Sebastian Cazares on the issues
“It was an honor to represent the student body at College of the Canyons. My experience as elected president made it clear to me that there are changes that have to happen at the trustee level in order to truly empower our students and the wider campus community that makes our institution’s success possible. I’m not interested in neat talking points. Instead, I’m focused on bringing the personal experiences of the many COC students I served to the forefront through this campaign.
We need good people on the Board of Trustees that will fight with their hearts and souls for students and are determined to value transparency and listening to communities on-the-ground.”
Facing the Challenges of COVID-19
COVID-19 has exacerbated the challenges our community is already facing and has created mass uncertainty for the future of public education. To ensure the continued success of students, faculty, staff, and other community members, we need to continue to ensure that training for online tools and instruction is available to all, that potential government assistance is distributed and spent transparently, and that quality education persists despite impending disruptions. A just transition and recovery is necessary to defend and advance the quality education that the College of the Canyons community expects and deserves from the institution.
Ensuring Student Safety
Earlier in 2019, those on campus at COC experienced a false-alarm situation regarding an on-campus shooter, and many expressed feeling unprepared and panicked. When tragedy struck Saugus High School later in the year, the same concerns about preparedness persisted. We need to continue to improve our response to all emergency situations through evaluations, accessible and consistent education for students on emergency plans, and incorporating community input to ensure that our campuses are a safe and welcoming space for all.
Maintaining Academic Excellence by Supporting Students
Although COC provides incredible instruction, has improved its completion rate ranking, and continues to increase the number of degrees and certificates granted, it remains true that many students do not complete a degree or transfer program. Countless students, some I have personally tutored, struggle with their grades and express hopelessness about their education. That’s why I fully support efforts like guided pathways, Canyons Promise, mentorship and internship initiatives, and reduced and free textbook programs. We need to make sure students are not stuck on waiting lists and instead ensure they are supported throughout their journey at COC and beyond. I personally benefitted from these programs, which gave me the tools to be accepted into UC Berkeley and UCLA for transfer, and know how important they are for student success.
Mental Health & Wellness
The mental health epidemic impacting the youth and students of all ages in our country is more prevalent than ever. I’ve talked to countless students who are suffering from anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges. The conditions created by the pandemic have exacerbated these issues. As a trustee, I will continue to support programs that the COC Health & Wellness Center offers and use my platform to demand mental health reform and support for our students at all levels of governance.
Supporting Basic Needs
According to the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice, in 2019 19% of students in California community colleges have endured homelessness in the past year, 60% have faced housing insecurity, and half have experienced hunger in the last year. The 2018 Basic Needs Survey from the State Chancellor’s Office reported that almost 57% of students have had direct contact with students experiencing basic needs insecurity multiple times a week or daily. Addressing basic needs issues should continue to be a priority, and we need to unequivocally support the Basic Needs Center (BaNC) on both campuses and efforts to provide emergency fund access to students. I believe that trustees should also be advocates for affordable housing in the community and for collaborative solutions to this multifaceted problem.
Pursuing a Vibrant, Inclusive COC community
One of the greatest strengths of community colleges and COC is our diversity. As a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), we must strive to create a community college environment where every student feels empowered to succeed, we also must ensure that nobody — especially our most vulnerable community members — is left behind. We have to work together to close the equity gaps that keep persisting at COC, such as the fact that African American students at COC are disproportionately, negatively impacted when it comes to issues like transfer rates to four-year institutions and math and English transfer credit completion.
On campus, LGBTQ+, Latinx, African American, disabled, veterans, and first generation student group alliances were established to build community and highlight their issues. To be true to our values of equity in education, we must commit ourselves to centering these student voices. Their on-campus proposals for a multicultural center or a DREAM center should be encouraged and supported at the Board of Trustees level. Additionally, as a trustee, I will continue to advocate for the equitable development and engagement of the Canyon Country Campus.
Valuing COC's Workers
The COC community deserves an educational institution that fosters cooperation, incorporates community feedback, and addresses the economic plight of the many hardworking people who keep the college running. That’s why I stand with the faculty, staff, and other workers who serve as the backbone of COC. Without their labor — whether it’s driving 50 miles to our campus to teach, working in the heat of the cafeteria to keep students fed, or meeting with students to help them draw out their plans for the future — COC would not be the center of academic excellence that it is today. As a trustee, I will advocate for the fair treatment of all of COC’s workers.