey County community disenables individuals to even come to the realization that there is a world outside of that well. However, thanks to opportunities participating in the Migrant Education Program, attending Notre Dame High School in Salinas, and being admitted to UC Berkeley, I surfaced from the bottom of the well; my eyes were opened to an entirely different view. When I surfaced, all I wanted was to help other surface as well.  It was a privilege to have been selected as a Matsui Local Government Fellow and have the opportunity to return to my community and hometown to intern at Assemblymember Anna M. Caballero’s district office. As the Young Legislators Program Coordinator, I had the opportunity to recruit and empower 40 students this summer 2017. Many of which were students from the Migrant Education Program. Throughout this intensive three week program, I was able to lead seminars, which taught students about the legislative process, the importance of understanding issue areas and issues in our communities, and the importance of developing leadership skills to be civically engaged and active in our Salinas Valley community.

After a great amount of time, effort, planning, and coordination, the Young Legislators Program came to its grand finale a with a trip to the California Capitol on July 31st. On this day, the students toured the Capitol, saw the Assembly chambers firsthand as to understand the mechanics behind the lawmakers of California, and students also performed a mock committee hearing. One of my biggest mentors told me “Hope you can sleep well tonight with the satisfaction of knowing that you planted this new garden of leaders.” That night of July 31, I went to sleep at my ranch in San Ardo feeling accomplished with my summer efforts, I had helped my students surface from the well and exposed them to a whole new world.