By Samantha Bartholomew
As the voices of the students, Maritzza Jeronimo and Clara Velarde, president and vice president of the Associated Students of Riverside City College, share a vision to bring to light to Riverside City College’s greatest resource, the power of the students and their well being, believing that student involvement is the key to success.
“We want to increase engagement on our campus,” Jeronimo said. “I am a firm believer that involvement can increase love for your own education and can serve as motivation.”
Jeronimo and Velarde were elected for ASRCC president and vice president after beating their opponents, Bryan Barrera and Simranjeet Singh, by 72 votes May 3.
Their slogan “For the students, with the students!” served to display their belief that RCC should be more than a school or destination.
“One of my biggest goals is to be an advocate and a voice for other students who face the same barriers I do. I hope to get a program or services started that are dedicated to those students,” Jeronimo said.
“We want to create a space for our students where they feel comfortable and that encourages them to be more involved,” Velarde said.
Jeronimo and Velarde are no strangers to stepping up to leadership roles, each having served in various positions.
“When I started getting involved back in middle school I knew that serving and helping others was something I never wanted to stop doing,” Jeronimo said.
“I want to make a change and be able to leave RCC knowing that I had a positive impact the time that I was here,” Jeronimo said.
Throughout their endeavors, Jeronimo and Velarde have been inspired by people to give their best to achieve their dreams in leadership.
Velarde found inspiration in the women that have influenced her experiences and upbringing.
“I am influenced by the strong women of color in my life, there are too many to name,” Velarde said. “They surround me everywhere I go and their resilience inspires me to keep strong.”
Jeronimo, a DACA recipient and a Dreamer, was impacted by those that share similar experiences to her own.
“My high school teacher, Luis Fuentes, has been the best and biggest influence in my life,” Jeronimo said. “He was always the one pushing me to give everything my best and be the best version of myself that I could possibly be.”
A goal of Jeronimo’s is to dismantle the stigma that she feels comes with going to a community college.
“I really don’t understand why it has such a bad connotation, but I want people who come here to have the same experiences that their friends have at other institutions and also be proud to be attending one of the best community colleges,” Jeronimo said. “Our advisor Megan Bottoms said, we are not just a community college, we are a college in the community.”
“My motivation comes from the students here at RCC. It may sound so cliche but it’s the honest truth,” Jeronimo said. “Seeing the different obstacles and issues that we face as college students has motivated me to take a stance and be the voice of the students.”
“I love being an active member on campus, not only through ASRCC but through different clubs and events that are hosted by students trying to gain visibility,” Velarde said. “The passion I see from students motivates me. I love speaking to these student and gaining better communication so that ASRCC can help with future events.”
The pair both reiterated their belief that anyone can find a home at student government.
“If you like to advertise, join Public Relations. If you like to decorate, join Campus Activities Council. If you like law and the constitution, join the Supreme Court. If you are interested in advocating, join Senate,” Velarde said. “There is always a place for you.”
“Don’t be scared to join because it is one of the most rewarding choices you can make,” Jeronimo said. “Not only do you get to do such amazing things for your campus but you get to do it alongside some great people.”
The issues Jeronimo and Velarde plan on tackling during their terms include student union and engagement, awareness of resources available to students, student sustainability, mental health awareness and taking on student homelessness.
“I am excited to make a change on my campus and get people excited about making a difference and getting them active,” Velarde said.
Jeronimo and Velarde will begin their terms Aug. 28.