By his own account, Grossmont College Student Trustee Sebastian Caparelli’s foray into district government was more accidental than planned.
An English major, Caparelli wrote an article in The Summit, Grossmont’s student newspaper, which led to improvements in online instruction. That prompted a group of students he worked with on the story to create a campaign poster for his candidacy as student trustee.
“The students were so thankful they made the poster as a joke, but it became a reality,” said the Lakeside resident, who was sworn into office as an advisory member of the Governing Board in June. Also sworn in for his second term was Cuyamaca College Student Trustee Evan Esparza.
As a political neophyte, Caparelli says he’s still learning the ropes of being a student trustee, but he is excited about the opportunity to provide a student perspective on the board once he gets his bearings.
The East County native and graduate of Granite Hills High School trained as an emergency medical technician in ‘90s, progressed as a firefighter, then spent about a decade as a wildland firefighter on “hotshot” crews in a number of states until a training accident ended his career in 2012.
It was while bedridden for several months with a debilitating spinal injury that he discovered a knack for writing.
“When I was recovering, someone gave me a composition book and I started writing a story and I really liked it,” said Caparelli, who enrolled at Grossmont College in 2014 to develop his writing skills. “I decided to go all in.”
With a near-perfect GPA, he joined the community college honor society, Phi Theta Kappa, which led to a scholarship opportunity to transfer to Columbia University’s School of General Studies, a liberal arts college created for nontraditional students.
Having taught English some years earlier in Beijing, the idea of getting a bachelor’s and teaching abroad in other countries appealed to him so he applied for admission to Columbia and to his amazement, was accepted.
“Grossmont College impacted me in a great way, specifically in that it opened a door to Phi Theta Kappa and other hard-working students who became my peer group,” he said.
Now with an Ivy League education within his grasp, Caparelli is grateful for the opportunity afforded him.
“Grossmont is the real deal -- the best two-year institute for reaching for greatness in San Diego,” he said. “Columbia was willing to defer admission for a year, so my plan is to transfer next fall.”
In the meantime, he plans to finish his studies at Grossmont College, as well as complete the novel he began writing while recovering from his injury.
“My plan is to travel the world teaching English and using any extra publishing proceeds to build homes for the poor,” he said.