Two San Diego County natives, both honors graduates of local high schools with plans to transfer to San Diego universities from community college, were officially seated Tuesday as new student trustees on the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District Governing Board.
The student trustees, who are elected by their peers as non-voting board members, are Grossmont College student Brandon Vivero, and Cuyamaca College student Kyrie Macogay. The pair took their oaths of office for the one-year term at Tuesday night’s board meeting at Grossmont College.
“We value our student trustees for their very important role as the student voice on the board,” Governing Board President Bill Garrett said. “The board appreciates the input the student representatives provide as we consider new policies and initiatives to guide the direction of the college district.”
Addressing students’ struggles
Vivero, a sociology major at Grossmont College, came to the campus in fall 2013 after graduating with honors the same year from Mar Vista High School in Imperial Beach. His future plans are to obtain a master’s from San Diego State University, become a college counselor and ultimately to obtain a doctorate.
When first arriving at Grossmont College, the National City native had plans to pursue an education in engineering. But after connecting with Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS), a state-funded student support services program for educationally and economically disadvantaged students, Vivero discovered a passion for helping fellow students overcome barriers to higher education.
His own experience going through the EOPS Summer Institute Program to successfully make the transition from high school to college opened his eyes to the value of getting a head start to prepare for the rigors of higher education. Since then, his involvement in several campus clubs, including the EOPS Club, the Latino Alliance, Dreamers Movement, HOLA Club, and Associated Students of Grossmont College, Inc., as well as his efforts as a community ambassador for Grossmont College, convinced him that helping students was his true calling.
As a child of divorced parents, Vivero said his childhood years were difficult, marked by poverty and upheaval. He lived primarily with his mother as a youngster, crossing the border on weekends to stay with his father, who lives in Tijuana.
His early years were spent moving with his mother from place to place in typically crime-ridden neighborhoods, but he said her nurturing and the values of hard work and education instilled in him by his father kept him on the straight and narrow.
“I remember moving so many times from house to house when I was small, approximately 15 different places,” he said.
Moving to Tijuana to live with his father once he started middle school provided a modicum of stability, but he faced another obstacle in getting to and from school, a 2 ½-hour ordeal each way, walking and riding the bus.
Vivero said his own hardships have given him insight into challenges faced by many students from underserved communities and he wants to do what he can as a student trustee to provide support and mentoring.
“I have seen so many students struggle to achieve their goals and being an EOPS student, I know the hardships of overcoming obstacles,” he said. “My goal as a trustee is to ensure that students who are struggling because of extenuating circumstances get support.”
Bridging the gap
Kyrie Macogay (“KY-ree MAC-o-guy”), a biology major at Cuyamaca College since 2015, hopes to transfer to UC San Diego to continue her studies in biology. Her professional goals are to work in the veterinary field and possibly focus on animal research. Her interest in student government led to her becoming a senator with the Associated Student Government of Cuyamaca College in 2016, and this year, she decided to expand her involvement as a student trustee.
“I also feel that communication between the student body and the administrative body can be improved, so I hope to bridge the gap between them,” she said.
The 2015 honors graduate from Monte Vista High School also said that as a student trustee, she would like to address parking lot security and with the help of ASGCC, establish a food pantry for needy students.
“ASGCC has had opportunity drawings for things like backpacks and other school supplies and there has been mention of textbook vouchers to help with the expense of books,” Macogay said. “I would like to pursue these types of projects.”
She hopes students feel welcome to drop by her office in the student center to share their thoughts and concerns.
“I hope that students come to see it as a safe space,” she said. “I’m all in for students to speak their minds on what goes on around the campus.”
The San Diego native lives in Spring Valley with her parents and two sisters, including a twin who also attends Cuyamaca College. Acquiring higher education is family tradition, with both her parents having attended college in their native Philippines and her oldest sister graduating from San Diego State University.
Wanting to escape the grinding poverty of their homeland, her parents immigrated to the United States, where her father joined the Navy. Both English and Tagalog is spoken at home and Filipino cuisine is a family favorite.
A menagerie of pets that Macogay describes as part of the family also share the home – a Saint Bernard, a lab mix, a cat, goldfish and tropical fish.
Like the solace she finds at home, Macogay values the close-knit atmosphere at Cuyamaca College.
“What I like about Cuyamaca is that there are so many people you can be friends with,” she said. “Friends help you get through the tribulations of colleges because they can always cheer you up.”