SACRAMENTO — “No cuts! No fees! Education should be free!”
Voices of thousands of community college students thundered throughout the streets of Sacramento as they marched on the State Capitol to advocate for affordable higher education. Local Assembly Members Lorena Gonzalez, Marty Block and Ben Hueso heard the message.
Michael Greenberg, a student at Santa Monica Community College, said students should not be shut out of the college by the costs.
“Access to education should be equal,” he said. “Education is not a commodity. No one should be allowed to tell me that I can’t better myself because I don’t have the money.”
Dr. David Morse, an English professor at Long Beach City College, agreed.
Morse shared a story about a student who was an English learner and homeless. After considerable perseverance, the student earned a full-ride scholarship to Berkeley.
“(He) is a great example of why community colleges are important,” said Morse. “They provide opportunities to individuals who might have none otherwise.”
Alma San Juan, 20, is a social work major and an advocate for higher learning.
“I believe education is important,” she said. “I believe a good education is important to excel in life.”
While most supported student rights, others had their own agendas, such as political science major Alex Mendoza.
“I came with the purpose of seeing how government works,” he said. “Seeing how it actually does stuff and possibly talk to some people in charge.”
David Hodges, 26, a mechanical engineering major, said the trip was a good experience, though he was not sure if the students actually had impact.
“I don’t know how effective a chat with some students will be,” he said. “But a lot of (the elected officials) seem really interested in the ideas.”
Geronimo Sotello, 19, a history major, said March in March was inspiring.
“Marching on Sacramento was unlike anything I’ve been to before,” he said. “I want equal education for everybody, equal access, but I didn’t realize how much everybody really cared about it.”
Karla Gadea, 20, a business administration major, said the conversations are just the beginning.
“Sometimes I feel like it’s not enough for students because we want straight up responses,” she said. “But I like that (Lorena Gonzalez came) to our college (to) get more responses from other students.”
Morse encouraged communication between students and state senators.
“No voice is more powerful than yours,” he said. “No one can speak to the legislature and other influential groups in this state about the needs of students quite the way the students themselves can. No one is going to represent you better than you represent yourselves.”