By Erik Fallis
CSU Public Affairs
In April, the California State Student Association filled the halls of government in Sacramento with hundreds of student voices. The California Higher Education Student Summit is dedicated to equipping students with the tools to be strong leaders and advocates for their peers. Last month’s CHESS was the 18th time students gathered in the state capitol for this purpose.
One legacy of this event is seen in the many friendly faces in California legislative offices and executive agencies. Chris Chavez is legislative aide to Senator Fran Pavely. Chris is also a former CSSA President who served in that role in 2010-2011. This connection brought meaning to his review of legislative bill proposals and their potential effects on students.
California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White made his debut appearance as the award banquet’s keynote speaker. Students cheered and gave a standing ovation when the chancellor revealed that underneath his suit jacket and collared shirt he was wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the CSSA slogan: “Made in the CSU.” For the chancellor, the phrase is more than just an idea – it is a personal reminder of his educational journey that took him through two CSU campuses.
Chancellor White spent more than an hour after the Sunday night dinner speaking, joking and posing for photos with student leaders from all 23 campuses. Sacramento State students Sergio Tapias Suárez and Anthony Cristiano shared a good laugh with the chancellor.
In gearing up for CSU Student Advocacy Day, David Ashley of CSU Channel Islands, Nick Holsey of San José State and Tom Rivera of San Diego State briefed CHESS participants on state policies affecting students and CSSA sponsored legislation.
Meeting with Senator Jean Fuller, students from CSU Bakersfield advocated for restoration of the state investment in a CSU education. They presented other student concerns about various provisions in the governor’s January budget proposal.
Pedro Ramirez, CSSA Vice President for Legislative Affairs, spoke in favor of the “Student Bill of Rights” legislation proposed by Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski during a rally on the capitol steps. The legislation seeks to address the growing burden of student debt to private lending institutions through financial literacy, borrower counseling and a prohibition on wage garnishment.
CSSA students had a strong partner in the Target Leadership Development Program. In addition to financially supporting the summit, the Target participants shared their own experiences and values around peer leadership. In fact, each member of the Target team at the summit was an alumna of a CSU campus. Kimberly Irons (right of the sign), District Team Leader at Target and a double Chico State alumna, underscored this shared focus on developing strong leaders from within an organization in her school spirit lunch keynote address.