Born in South Los Angeles to two parents who emigrated from Guatemala, Associated Students Inc. vice presidential candidate Justin Contreras grew up facing financial instability.
“Both of my parents were working minimum-wage jobs,” Contreras said. “My mom at times was actually unable to pay the rent. So we’ve lived in very humble conditions. I shared a room with four of my brothers until middle school when we were eventually able to move out into a bigger residence. Throughout my life, I really struggled academically because of the environment I grew up in.”
A turning point in Contreras’ life came in high school when he attended a small charter school with a population of 200 students. One of the school’s instructors began to mentor Contreras and encouraged him to run for student government.
When Contreras arrived at Long Beach State, he initially struggled to find a sense of belonging on such a large and diverse campus. However, when he began working in Student Life & Development in his second semester on campus, he came to the realization that many students were struggling with the same obstacles he was faced with throughout his life.
The determination to give back to his community drives many of Contreras’ policy proposals. Among them is a proposed on-campus legal clinic, which would give underprivileged students access to free legal consultation and advice.
Additionally, Contreras seeks to expand LBSU’s Electronic Benefits Transfer program, to give students who rely on the credits for food the ability to use them at more locations on campus. He also aims to provide greater opportunities to students seeking to enter the field of law or political science, by establishing a new internship program to give them greater work experience during their time at LBSU.
Contreras argues that the campus needs to expand its definition of “basic needs” for students beyond college affordability, housing and food security, to encompass a growing range of services students require to succeed. This includes greater access to technology and internet connectivity for underprivileged students.
“If I do get this position, it means more to me than serving the student body as a vice president,” Contreras said. “It means representing my community and where I come from. And also sending the message to people who are going through the same things I went through that anything is possible.”