Monday, September 15, 2014

Rafael Navarrete: Bringing leadership skills from the military to Grossmont College

Rafael Navarrete
This is part of an occasional series on Grossmont and Cuyamaca students who exemplify success.
Rafael Navarrete is all about service. He proved that while serving eight years in the Marine Corps. He proved that while serving as a summer camp counselor at the Boys & Girls Club of East County. And he is proving that as an active member of the Grossmont College Student Veteran Organization and as president of Associated Students of Grossmont College.

“I didn’t want to just be a student at Grossmont, I wanted to be a part of Grossmont,” said Navarrete, a political science major who enrolled at the college in the fall of 2013, just three months after leaving the Marine Corps. “I wanted to serve again.”

He is surpassing his goals. Besides his roles as student body president and veterans’ advocate on campus, Navarrete sits on a college committee engaged in a nationwide search for a new Vice President of Student Services. He also serves on Grossmont College’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee and the Bookstore Committee.

“Rafael Navarrete is making a lasting impact at Grossmont College, and we are honored to have as a student leader a veteran who gave so selfishly to his country,” said Grossmont President Sunny Cooke. 

It was his decision to enlist in the Marine Corps that changed Navarrete’s life.

“I joined because I wanted to serve our country and I knew the Marine Corps is the toughest branch and I wanted the challenge,” Navarrete said. He left with greater discipline and the ability to better handle pressure. “I can force myself to focus in situations where others may not be able to. And it taught me that anything is possible.”

Navarrete went through boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, a year after graduating from Mar Vista High School in Imperial Beach. He spent his first two years as a member of the elite Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon, a 24-member team that performs in parades and exhibitions across the country and serves as a recruiting tool. That was followed by an infantry assignment to the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines at Camp Pendleton, and a tour of Iraq. He left the Corps after earning the rank of sergeant.

Navarrete became involved with the Student Veteran Organization at Grossmont almost as soon as he enrolled at the college. “We believe that we are stronger when we hold each other up,” the nonprofit organization states on its website. Goals include serving as a voice for its members, and connecting members with resources needed for college and post-graduation success.

The Student Veteran Organization is just one element of the veteran-friendly atmosphere at Grossmont College, said the 28-year-old Navarrete.

“Veterans are treated very well at Grossmont,” Navarrete said. “We have a Veterans Affairs Office on campus, we get priority registration, and we have a Veterans Resource Center, which provides us with space to study, access to computers and a place to hang out with other veterans. This really is a great school for veterans.”

Navarrete also is making an impact as president of Associated Students of Grossmont College.

“Rafael is a strong student leader.  He maintains professionalism in all that he contributes,” said Victoria Kerba Miller, Associate Dean of Student Affairs. “We are thrilled that he is a student advocate working hand in hand with students, faculty, staff, and administrators to make positive change on the Grossmont College Campus.  He works hard to exemplify collaborative leadership and always brings care, concern, motivation, pride and respect to the table.  He models the way for other students and always offers a helping hand. “

Navarrete says his commitment to service will continue upon graduating from Grossmont next spring. He plans to transfer to UC San Diego, earn a bachelor’s degree in political science, and then land a job in local government. Ultimately, he’d like to get elected to a local government office.

“I want to impact people’s lives in a positive way,” he said.