Thursday, September 14, 2017

Jesus Suarez: Cuyamaca College student leader advocating for equity

Jesus Suarez
Jesus Suarez, the new Associated Student Government president at Cuyamaca College, has a passion for helping others and promoting equity for all.

Suarez was a force behind a new Contemplation Room at the campus Health & Wellness Center for those facing a crisis; was instrumental in establishing a food pantry for students who don’t have enough to eat; and was diligent in bringing frank discussions on topics such as the Black Lives Matter movement and feminism in the modern age to Cuyamaca’s Cross Cultural Center.

His dedication was recognized nationally in February when Suarez was just one of just six community college students from around the country named an Achieving the Dream scholar. 

“Keeping busy is good,” said Suarez, who turns 23 in November. “I’d rather be busy trying to contribute than sit around doing nothing.”

Keeping busy is a bit of an understatement.
“Jesus has played an important role in the success of many of the Associated Student Government programs and has been instrumental in creating and expanding student events,” said Lauren Vaknin, associate dean of student affairs. “A leader and a team player, Jesus helps other students in the Emerging Leaders Program to develop leadership skills by having them shadow him to gain experience within the Associated Student Government. Jesus also serves on various campus-wide committees, such as the Student Discipline Committee, Bookstore & Food Advisory Committee, and the Diversity Equity & Inclusion Committee.”
Born in San Diego and raised in Spring Valley, Suarez – a first-generation American – grew up in a household of modest means. He recalls being treated as less than exceptional by his peers and being bullied and the target of name calling as a youth. A graduate of Monte Vista High School, Suarez has been attending Cuyamaca College since 2013. He changed his major more than once before settling on political science and sociology, and his long-term goals include going to law school and becoming an environmental attorney.
Cuyamaca College, Suarez said, has been a perfect fit.
“It’s small enough to get to know people, including your instructors, on a personal level, but it’s also big enough to provide you with a lot of opportunities.”
Cuyamaca College faculty and staff are glad he’s here.
“Jesus is very sensitive and respectful to everyone on campus and to the framework under which we work at the college,” said Cuyamaca Colleges Health Services Supervisor Lori Senini, who called Suarez the “founding father” of a new pantry providing everything from cereal to soup and snacks for students facing food insecurity. “He brings a willingness to look at different options, and he has a great heart.” 

Those attributes were among the reasons Suarez was selected as a DREAM scholar. The year-long experiential program is aimed at enhancing leadership, critical thinking and networking skills, and scholars were invited to share their experiences at the Achieving the Dream conference in San Francisco.
“You can summarize me and what I am passionate about with one of my highest held beliefs, which is that I think that when we give up and say your dreams are not worth pursuing because the obstacles seem insurmountable, that’s when we have truly lost,” he wrote in his Achieving the Dream application.
Suarez’s involvement didn’t begin at Cuyamaca College. Active in the LGBTQIA+ community and passionate about equity in education, Suarez said a pivotal moment in his life came in high school while participating in a winter carnival hosted by to benefit shelters in Tijuana.  

“That was the first time I had seen myself doing something I was truly passionate about,” he said in his Achieving the Dream essay. “Consequently, I spent a lot of my remaining high school experience trying to find myself and find out who I could help and how.”
He’s been busy doing that at Cuyamaca College.
“I like that Cuyamaca is trying,” said Suarez. “I like that Cuyamaca is putting in the effort to help students. I like being here and being a part of that.”