As a first generation Mexican-American, 21-year-old political science major Lizbeth Velasquez is the first in her family of five to attend college. As a low income, working student who has had to overcome accessibility and financial hurdles of her own, Velasquez is making it her mission to advocate for food security, textbook affordability, financial aid and legal advice.
“I come from a background where education is a luxury,” Velasquez said. “It was something you had to fight for. I’ve seen how hard it’s been for me to get here and I want to make that journey a lot easier for other students. Not just for students right now, but for future students as well.”
For the last year, Velasquez served in the judicial branch of Associated Students Inc. as an associate judge and as chief justice. Her primary tasks include interpreting ASI bylaws and serving on the grade appeals committee, which resolves grade disputes. She said her experience there has helped cultivate a cool, level-headed attitude.
“In the judiciary branch I’ve really had to step back and look at all the perspectives when I’m doing a grade appeal,” Velasquez said. “It’s really about retaining that objectivity.”
Velasquez spent 300 hours last year volunteering at the Long Beach Courthouse through the JusticeCorps of AmeriCorps program, a national service program that helps bring legal assistance to those who can’t afford professional legal advice in matters of family, housing, personal safety and financial stability. Velasquez would help people, usually low-income minorities, fill out paperwork and ease them through their legal process. She described her work there as rewarding, although at times emotionally draining.
“A lot of the times people are angry at you because you are the first person that they’ve actually been able to talk to,” Velasquez said.
The political science major said her work with JusticeCorps and the ASI judiciary branch laid down the foundation for her campaign, but also the inspiration for her long term goals, including her most passionate project: creating a legal advice clinic for students. The clinic would be on-campus and facilitated by lawyers working pro bono. Students could come with any of their legal concerns or questions and receive a free, professional consultation.
If elected, Velasquez also wants to expand the CalFresh outreach program, work with professors to create a universal standard for renting and buying textbooks and create an on-campus polling center for the 2020 elections.